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

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

    Authentic, Eating Disorder, Pay It Forward
  • Posted on February 1, 2017 4:23 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    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 14, 2017 7:48 am
    McCall Dempsey
    1

    It was adding up to be a perfect night: the hubs was out of town, the kids were bathed and starting to rub their eyes and this momma had her eye on a nice cup of tea and a new book. Okay, why lie, all I wanted was a glass of wine, my jammies and Bravo. Marjorie went down sweet and cuddly as usual. And then, 30-minutes later, I heard it. That cry that only a mother knows. That cry that says: something is wrong. I ran to her room, opened the door and knew smelled the problem. EVERYWHERE. Her dinner (I'll save you the graphics) was E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E. The walls, her bedding, her blankets, the carpet, her face, her hair. I sat there staring at her in shock. Where do I start? What do I do? Why isn't Jordan here? I want my mom! Marjorie stared back at me as if saying, "Mom, get your shit together and get me out of this crib." I jolted out of my vomit trance and sprung into action. Bath, yes, put her in the path. I put Marjorie in the tub and started to clean...and clean...and clean. I ran between throwing all blankets in the laundry to rinsing her in the tub. Sadly, we lost her beloved Minnie Mouse jammies in the Norovirus Battle of 2017. They fought a hard fight, but in the end did not make it and were sacrificed to the trash. Thirty minutes later, everyone was clean and the house smelled like a FeBreeze factory. Marjorie was happy as a bug as we waited for her beloved and sacred blanket to finish washing. 'Okay,' I thought, 'just an upset tummy. We are all good. Deep breath.' WRONG. Oh I was so wrong. All. Night. Long. My heart broke for my baby girl. Her energy quickly depleted and she rested in my arms all night. I sat watching over her and memories of cancer days floated in and out of my mind. Even though I was so tired, I was so thankful this was just a tummy bug. Perspective is everything. The next morning she seemed okay, so I left her with our sweet nanny as I ran some last minute errands for my upcoming trip. I was finally going to hear and meet my idol, Brené Brown. The trip was days away and I was already giddy with butterflies with the chance to meet her and thank her for her incredible work. And then I woke up early Sunday morning with a text from our nanny... 'SHIIIIT! It's contagious. It wasn't an upset tummy from too much cheese. (Marjorie takes after her momma - cheese is LIFE). 'Okay, deep breath.' I thought, 'That doesn't mean you are going to get it, McCall. Wait, do I feel queasy. Nope. Not at all.' I rolled out of bed with positive thoughts flowing like lava through my brain, willing myself to be well. 'I am fine. I am a mom. We don't get sick. I won't get sick. I am NOT missing Brené.' Sunday dragged along. It was freezing outside and Marjorie was still on the mend so we were sequestered  indoors - every mother's dream nightmare. My queasiness rose in parallel to the kids' cabin fever and by 4pm, I knew I was going down. I called my sweet mother-in-law for back up, but it would be over two hours before she appeared at my door. Those three hours were a defining moment in my motherhood journey. As the cold sweats kicked in, I limped quickly into my bathroom with two tiny humans trailing behind me. One crying to be held and the other with his costume box asking, "Momma, which costume should we put on first?" 'Come on, McCall, you can do this. You've got this. Single mothers across the country have to do this. You. Can. Do. This.' And thus began the Battle of Norovirus 2017. My sister, who is an infectious disease doctor at the NIH (National Institute of Health), told me this was a classic norovirus case. Then she proceeded to explain that it was a highly contagious passed along by microscopic fecal matter on our hands. I stopped her there, thanked her for her consulting and headed into battle. "Mom, can you tie my cape on? Be sure not to get it backwards. You need the shield to be out." Manning, clearly not phased by what was going on, waited behind me with the patience of a four-year-old for me to help with his costume. I turned around, dizzy and weak, tied on his cape (the proper way) while holding his baby sister. I'm not sure what happened the next few hours or even day, but now that I'm on the other side I've had time to reflect on the many lessons and, yes, blessings of the Norovirus Battle of 2017. Moms can do (and survive) ANYTHING. And I mean ANYTHING. Moms can multitask like a BOSS. Who else can be sick while holding a toddler and tie a Superman cape...the right way? Moms are THE smartest people on the planet. When I posted my Norovirus Day 5 Diary pic, I got more tips and tricks on how to clean the hell out of toys (READ: throw everything in the bathtub with bleach)    Moms are the FUNNIEST people on the planet. Sharing my misery with fellow mommas, not only made the situation better, it made it HILARIOUS. Life is going to throw us curve balls, rather than bitch and moan - call a girlfriend who will provide some 'Me Too' empathy and will make you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.    Life somehow seems to workout when moms are involved. Needless to say, I was devastated when I had to cancel my trip to meet Brené Brown. However, I knew taking care of myself comes first and I also did not want to expose Baton Rouge to the plague. Despite her fun/tough exterior, my mom gets nervous and she knew how much this meant to me. Little did I know, she spent the day rehearsing what to say to Brené. She knew her time would be limited and wanted to tell Brené everything about me. My mom did great, even though she said I speak on 'body imaging' instead of 'body image'. So I'm pretty sure Brené thinks I'm a x-ray tech now. I didn't care. My mom's effort to still make the evening special from a distance had me bawling. It is not every day you get a video of your parents with Brené giving you a personal get well message. Cue. The. TEARS.   So, yes, I did not get to meet Brené. Yes, my entire house now reeks of bleach and so do I (Pretty sure I've lost sensation in my finger tips). Yes, I continue to go around with a bleach sponge, wiping everything down. But after it is all said and done, a little norovirus can't get my spirits down. There is something hilarious about dunking 3,987 legos, hot wheels and train tracks in bleach. Above all else, there is something beautiful in the gift of perspective. The day I felt human again, I received a letter in the mail. It was a card from Zoe McGowan's mother. I opened the small envelope and tears filled my eyes as I saw sweet Zoe's picture. It was the prayer card from her funeral. (Read more about Zoe) Tears rolling down my cheeks, I looked up as Manning and Marjorie gleefully played in the bath tub. Rather than spend my days asking God, "Why?" I embrace the perspective that comes my way daily from my own experiences and from my fellow eating disorder warriors and cancer moms. Life moves so fast and it is totally okay to bitch and grumble when life throws us curve balls. If there is one thing my recovery and Brené has taught me, it is that life can be both. We can be both flustered, annoyed AND grateful. We can have perspective AND still wish away the  laundry and lego piles (especially when you step on one barefoot, ouch). Let your heart feel both. Find perspective and humor. Reach out for empathy. Let yourself cry. And remind yourself, you will survive. Thanks for the lessons Norovirus, until next time...

    Brene Brown, Family, Motherhood
  • Posted on December 24, 2016 11:47 am
    McCall Dempsey
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    I had my first holiday break down this week. The shopping, the cards, work piling up, kids home from school...it all got to me. I resorted to wrapping presents until early morning hours to calm my frazzled nerves. I thought wrapping the mountain of gifts would make the stress go away. Nope. I woke up yesterday with a knot in my stomach. What is it with this time of year? What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I just be present with my kids and spread joy and cheer? I did everything I know to do to calm my anxiety: yoga, shopping, quiet time, a long (really, really long) shower, food, distraction, friends. Nothing helped. The chaos of the season and my to do list were getting to me, until I saw it: .PERSPECTIVE. And not just any perspective...a perspective that hits really close to home and is probably a big culprit of my holiday angst. "My newsfeed is blowing up with everyone so excited and grateful that the elf shenanigans are over tonight.... and all I can think about is how much Ari loves Jewel... and how this might be our last night with Jewel.... and it makes me so overwhelmed with sadness... #Perspective  #LoveYourElves  #StupidCancer" Meet Ariana Farragut's elf, Jewel. Santa and Jewel are praying for Ariana because she is fighting a rare brain cancer (Atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor: AT/RT). Last week, Ariana went in for what they were praying would be clear scans, but received devastating news instead. The cancer had spread and the new tumors are inoperable. Heart. Shattered. Ariana's sweet mother, Jenna, posted this picture of Jewel sitting with a bible. Have you ever thought to pose your child's elf next to a bible? Maybe you have. I usually throw the elf in the tree as I am running to beat my kids to the living room every morning. I'm not the most creative elf mover. But it isn't about creativity - it is about the joy that we have right in front of us. Right now and in the present. There's one thing I always say to others (and often to myself): We are all doing the best we can with what we know. Rather than beat ourselves up for complaining about the elf after seeing Jenna's elf picture and post, we should be aware. Aware of our thoughts and mindfulness this holiday season, reminding ourselves what is really important. No matter if you are the most creative elf mover or a tree thrower like me, let's work together to be present with ourselves and our loved ones. Life moves and changes so fast. It can be shattered in the blink of an eye. Trust me. Last night, I rocked Marjorie a little longer than usual, even dozing off with her heavy on my chest. My precious baby girl, healthy and thriving - something we hold so precious. We almost didn't have her home with us on that first Christmas. She was discharged from the NICU in the nick of time and I sat up all night staring at the most beautiful Christmas present I had ever received. I remember a Christmas when I was in treatment and only had six hours with my husband. Then just two short years later, I was in full recovery watching my precious baby boy crawl to see the magic of Christmas. This Christmas I experienced my first bout of holiday anxiety. I am so thankful to brave mommas like Jenna, who share their heartache and perspective with us. I have shared my fair share of perspective and I am thankful to now be on the receiving end of it. But no matter how many years pass by, the memories of being in treatment during Christmas and the fear of cancer still lurks. My heart still aches with my fellow cancer mommas. My soul is dented with them. My spirit sinks thinking of those in treatment and it aches knowing so many families who will spend their first Christmas without their child. Maybe we can all take a lesson in perspective from Jenna and Ariana. We can work to be present with our loved ones rather than expend energy on stressing to create a perfectly decorated Christmas table. There is no shame or guilt in getting caught up in Christmas chaos, as long as we can take a step back and remind ourselves about what is really important: faith, family, love and kindness. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Holidays. Sending you all love, peace and light, McCall For those interested in praying, supporting and staying up to date on Ariana, check out her website: Ariana's Fight Against Brain Cancer

    Cancer, Eating Disorder, Faith