• 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 October 24, 2016 3:15 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    1

    Three hours. Three hours was all it took for the feelings to surface and the tears to flow. Three hours and a phone call from my mom. Last week my time in Raleigh consisted of ten talks, two Southern Smash events and two treatment center visits. When it was all over, I was DONE. Think about the most painful time in your life - your darkest days. Now put yourself back in that moment and tell that story to an audience...TEN TIMES in five days. I speak my story because I have been called to do so. It is a story of pain, hopelessness, faith, recovery, hope...and the many, many gifts that have come from it all. The gifts that I have worked damn hard for. Most people go on work trips, do their job, make some money and return home. My trips are very different. Yes, I do my job - but it isn't a job. It is my passion and mission. It is something I pour my heart and soul into. Self-care is beyond important during these grueling trips. I carve out time to be alone and rest my mind and body - a skill I learned many years ago at the Carolina House. I speak about my eating disorder, my recovery, Marjorie's early birth and battle with cancer. I explain how the gifts of recovery have carried me through these last two years. I speak on how thankful I am for my eating disorder and how we can all turn our dark days into lessons of hope. I take questions and listen to others' stories of recovery, abuse, self-harm, suicide and every trauma in between. I cry with patients. I laugh with them. I tell them how insanely brave they are. They are my heroes. North Carolina and the Triangle area holds a very special place in my heart for obvious reasons: the Carolina House. Then, four years ago Veritas Collaborative and its amazing staff and brave kids stole a big piece of my heart. Over the years, UNC Chapel Hill has become my second home and NC State is quickly doing the same. The people, the area (and the food - best restaurants!) make it one of my most favorite weeks of the year. The icing on the Raleigh cake is the full circle moments that inevitably happen each year. Three brave young women took to the stage at SmashTALK: UNC, sharing their story of eating disorder recovery. I have had the absolute honor of knowing these women throughout their recovery journey, watching them soar and fall with every challenge ED threw their way. As Sara, Sarah and Teresa took the stage, I sat in the front row crying like a baby...like a proud momma bear. Each woman spoke with such poise and power, the audience sat silently captivated. I sat overwhelmed with the realization that not only had God given me the ability to pay it forward myself, but also helped me create a platform for other's to pay it forward too. My pay it forward promise to help just one person has multiplied ten thousand fold in the last four years. And now the ripple has spread even further. Watching these three women pay it forward by spreading their own messages of hope and healing was nearly too much for my sensitive heart to handle. On Wednesday, the women (and men) of the Carolina House (both Raleigh and Durham locations), absolutely blew me away. Their bravery, openness, and willingness to 'go there', left me in awe. While scale smashing might be silly fun to those on college campuses, it is no joke at a treatment center. Many times people are not ready to 'go there,' they are not ready to say goodbye to the scale. When you're in the midst of your disorder, the scale often represents a best friend. Many people enter treatment not wanting to be there and not yet willing to accept these tough therapeutic challenges. It doesn't mean they won't recover or that they aren't an amazing person; it just means they aren't there in their recovery journey - and that is okay. Everyone's journey is different. We all move at different speeds - none better than the other. The women this year, however, were ready to 'go there'. They beat the SHIT out of their scales. I buy and send scales ahead of time for each patient to decorate and SMASH! It makes it really personal when you are SMASHing a scale that has a message you wrote to your eating disorder or significant numbers, like the number of suicide attempts you've had. After the SMASH, we went inside to process the feelings that came up, and once again the women's vulnerability and bravery blew me away. There were tears, laughs, anger and yes, awkward therapeutic silence. Of course, I don't know how awkward it really was - we all needed a moment of silence after the intense afternoon. The silence was beautiful. Not to be outdone, the young children of Veritas Collaborative left an equally big imprint on my heart. It never gets easy - seeing 9, 10, 11, 12 and older children with feeding tubes, covered in scars of self harm. You can see the pain in their souls, but often you can also see hope in their eyes. I don't know what their young minds took from my story, if anything, but I took so much from them. Heroes come at every age - they are my heroes. Bravery comes even when we don't feel so brave. And most of all that this illness knows no bound - age, gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomics. It can strike at ANY age to anyone. And I dare you to look a 9-year old in treatment in the eye and tell her an eating disorder is a choice. Looking out to a room filled with children suffering from eating disorders, I can't help but think of their parents. The blame they feel. The worry. The heartache. I hope they know they are not to blame. No one is. We don't give our children cancer and we don't give them eating disorders. But we can give them treatment to heal. We can walk with them, learn how to support them and sit with them when they fall. We can't always save our children - trust me, I've tried. But we can help them to save themselves. That is what the Carolina House, Mary and Christy gave me. They didn't save me. They gave me the skills to save myself. As I exited Veritas' beautiful new facility, my heart was full and my body was exhausted. I knew the feelings from such a powerful week were sure to surface, but I assumed it would be when I drove away the following day. Wrong. Three hours after collapsing on my hotel bed, completely zoned in on mindless tv (thank you Bravo for the Below Deck marathon), my mom called to see how my week was. My first thought was to give her a 'Sportscenter' rundown of the week since I was tired. But before I knew it, I was describing in detail each and every day. I told her about the amazing day at NC State and UNC, about how much I fell in love with NC State and the great turnout. I recounted the incredible women of Carolina House and the woman who wrote the number of suicide attempts on her scale that she smashed. I told my mom how moved I was with her willingness and her ability to let happy tears overcome her as she shared how it felt to SMASH that number. I told my mom of the young children with feeding tubes and the big hugs they gave me after my talk. I told her about the PHP kids and how much fun we had together. From autographs to snack time to talking about the challenges of recovery, those PHP guys and gals were the perfect ending to my week. My mom listened intently and then said, "I am so proud of you baby. You are making such a difference." Well that about did me in. Cue. The. Waterworks. Streaming tears soaked my phone as I told my mom how I talked about her in each and every talk. She laughed a little because we both know some of my 'mom stories' were difficult ones in our relationship. But after sharing these mom stories so many times this week, I reminded her how much I love her. I told her how damn proud I am to be her daughter. Sure, she was not the perfect mom, but throughout my recovery journey she has been able to admit mistakes AND do the really tough work to dig deep in her own life. Parenting is hard. I know I will make mistakes and I will correct mistakes my parents made in my own life. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be just like my mom. Today, I no longer want to be like my mom - I don't want to be like anyone. I really and truly just want to be myself because I have discovered that I am pretty awesome person just as I am. However, I hope that when the time comes to admit my parental misguidances and mistakes, I can be as brave as my mom. I pray that I can fall down and walk the path side by side with my children, just like she has walked it with me. Mom and I cried together on the phone a few minutes and I continued to cry after our call ended. There aren't enough blog posts to describe such a magnificent week. The feelings circle back to my first day in treatment, December 14, 2010. My heart remains with the people and place that have been such a huge part of my journey. Every time I share my story and meet others in recovery, my heart grows. I feel like my heart is going to explode on a daily basis and then I wonder how I got so lucky? Oh yes, I didn't get lucky. I worked so damn hard to create this beautiful life for myself. This beautiful and imperfect life. Yes, this is MY life and it is SO, SO good. It is an absolute honor and privilege to tell my story and it is an even bigger honor to listen to yours. Thank you NC...until next year. Thank you North Carolina for the love, my wheels are already spinning for next year. NC State, UNC, Carolina House and Veritas...thank you for welcoming Southern Smash and me with massively open arms. These events (and life) just keep getting better and better.    

    Advocacy, Eating Disorder, Health
  • Posted on February 25, 2016 2:27 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    Have you ever wondered what it is like to have an EATING DISORDER? What it is like to live with a horrific mental illness that no one seems to understand, an illness that is often misdiagnosed, swept under the rug or hidden behind plastic smiles? I lived in that prison for fifteen years. Thankfully, I escaped, but millions of others remained trapped. This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week and while the country gathers to smash scales (yay Southern Smash), go makeup-less/mirror-less and other body positive platforms, let us not forget what we are really raising awareness for: a cruel disease that is so misunderstood. Many people share pictures of when they were in treatment or sick with their eating disorder. Pictures do not tell my story. Like so many others, I lived a seemingly happy and perfect life on the outside. If you've heard me speak, then you've watched my video of recovery. Years ago when I sat down to create the video, I had the desire to finally give justice and truth to my story. I struggled in silence for 15-years and I finally wanted to unmask what was hiding beneath those perfect pictures. And the only place that holds the deep and ugly truth were my journals. My journal was the one place I could write my shame story, my struggle, my pain. No one saw my pain on the outside, only my journals knew the prison I lived in. For this year's NEDAwareness Week, I want to reveal my truth and what it is like to live inside the mind of an eating disorder. I often talk about life after my ED, but what about those years I was in it. So I have decided to share a piece of that with you. From abvilence to accept my eating disorder diagnosis to realizing treatment was my only hope to survive, these are excerpts from my 2010 journals - unedited, raw, real. This is a small glimpse into my secret hell, my secret battle with an eating disorder... 1.5.2010 I don't know where to start...or what I'm feeling.  Part of me feels fine, but maybe that's because I can't exactly walk through work with my head down crying, but I'm really sad and unhappy right now.  I feel so big and gross...the holidays have so caught up with me.  And after yet another gung ho recovery effort, I'm back to where I started feeling defeated and ambivalent about the process.  I just want to get some weight off then get back on track.  Part of me is so angry right now too...angry and scared. I am sinking inward...not wanting to talk to anyone or see anyone...it makes me sad.   I hate this insane mental battle. I'm not doing inpatient...so not an option.  I can do this on my own, I can...I just need to get over myself. I'm pissed because I'm having to do all of this shit...who says it is that bad. Why isn't it just disordered eating instead of full blown ED? What if this process - all of the therapy and attention to the disorder has made it worse than it ever was.  What if I wouldn't have said anything...it was not this bad before...i was not this miserable and sad and unhappy and angry with everyone and the world. 5.24.2010 The sadness has crept in again and I don't know why. I'm overwhelmed with sadness. The thoughts have crept back in and I am letting them take me away.  I continue to doubt things are that bad because I really don't believe they are if people would just leave me alone. I'm just so confused. 9.20.2010 I hate this - I can't focus...I can't get anything done.  All I can think about is the damn smoothie I had at lunch and how many sugars were in it and whether I should eat a snack or not.  And then just about all of this  ...it won't leave me.  My head hurts from the constant thinking and debating and not knowing what to do. Why can't I fucking let go of this shit once and for all.  I am - right now.  I am going to make this effort for me...I am better than this.  I am going to fight this thing head on and do whatever I have to do to get me to recovery...I want to say I'm in recovery...not I have an eating disorder...Enough is enough.  I refuse to waste energy on this. I have to stop being afraid of hurting those I love.  I need to put me first.  Enough of this shit.  It's time I enjoy life - and really enjoy with all of me...not just with part of me when I feel good about me - enjoy it 24/7...I want energy to make it through the day...energy to stay focused and alert...energy just to be me. 10.11.2010 I can't focus on anything - all I think about is this issue.  I'm feeling like a relapse is on the horizon because that is all I want.  I stole a bunch of laxatives from mom and dads - ugh who does that.  Then I knew I was setting myself up yesterday for a binge and purge...and of course I did.  Now as a result I am tired, foggy and swollen - which makes me want to go buy water pills to help that - I'm in this violent circle again - tip toeing around the edge. I just want to get this weight off and get back in control of things. I feel so out of control, but at the same time all I want to do is eat.  Why am I so hungry?  I can't control myself around food - unless I control my access to it.  I am very frustrated right now.  I need to get over my crazy ways and just be.  Why can't I just be?  I am just so annoyed with myself.  I want to let this go - but here we are again with my eating disorder. It is all I crave. 11.2.2010 I threw up blood yesterday...and it did not bother me.  I am totally numb.  I was caught so off guard when I looked into the toilet and saw a clot of blood floating amidst the disgusting vomit.  And yet I continued to shove my fingers down my throat.  I am numb as I write this - I feel as though it is an out of body experience.  I hate all of the words like - vomit, purge, fingers down throat...but that is what it is.  It is time I stop candy coating and using all of my code words.  I fucking binge and eat everything my fat ass wants then purge and then have plans later for restriction.  I allow myself to eat, eat, eat then purge...then restrict because then it is time to shape back up. It's a pattern that has been happening for what seems like all of my life since childhood.  When will it stop?  When will I quit numbing myself and pretending things are fine?  Obviously, things are not fine.  It is not normal to puke blood, then keep puking and then not being disturbed by what you saw.  I should have freaked out...I should have been disturbed and should have yelled for help.  But I didn't.  I washed my face and continued on with my day - just shaky and numb.  Why do I continue to do this?  Eat, purge, repeat.  Therefore, no more feelings - just numb oblivion.  I'm beginning to wonder will this ever completely go away - I'm honestly not sure.  Because right now I can't focus.  I feel nothing - just nothing...happy on the outside, but afraid of what is about to surface on the inside. 11.10.2010 I am lost.  No other way to put it.  I am in constant turmoil - a constant back and forth tug of war between ED and the healthy me.  I am petrified of what lies ahead and I don't know why because it would be all wonderful and good things - health, a family, happiness, freedom.  So what am I so afraid of?  I don't know. There is a quiet voice I can barely hear that says I'm better than this. What the fuck is wrong with me?  Why do I know if I put the opportunity in front of me to binge, purge, take pills, etc I would do it?  The only reason I don't buy pills is because it would devastate Jordan and hurt him so bad.  I have hurt him enough.  I could care less what would happen to me. I know there is someone inside of me that does NOT want this anymore.  I tired of this - I don't have the energy.  It's all I think about. I carry it with me 24/7 and I burden everyone else with it too. My twisted mind keeps going back and forth - driving those around me mad, driving me mad because I know the truth. I know today things have got to change.  I've said it before and been full of bullshit - afraid to make the real changes - the ones that mean something, the hard ones.  Maybe now I'm just more realistic in that I know it's going to be the hardest thing I've ever done. It's so easy for me to minimize everything, not just ED, but everything in my life.  I'd rather talk about everyone else then have people talk about me.  I don't know why - it's just what I'm comfortable with. The crazy thing is that I thought getting married was going to solve my little issue with food.  I focused on the wedding and what I had to do to 'prepare'...I thought life was so good and that after the wedding it would be so good.  I binged on my own wedding cake.  Driving to work.  Sick.  I was so thin I knew I could have a piece at home when we got back from our honeymoon.  And I did - all of it.  In my car driving to work at 8am.  Sick.  This is my untold secret - the last of my secrets.  I binge.  Binge. Binge. Binge.  I loose control - that precious thing that I hold so tight.  I control everything...except my binging.  And now I have discovered and perfected the purge. Ugh it's so sick.  So embarrassing.  But nonetheless it is what I do, what I've always done.  I am tired of this.  It's getting old. ED is getting old. 11.30.2010 Officially one week away from my 29th birthday.  This is so not the place I imagined myself to be when I turned 29.  I just wrote the Carolina House an email asking for an admission date.  I just don't know what I'm doing.  Is this the right thing?  I feel like it is but wont let myself believe that I am 'that bad off'.  This has been a part of my life for so long I don't know any different.  All I know is that I am at the end of my rope and I feel that life has just unraveled.  I don't have the words to describe how I feel, what 'behaviors' I'm doing or why I do them.  I just don't know - I never know.  All I know is that I feel empty and I feel dramatic for feeling that way.  I feel that I am supposed to just get my ass up and kick it into gear.  I need to stop with this bullshit and get the fuck up.  But I don't.  I just want to lie in bed or curl up because everything hurts too much.  I know I am sick and I need more help than anyone can offer me here. The thought of being free from this and moving on with a productive and happy life is so overwhelming - I want it so bad.  But as long as I stay in this place I continue in the same cycle of having my every move dictated by someone/something beyond my control.  I am unable to function on my own.  I don't know how to sit and plan and be productive...not that I always have to be productive, but I am constantly distracted thinking about ED and thinking about what I can eat next, how many calories, what's in the pantry, what I can purge, how to cover my tracks, or maybe not eat - just make coffee or popcorn.  It is a constant, 24/7 debate. I truly pray that I am able to be open and honest when I go to NC.  I want to be so bad - but sometimes I just don't have the words.... God, please give me the words.  Let this be done. I share these today to remind you that no matter how alone you feel, hope is there. Our stories might be different, but hope remains in us all. I once gave up that hope in recovery, but my team never did. I believed in them and they believed in me.  Always remember that recovery is forever and always possible...I am living proof. With love and light, McCall

    Carolina House, Eating Disorder, Journals
  • 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