• Posted on February 1, 2017 4:23 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    No comments

    For the last ten years, February 2nd has been a bittersweet day for me. While I wish our wedding day, conjured feelings of love and joy, my heart pulls the opposite way. My day was lost stolen by my eating disorder. This is a notion not many can understand or relate to, even my own husband. Rather than look back on my wedding day as a Cinderella Story, I see it has my personal hell. I was a prisoner in my own mind, trapped inside calories and weight. My bright orange, digital scale giving me my daily worth. I watched the number sink lower as our wedding day approached. My close friends and family wrote off weight loss as "The Bride Diet" because it is normal for brides to shrink down for her big day, a notion I fight hard against today. I have waited ten years to reclaim our day. A day that should have been about Jordan and me, joining hearts and hands to spend our lives together. Six years ago, I spent our fourth wedding anniversary in treatment at the Carolina House. I spent that day grieving my wedding and what should have been. Deep down I had hope that one day I would reclaim what should have been mine. That day is now here. Jordan and I have had more bumps on the road than many of our friends. But we don't walk through life asking "Why?" We embrace the cards we are dealt and walk forward with faith, gratitude, perseverance and love. Someone once asked me what has carried Jordan and me through all of our tough times. It took me no time to answer: laughter. Jordan isn't my rock. He melts and falls with me, but I can always count on him to make me laugh. Even on our worst days, his light heart brings a smile to my face. He reminds me that laughter and joy are never far away, some days we just have to look a bit harder to see them. Six years ago, Christy asked me what recovery looked like. And six years later, my answer has slightly changed. It used to be walking on the beach with Jordan, but now it is skipping. Our life and our love has been tested over and over again. My heart is filled with more love and gratitude I can't help but kick my feet up in the sand and skip with joy. My energy is no longer spent on what I look like, how much I weigh or what people thing. My energy is spent feeling the joy, the sadness and every emotion life throws my way. I am living life. And tomorrow, Jordan and I will reclaim the day that was ours all along. A video posted by McCall Manning Dempsey (@mccalldempsey) on Feb 1, 2017 at 10:47am PST ​ Cheers to ten years...and cheers to LIFE and LOVE.

    Eating Disorder, Live Life, Relationships
  • 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 April 22, 2014 11:03 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    6

    It is no secret my eating disorder kept me from enjoying life and putting myself out there. I feared failure like most people fear burning to death. So rather than risk not being good enough, I stayed safely inside my comfort zone - and by comfort zone I mean eating disorder. But I don't think I am alone in this scenario. Without naming names, I know countless others who don't put themselves out there for fear of judgement or not being the best. The leap of recovery forces you to push yourself way out of your comfort zone - new foods, no exercise, forming healthy boundaries and speaking up for yourself. Every minute you are full of fear and full of pride in yourself. As I have grown stronger in recovery, I find myself pushing way past my comfort zone: i.e. saying the words 'eating disorder' in public and in front of hundreds of strangers. Even speaking openly about the not so pretty side (if one even exists) of eating disorders, publicly sharing the fact that I have a history of purging, laxative and diet pill abuse, eating from a trash can etc. Tonight, I went a giant leap further. I was the only one in yoga class who admitted not knowing a pose and even asked for help. Gasp. What's worse than admitting to eating out of a trash can? Asking.For.Help. O.M.G. I have a history of exercise class phobia, whether it be Jane Fonda step aerobics or a basic yoga, group classes scare the you know what out of me. What if I'm not the best? What if I suck? What if I fart in downward dog? (You know you've thought the exact same thing.) I hopped on the yoga train a month ago when a friend finally got me to take her class at Agame Yoga and Meditation Center in Baton Rouge. There was such peace in the class and no one laughed at me (and I did not fart thank goodness).I am not a regular by any means. That is not how my life works these days. I do what I can, when I can and when I need it. Exercise is no longer a chore, moving my body is a gift and a blessing. And lately, yoga has given me some major insight into my connection with my body. My first experience with yoga - real yoga - was at the Carolina House with a yoga instructor named Daya. She was an old soul with a gentle spirit. I simply adored her, but could hardly stay awake in her class. This has nothing to do with her teaching, it has to do with me being unable to connect with my body at the time. I am thankful for Daya and the role she played in the early foundation of my relationship with body movement. My recent practice at Agame has been a huge blessing in teaching me that yoga is not about being the best. Rather, it is about honoring where you are in your own practice. And much to my surprise, I am pretty flexible and not half bad. Even more surprising, I was awake, alert and mindful throughout each class, soaking in every second of peace with my body and the strength in each pose. Tonight I'm in Auburn, Alabama. By the grace of God, a mentor and a huge inspiration in my recovery journey, Peach Dumars, lives here and owns the yoga studio Yoga Fly. I became an instant fan when I read her gripping memoir Diary of an Exercise Addict in March 2010. We connected on Facebook - or shall I say I 'Random Rhonda' messaged her and she was kind enough to reply. Maybe that was the beginning of me putting myself out there. Yesterday, I did something bold. I looked up the Yoga Fly schedule. Lo and behold, Peach was teaching at 6:00pm. I was scheduled to arrive in Auburn at 4:00pm, plenty of time. I know myself fairly well and I know the only way I follow through wholeheartedly is if I put it out in the universe. So I picked up my phone and texted Peach that I was coming - and also told my husband. Double Whammy. At 5:45pm this evening, I found my parking space in Auburn's tiny downtown. There were massive butterflys in my stomach. Peach wrote on Facebook about doing backbends in class tonight. Yikes. Insert inner-gremlins: 'I suck at back bends. I have no upper body strength. I am going to be the only one not holding the pose. I should text her I am tired.' Nope. I took note of the gremlins and marched into Yoga Fly. Peach greeted me with a warm hug and just being in her presence calmed my nerves. I got my mat and found my spot in the back of class. Being in her presence tonight at her yoga studio was nothing short of breathtaking. Peach started with the explanation of why backbends would be the theme of class. There was yet another bomb threat on campus today, which forced Peach to run and rescue her daughter from the building that was evacuated. She explained how this situation caused her to examine her reaction to the situation. How we can either allow fear to rule us and hide in the covers or find the balance of shedding light and accepting the fear also. Essentially, the concept of vulnerability - putting your heart out there, not knowing if it will be broken or loved. Vulnerability: the courage to be yourself. As she spoke on the meditation of today's practice, my eyes welled with tears for two reasons: 1. I am in Peach's class2. God bless my eating disorder for giving me recovery and courage to be vulnerable.To say I was blown away by her class is a massive understatement. Tonight was all about pushing your heart forward - literally and spiritually. When it was finally time to do Wheel pose (AKA back bends) I successfully did it. They might not have been pretty, Peach corrected a few things, but I did it. I imperfectly did it - and it was beautiful. Then she said we would move on to headstands. Shit. Headstands? Last time I did that was when I was a gawky 11-year old in tumbling class. Peach gave options to modify and said if you did not have your headstand that she could help. Without thought, I grabbed my mat and headed her way. I was the only student who asked for help and as I was inverted on my head I had to smile. Yes, this is recovery: admitting that sometimes we all need a little help - even if it is to stand on our heads. As class came to a close and Peach once again spoke beautifully on the topic of vulnerability and finding balance in light and dark, tears poured from my closed eyes. Not because I (kind of) did a headstand or a backbend, but because of how I felt in that moment. Tonight, Peach's class and my personal yoga practice gave me the gift of being in my body, feeling its strength, power and grace. I am in love with this yoga practice that I stumbled upon and for every teacher who has helped shaped it thus far. I plan on continuing it for a long time. It might not be everyday and I might not post yoga pose pics in the grocery store, but it is my practice and I will continue to do what feels right while pushing the limits of my safe zone to discover my yogi within. Namaste y'all. Namaste.

    Body Image, Eating Disorder, Exercise Addiction
  • Posted on January 20, 2014 4:41 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    4

    Yesterday, I crossed a finish line. Yep, that was all it was, a finish line. A man-made line in the street to declare the race complete.  Nothing more, nothing less. Of course completing a half-marathon is nothing to laugh at.  I am super proud of my husband and myself for completing our first race together. But for the first time that finish line meant nothing to me and I say that because finish lines, at one time, were everything to me. A little over three years ago I crossed my last finish line at the Big Cajun Triathlon in October 2010.  I began racing in triathlons in the Spring of 2009.  I thought crossing the finish lines would make me 'healthy,' happy and well, let's be honest here - skinny. It was my eating disorder that fueled my desire to race.  In my one year of racing I crossed nearly fifteen finish lines. I never found that elusive health or happiness hiding under the finisher medal table.  Nonetheless, I cried at many finish lines because I thought they were my 'full circle' moment and that crossing them meant I was healthy and recovered. But by the fall of 2010, my body, both physically and mentally, only continued to decline in health. As I left for treatment, I knew I would be back in a few months and would return to the sport.   In treatment, there were a few issues I was hard pressed to discuss, one of which being my relationship with exercise and the sport of triathlon. I was adamant to return to the sport and I told my therapist that I would eventually race again. Maybe not right away, but definitely within a year.  She said I would be "playing with fire." I responded that she was wrong and ultimately I would find a way. As I returned home, I soon realized that she was right. Returning to racing or rigorous exercise would be playing with fire.  I will never forget the day I packed all of my racing gear in a box and cried over it. I had to mourn yet another thing stolen by my eating disorder. Part of my heart was ripped out that day and I was left trying to piece together my life in recovery, which sadly meant no racing. But I had made a promise to myself to always put recovery first and that meant saying good bye (not see you later) to the sport. I stayed close to my racing family, continuing to help at events and joining in on Facebook antics. Of course, it was not the same and watching others race stung like hell in the beginning. I had to accept that even though it hurt, I knew I was ultimately making the right decision for me and my recovery. This past fall, my husband and I started talking about running in the Louisiana Half Marathon.  We got excited about the prospect of training and doing something active together. I never doubted that I was of healthy mind and body to take on the challenge.  What I did worry about was you, my readers and followers.  I know there are so many of you who read my posts and follow me that are fighting for recovery or searching to find peace with food, body and exercise.  When we decided to enter the race, I explained my decision in Find Your Play. In overcoming my eating disorder, exercise was THE hardest thing for me to find balance with, as I am sure many of you can understand. Exercise is good for you, right? Well, sure! So your eating disorder uses that to do it to extremes.  I know mine did. My ED excercise brain was based on numbers: calories in/calories out, miles run, etc.  There was no joy in body movement, only constantly calculations and a cruel voice in my head saying, "Run Faster. You're lazy because you didn't workout today." I can't stress enough that exercise is something that you MUST trust your treatment team on. You have to be honest and open to their recommendations. I knew for sure my therapist was wrong, but ultimately I knew the truth. I needed to put recovery first and that meant hanging up the running shoes and learning to find peace in my body through other forms of body movement. Many years of therapy, patience and recovery work later, I finally felt ready to lace up my shoes once again and stand at a start line.  How did I know I was ready? Because for once, the finish line meant NOTHING.  I knew crossing the finish line would not make me healthy or happy or at peace with my body.  I already was all of those things.  I knew I was ready simply because it sounded fun. And that is what exercise should be - FUN. Colleen Daly said it best at SmashTALK: Carolina, "If you love to run, run. If you don't, DON'T. If you love to shake your booty, do Zumba.  Find what YOU love." Can I get an AMEN?! Amen, Colleen, amen. Yesterday, Jordan and I lined up with 5,000 other runners in front of the Louisiana State Capitol.  It was a perfectly crisp and cloudless January morning.  The gun went off with a massive BOOM at precisely 7:00am. As the herd of runners slowly began jogging, my heart was happy.  My eyes welled with tears as Jordan and I crossed over the start line. I was overwhelmed with joy that finally I was starting a race where I I wasn't looking for anything at the finish line. It was an unexpected simple and beautiful step in my recovery journey. I never dreamed that making peace with exercise would come back to me in this way. I was prepared to hang up my racing shoes forever. But in my journey to find myself and what makes me happy, I discovered a small part of that is moving my body. I enjoy running, so I run. A seemingly simple notion that took me years to accept. Today, I am typing away with some pretty sore legs and tired toes, but a definite peace in my heart. Jordan and I crossed the finish line, hands clasp together in the air. (Yes, we were that cheesy couple and I don't care one bit!) He gave be a big ole kiss when we finally stopped after crossing the finish. We laughed and screeched, "We did it!" There were no tears at the finish, only hugs, laughs and high-fives. I had nothing to find at the finish because everything I had always searched for and set out to prove in my racing was already inside me. For the very first time, the finish line was meaningless. The Louisiana Half Marathon finish line was beautifully empty.

    Body Image, Eating Disorder, Exercise Addiction
  • Posted on December 1, 2013 9:48 pm
    McCall Dempsey
    3

     The sun fell into the Louisiana bayou, as my husband and I ran side by side on an evening run. The sky was an amazing fluorescent pink and purple and the crisp fall air was simply perfect.  We pushed our son in his stroller as he clutched his beloved golf club and juice cup in his tiny hands.  Tonight's seemingly insignificant Sunday run turned into another extraordinary recovery moment that took my breath away. It was once said to me that "exercise should be play."  Funny, because the 'old me' always thought exercise was punishment. Punishment for the food I ate and torture for the imperfect size I wore.  Exercise as play?  Such a foreign concept.  The exercise piece of my eating disorder was a very tricky one (as it is for most people).  To the outside world I was deemed healthy, with strong will power to exercise and the ability to 'watch what I ate'. But inside my mind was a violent storm: eat this, not that; run further; you're a bad runner; swim longer; you're slow; bike faster; you suck; calories in, calories OUT.  Exercise was anything but play. Body movement.  That is what they called the group at the Carolina House.  Body movement: an hour dedicated to learning to be in your body again.  And of course, I thought it was ridiculous.  Why walk when you can run?  Why jump rope like a first grader when you can jump singles and burn more calories? It just did not make sense to me.  In my mind, I did not have exercise issues, but as usual, the staff disagreed (rightfully so). It has taken me nearly three years in recovery to find a healthy relationship with exercise.  I always thought 'exercise addiction' meant sneaking out the window at 3:00am to run ten miles.  Once again I had an extreme standard that I held my own issues and anxiety up to.  The truth was and is that I struggled with exercise just like I severely struggled to find a healthy relationship with my body and food.   Since the birth of my son I have slowly gotten back into exercise playing.  I do what feels right and I listen to my body.  I HONOR my body, whether it be through movement, eating or rest.   When I was 10 years old, I remember a voice in my head telling me I was 'bad runner' and I believed that voice for a long time.  Running was torture because I thought I was never good enough.  Today, I know that speed or time or miles do not make me a 'good' runner.  I am a good runner because I choose to lace up my shoes and RUN.  I am a good runner because I love it.  I am a runner because it is my play. I am a spirited and active woman - always have been.  I am naturally athletic and have finally found peace in honoring that part of me. I am proud to say that I cannot remember the last time 'worked out.' Since the birth of my son and being a coach of Girls on the Run, I no longer work out.  I PLAY.   Over the past couple of months my husband and I have talked about running in the Louisiana Half Marathon on January 19, 2014.  I have been very hesitant to declare it and put it out there (because you know nothing is official until it appears on Facebook).  Tonight after our beautiful and peaceful run I knew we could do this, together.  So here is my declaration: Come Sunday, January 19th, you can find Jordan and me at the starting line (barring any unexpected pregnancies, injuries, etc.). I am not running to prove anything.  A finish line will not prove my health, my strength or my recovery.  I am recovered. I am healthy.  I am running simply because it sounds fun.  Running is my PLAY.  I love it.  I love the pavement under my feet and the wind in my face.  But most of all, I love playing with my best friend by my side.   Body movement comes in all shapes and sizes.  And those of us in recovery and fighting our way to recovery need to be patient and open to discovering what our body craves.  Body intuition is a practice.  Be silent.  Be still. Be patient.  And soon you will find your PLAY. With love and PLAYfulness, McCall

    Body Image, Carolina House, Eating Disorder