• 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 March 8, 2016 2:01 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    Here is what my former eating disordered life looked like: Monday-Thursday: restrict, calorie rules, weighing in 20-40 times per day, diet pills, low fat, no fat, sugar free, fat free Friday-Saturday: Dinner and going out with friends, events, Mardi Gras balls, football games, excessive drinking and eating Sunday: Close the blinds, self-loath, binge, purge, more self-hate Restrict and REPEAT. I woke up Monday feeling lethargic and foggy. The past month has been busy and I have been going hard - really hard. I have worked hard, played hard, 'mom'ed hard. There has been little time for rest or self care. And after a week of taking care of tiny humans plagued with the flu, exhaustion caught up with me yesterday morning. But rather than take it out on body and blame my body, I honored it. Yesterday, I rested. I actually laid down and took a nap. I sat on the porch and blew bubbles with Marjorie. I ate and I got dressed. I did not wake up yesterday telling myself I was fat or needed to 'cut back'. No, no. I woke up and said, "I need to take it easy this week." To be able to say that to myself is such an incredible gift. Rather than go to war on my body, I knew that I needed to honor it. I needed to love it extra hard. My eating disorder mindset would have laced up tennis shoes and gone on a run and begun the Monday restriction cycle. My ED solutions never healed the bigger problem. The one thing I needed that I could not give myself was love. Today, I give myself an abundance of love and know when I need a little extra self-love. Too often when we wake up 'feeling fat' or 'gross,' we avoid real clothes like the plague. At least I used to. My former closet carried a multitude of sizes to appease whatever mood I was in: muffin top jeans, fat pants, sweats and my favorite...yoga pants. Now I still live in yoga pants. Can you blame me? I work from home and I take pride in my yoga uniform. However, I know when it is time to get up and put a real bra on. Years ago, getting dressed was an emotional roller coaster. I never knew what was going to fit or how my ED mind would react. Would it be happy or would it be anger or would it be sheer panic? Usually, it was the latter two options. My body was in constant motion - bouncing from one size to another depending on which cycle of symptom use I was in. It took nearly three years of SOLID recovery work for my body to level out. Let's also remember I had a baby within that time frame too! Being patient with my body as it learned to take in nutrition was beyond difficult. There were many 'white knuckle' days where all I wanted was to fall back into my eating disorder. But I knew going back to restriction, diet pills, crash dieting or purging would only set me back further. I had to wait. And the pay off was worth every agonizing minute of bloat and discomfort. My body no longer jumps from one size to another. And the only problem I have getting dressed these days is deciding on which outfit to where because I like them all! My closet consists of one size - size ME. Whatever jeans I buy today, will fit me tomorrow, next Tuesday and in two years. My body is my body and while I may live a bit too hard at times, it isn't because I am abusing it. It is because I am loving life and every person and moment in it. It's been a busy month and life isn't slowing down anytime soon. I have to carve out time to slow it down, which is a challenge for me - as it is for so many of us! Yesterday, I carved out time to do 'nothing'. I penciled in time for me on my busy calendar, which is the most important appointment I will have all month. Recovery is a choice I make each and every day. And yesterday, I chose recovery through rest. We want our bodies to be perfect all the time. We brutally compare them to others. We expect so much of our bodies and we forget to give them the one thing they need: love. We all go a little too fast and hard at times. Stop and listen to your body and what it needs. I doubt your body will say, "Please start another one of those awesome kale shake detox juice cleanses. I love those." Your body, instead, will tell you to rest, to honor it and above all else to love it. Live life and detox with love.  

    Advocacy, Body Image, Eating Disorder
  • Posted on January 13, 2016 3:38 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    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 28, 2015 8:36 pm
    McCall Dempsey
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    Today I earned a new piece of flare to pin on my Mom Vest. The "My Son Projectile Vomited All Over Me" is now proudly sewn on my vest. Awesome. Poor little guy is sick. Thankfully, not with a stomach bug, but with a horrendous cough that led to the previously mentioned situation. I did what every mother does in these predicaments: I cleaned up the vomit and threw away all towels and items associated with it. Then I called the doctor. Unfortunately, they cannot see us until tomorrow. Enter: ghosts of the past. The last time I went to our pediatrician's office, I left in an ambulance with my daughter. The memories, still vivid in my mind, are painful. Tuesday, May 26, 2015, that pediatrician's visit was the beginning of a mother's worst nightmare. Since that day, Jordan has taken Manning to the doctor when needed. Marjorie's vaccines are delayed because of her chemo so there hasn't been a need to bring her, thank goodness. Jordan has to work tomorrow, therefore, I can no longer run from the ghosts. I have to face them head on. Thankfully, I am no stranger to facing ghosts. Recovery has forced me to stare down some pretty painful ghosts and memories. When I came home from treatment, ghosts seem to lurk in every corner of my house and every corner outside of it too. The ghosts were almost too much too bear at times, but as I faced them, I grieved them and knocked them out one by one. Ghosts are always a hot topic when I speak at treatment centers. But eating disorder or not, we all have them. Ghosts are those memories of a person, place, activity or event that led you to feel some pretty hard emotions. They are hard to face. We avoid situations, people and places - just like my avoidance of the pediatrician's office. Every time I thought of walking through those doors my eyes filled with tears and my hands started to sweat. So how am I to go back to the place where the nightmare began? The place where I knew in my momma gut that something was wrong - really wrong. How am I to casually sit in the brightly colored room with a rocket ship painted on the wall? The same rocket ship I stared at and prayed over and over: let this be nothing, let this be nothing, please God, let this be nothing. But I knew it was not. Tears fell down my face as the PA went to get the doctor and the doctor said we needed to be admitted for testing. I tried to act casual and okay, but I was anything from it. I tried to put on a brave face, only to collapse into my husband's arms when he walked into our isolated hospital room. It was there we waited...and waited...and waited. Only to be told hours later, five little words: "We think it's a mass." I bellowed a cry and a yell that can only come from the belly of a mother. If I didn't have Marjorie in my arms, I would have collapsed to the floor. But I cradled her tightly rocking her back and forth, back and forth. Yes, tomorrow I return. And I am finding peace with it. So how do we conquer our ghosts? For me, I give myself time. I am gentle with myself and do not brush the painful emotions off with a "Get over it" saying. I embrace the sadness, the anger and the hurt. I feel it. I grieve the ghosts. I talk about them. And then I face them. Head on. There may be tears tomorrow and I am totally okay if there is. And there might not be. At the end of the day, my son is sick and nothing is going to stop this momma from getting him well and back to truck building and tractor riding. But the ghosts that we knew will flicker from view We'll live a long life So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light 'Cause oh that gave me such a fright But I will hold as long as you like Just promise me we'll be alright - Mumford & Sons       

    Cancer, Eating Disorder, Family