The Lifesaving Skills Pixar’s New Movie ‘Inside Out’ Is Teaching You And Your Children

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

I came into the world screaming with a voice meant for outdoor sporting events and an energy level rivaling a teenager filled with Red Bull.

With this gregarious personality also came a sensitive little spirt that was hell-bent on rescuing every wounded animal. This was how God made me, but it didn’t quite fit into the tidy world where “ladies” were supposed to be polite and quiet. And ladies were NOT supposed to be bubbling over with buckets of tears.

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So I learned to zip myself up into the person the world was comfortable with while stuffing the emotions down into a dungeon covered by thick bars and an unlockable chain.

Now I am learning to chip away at this armor that I believed once protected me and in reality only left me in fragmented pieces.

Here I am in my 40’s struggling to become a whole person who can ride the waves of emotions without guards threatening to send this part of myself back into the dungeon.

What would have helped me? What would have possibly prevented me from a life of compartmentalization, an eating disorder, and depression?

A movie like Inside Out. (Images from Google Images)

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This movie  is offering exactly what every young person trying to understand their own selves’ needs.

  1. An ability to understand and accept emotions and feelings that are the fibers of being human.
  2. A safe place to fall and find repair when these emotions begin to wreak havoc on the body and mind.

The young girl, Riley, in this movie is trying to make sense of her life after moving to a new city. Pixar’s adventurous and creative storytelling so poignantly shows us how she is offered these two simple yet lifesaving things.

Emotional intelligence is one of the biggest prevention strategies we can offer ourselves and our children to needing an alternative coping skill to having emotions.

These days, academics, education researchers, principals, and teachers are discovering—or maybe rediscovering—that reading and math alone may not be enough. “We know that the emotional piece is really very important in terms of a child’s overall well-being and capacity to learn and grow,” says Dr. Jerlean Daniel, deputy director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and chair of the Psychology in Education department at the University of Pittsburgh.”-Scholastic News 

Riley experiences the range of emotions that everyone experiences and then is offered a safe place (her parent’s arms) to land in the process. A place where she is free to be herself, to have her own feelings without someone telling her to “stop crying” or “get over herself”.

Within this literally cerebral tale, there are clowns, vacuum hoses, glassy globes, a unicorn, a being that cries candy out of his eyes, and a literal Train Of Thought. But there’s no intruder. Nothing in Riley’s mind is ultimately tagged as not belonging or not wanted, because nothing in her mind can be separated from who she is. She is made up of the same things that cause her sadness, fright and disgust — those little emotions are her and she is them. There’s nothing to defeat; if anything, what Riley is fighting against is the impulse to exile the feelings that embarrass her.” –  NPR

I didn’t understand this as a child, and it most definitely harmed me. Now I am having to radically  accept this idea that emotions are for feeling, not for stuffing and it is healing me. The same is true if we offer this to our children.

As someone who works in this field of mental illness and has struggled with it, I can tell you that what this movie is teaching is lifesaving if you can implement it in your own homes with your children as well as allowing the waves of emotions in your own life.

This means being real and vulnerable and letting people in.

It also means learning to tolerate your children’s distress without trying to fix it, change it, or make it what you want it (or them to be).

Why it is crucial for your chidren?

1. Feeling understood triggers soothing biochemical; that neural pathway you’re strengthening each time he feels soothed is what he’ll use to soothe himself as he gets older.

2. Children develop empathy by experiencing it from others.

3. You’re helping your child reflect on his experience and what triggers his feelings. For little ones, just knowing there’s a name for their feeling is an early tool in learning to manage the emotions that flood them.”  - Aha Parenting 

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(Yes, I was the one sobbing loudly at this scene where her parents embrace her. The kids around me were staring. Oh well :).)

These are crucial skills we all need to learn, even in preschool and kindergarten. And common sense — along with a growing body of research — shows that mastering social skills early on can help people stay out of trouble all the way into their adult lives.

Here are a few more resources on this topic:

Child Parenting – Teaching Empathy and Emotional Intelligence 

NPR – Why Emotional Literacy May Be as Important As Learning the ABC’s

Can you do this? YES! You can. Let us all be the messy-creative-emotional-human-people that God created us to be!

In the meantime, go see this beautiful, profound and deeply impactful movie Inside Out

Xo

Lee

 

8 Tips To Remember When Watching The Rachel Dolezal and Rachel Farrokh Media Storm

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

Rachel Dolezal and Rachel Farrokh.

Two Rachels. Two very different stories plastered in the media.

Yet, when side by side the similarities are striking. Both fighting for missions they deem to be worthy of attention and both pointing shaky arrows at the target. Most likely you have heard about Rachel Dolezal, as she has been interviewed on multiple media outlets these past few days.

Her main claim is that she identifies as black, even though she genetically is not. CNN. NYTimes. Today Show (Images from Google Images)

Rachel

In the “Today” interview one Tuesday and one that followed on a sister network, MSNBC, Ms. Dolezal, remarkably composed despite harsh criticism aimed at her, stuck to her insistence that racial heredity does not equal identity, and she would not answer questions about whether she had changed her self-identification to merely gain advantage.”NYTimes

Rachel Farrokh also been spotlighted in the news, mostly in California’s media. But she is a well-known story in the world of eating disorders.

Here is the latest update on the Rachel Farrokh story.

Daily Mail

I wrote about it here.

And if you want to read in in-depth look into the holes in Rachel Farrokh’s story, click here.

What shines so brightly to me are the following 8 similarities that I see as important to remember when reading or watching these two women fight their battles.

Why?

Because we look with shock and awe, we make assumptions and judgements…but aren’t we all more similar to these women than different? 

1. Middle. With both of these women, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. There are numerous holes in each story. Why does Rachel Dolezal call herself black when her parents are clearly white? Why is Rachel Farrokh asking and receiving money yet, still has not entered a treatment facility? Both women are lying by omission in their own ways and the truth about each of their stories lies somewhere in the middle. While the extent that their stories are playing out in national news is a bit histrionic, in my opinion, none of us can deny that we have created our own truths. Our own realities sometimes by believing what we want to believe.

2. Identity. Dolezal has found her identity in transforming herself into a black woman, by believing this identity of herself as not white and stepping into that identity. It is what helps her feel safe. Farrokh has done this too, this molding and shaping to become what she believes is the ultimate safety, and for her it is being thin. Both women have gone to extremes to live inside what they deem as safe places.  Rachel Farrokh’s illness might eventually kill her, both women are searching for their identities trying to figure out where they fit in this world and we all do that in some way don’t we?

3. Trauma. There is no doubt in my mind that both of these women ended up in these places because of trauma, and they have constructed their realities as a way to cope, to survive, and to exist. We may not agree with how they are going about it, but in their own minds it is working for them. Both women are confabulating their lives. If you don’t know what this means, below is a part of Wikipedia’s definition.

Confabulation (verb: confabulate) is a memory disturbance, defined as the production of fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive.Confabulation is distinguished from lying as there is no intent to deceive and the person is unaware the information is false. Although individuals can present blatantly false information, confabulation can also seem to be coherent, internally consistent, and relatively normal. Individuals who confabulate present incorrect memories ranging from “subtle alterations to bizarre fabrications”, and are generally very confident about their recollections, despite contradictory evidence.” 

4. Veils. Both women are using their illnesses as platforms for activism. Rachel Dolezal works as an advocate and teacher for the African American Community and Rachel Farrokh wants to help women who are struggling with eating disorders. Unfortunately, Dolezal is only producing much more anger and rage by those who don’t understand and Rachel Farrokh is triggering thousands of people struggling with eating disorders to say, “Well I am not as sick as her, so I must not be a problem.” Or, a twisted goal is now set as trying to get as thin as her. I know it doesn’t make sense to the average person, but I have recently heard patients say these things and have read it on thinspiration sites. And the reality is, many suffer silently as insurance companies don’t deem them ill enough. Stories like Farrokh’s make many shy away from getting help. (Here is a recent article on this issue.)

5. Mental Illness. Both women clearly have some form of mental illness and this is the part that makes me so sad. We are like visitors of a zoo looking in on their cages. Both have invited the media in and are choosing to do so, but at some point both women need help.

6. Therapist. Rachel Farrokh is allegedly receiving help, but I wonder about Rachel Dolezal and hope that she is getting help.

7. Mirror. Both women look in the mirror and see something completely different than we see. Rachel Dolezal looks and sees a black woman and Rachel Farrokh sees a fat woman. We don’t see what they see. We can’t understand it, but that is why it is so complex and why both women really need help.

8. Grace. While the media, especially social media, are coming at these women with hateful and harmful remarks, I encourage a kinder response to view these women through the eyes of grace and compassion. To understand that they are more similar than they are different from you and I.

They are trying to find themselves, trying to find peace from trauma, and trying to find their own lives worth living.

Aren’t we all doing that in some shape or form?

Let’s offer them both our grace and prayers.

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Xo

Lee

How People Magazine Is Starving For Good Content

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

Sitting on an airplane last week I was excited to dive into my recent copy of People magazine.

A brainless feat, a pure escape.

Until I opened the page to a story about Dance Mom Abby Lee and her dramatic weight loss that came from vomiting. (Photo from Google Images.)

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“I had to get a prescription refilled – lo and behold, there’s something different about that prescription in Australia,” says Miller. “I would take this medicine and within an hour, I was vomiting like I was in fourth grade and had the flu or like I had food poisoning. It was awful. After I would throw up, I couldn’t even look at food for the rest of the day.So that is how I lost the weight,” she continued. “There’s no diet, there’s no exercise, there’s no this, there’s no that.”  -People magazine

Oh, I see. We are praising this now? Someone vomiting and losing weight is newsworthy?

Her mom had cancer, Abby had diabetes and vomiting was her form of weight loss?

I am not surprised. I can’t tell you how many times people have heard me speak and/or read my book and said things like this:

“Oh, I wish I had an eating disorder!”

“Oh, it must be all those Mom’s out there dieting, that must be why people struggle!” Or another common one, “So your hospital (where I work) must only treat teenage girls.”

Or how about patients I work with, their family members who consistently tell them, if you would Just EAT! Just stop purging!

People magazine only reflects the lack of education of eating disorders and mental illness that is so pervasive in our society.

I am not shocked by this completely inappropriate article about Dance Moms Abby Lee. While it is great that she looks so healthy, the way she got there and the fact that a popular magazine would publish such inappropriate content is typical.

It is typical of a society and often the church that wants to pretend that eating disorders don’t happen. 

A society that promotes the thin ideal as the only way.

Or that obesity is because of people’s lack of discipline or lack of the ability to buy food at Whole Foods.

Come on! This is the information age, how can People magazine not know and how can society still not know that ….

“Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses that impact millions of people every year in the United States.

Eating disorders are real, complex, and devastating conditions that can have serious consequences for health, productivity, and relationships. They are not a fad, phase or lifestyle choice. Eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening conditions that affect a person’s emotional and physical health. People struggling with an eating disorder need to seek professional help. The earlier a person with an eating disorder seeks treatment, the greater the likelihood of physicaland emotional recovery. ‘

In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life.” – National Eating Disorders Association.

I shook my head, tossed my magazine in the trash, and then said a word of gratitude to People magazine.

Why?

Because I often feel hopeful the lack of understanding is changing and we can sit back and relax.

Nope. Still there.

Still a blind-eye turned to a disease that is killing people, stealing the lives of young girls and boys, and ruining marriages.

Thank you People magazine.

You remind me that we have a long way to go until people will actually understand this disease and understand that glamorizing sickness and vomiting as a form of weight loss is not ok.

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I will carry on with my own mission to fight eating disorders and educating others to understand them.

Thank you for reminding me why I need to continue. You clearly don’t get it.

xo

Lee

The Antidote To Stress

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

I have a friend, who when she signs in at our elementary school for a visitor pass, instead of writing the date on the pass or on the sign-in sheet just writes…Today.

Today.

Not the date or the time. Today.

She says it is because all she can think about is today, that it is too complicated to put the date, the time or the moment.

I see it differently, I see it as a beautiful reminder of living in the moment. This moment we have right now…is simply today.

Today is all we have in front of us.

We spend so much time looking in that darn rear view mirror or forecasting the future of what we have to do tomorrow or next week or next year. Because summer just started and now we need to get ready for August. And as parents we prepare for summer in January and we prepare for the fall in June. And all of this makes my head spin. And then there is the deeper stuff of depression and fears and anxiety and it wraps us in knots of past failures and future expectations.

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So why not just do today?

That’s all.

Living in the present moment whether it be a chaotic mess of children and dishes and wet towels on your dining room table (my house), it is just today. And right now today is all you have in front of you. The next right step is all you need. Not yesterday not tomorrow.

Just today.

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So go forth, settle into all you need to do in this moment, today.

xo

Lee

 

When You Feel Like You Don’t Fit In

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

Walking with a new friend at a writing conference recently, I mentioned something about how I play on a Women’s soccer team.

“Oh,” she said with her eyebrows lifted in question. “That is interesting, Not what I expected of you.”

Yeah yeah, I wanted to say. Heard that before.

I have never quite felt like I fit in.

As a young child my family jokingly referred to me as the “other child” or “the accident”. A funny statement that left me with an identity crisis early on. That told me something was wrong with me because I wasn’t like the others. I found myself constantly scrutinizing and asking myself…is this me? Is this where I belong? Is this who I am supposed to be?

Moving to four different schools in four years offered me an opportunity to try out new identities. There was the preppy me, the rocker me, the rebellious me and then the perfect me. Trying to mold and shape and become something the world might like, someone the world might accept.

Part of this exploration is quite normal as we try to figure out who were are and where we fit, but as I continued on this never ending quest I began to seek after God’s acceptance too. Was I good enough for God? Did I fit with who he wanted me to be? Was I a good enough Christian? It was like chasing my tail trying to be what the world; my family, my friends, or even what I thought God wanted me to be.

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In college, it was exacerbated by these weird worlds I threw myself in. I was a theatre major and a sorority girl. I liked parties and I loved Jesus. I wouldn’t wear my Greek letters to the theatre building, was careful not to dive into deep discussions about Shakespeare or the methods of Ibsen’s plays while in the sorority house. I didn’t mention Jesus at frat parties and didn’t mention frat parties in my bible studies.

And all of this left me empty.

Seeking after the world’s approval of me, seeking after what I thought others wanted and expected of me. Trying to work so hard not to be the “other” child, but one that is easy to be around and easy to be with.

It was exhausting…this inability to be true to myself.

I don’t do that anymore. It is so draining. Instead I throw off these labels that hinder me and instead allow the crazy, awkward and sometimes overly sensitive me to emerge. And maybe you don’t like me, that is ok too. I don’t fit in. I don’t fit into the categories and labels that the world places on me or others. And I am ok with that.

Fitting in robs God of the uniqueness he has so artistically worked to create in the individual that is me.

Trying to be someone else robs God of shining your you-ness through!

So I have let go of this need to fit in. Let go of this striving to be what each version of me the world might want. It is so freeing.

Freeing to just say, Hey, GUESS WHAT? THIS IS ME! I love Jesus, I love wine, I love dancing like a crazy woman, I love literature and theology and words and people. I love dressing up in crazy costumes and I sometimes say the stupidest things at the most awkward and weird times. I am human. I am unique. I don’t need to fit in.

And you don’t either!

This has been the most and empowering letting go that I have ever done. It allows me to not work to be something I am not, but instead to explore just exactly how fun and adventurous and creative this world is and how God wants to move me through it.

I encourage you to do this as well, to let go of this idea of who you are supposed to be, who the world expects you to be, and allow God to show you who HE believes you to be!

It is way more fun this way! GO BE YOU! 

fitting in

 

xo

Lee

What Women Really Need To Hear

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

“Everyone breastfeeds, it is the natural thing to do.”

“It’s what God made you for.”

“It is connection for you and the baby it is so good for him.

On and on the messages of what I had to do would be spoken to me.

Yet, night after night I sat on the couch longing for sleep as he chomped on my skin. I would cringe and hold my breath aching for it to be over. This beautiful son of mine now a shark anxious for his meal. I would sit and hope and pray that it would subside, that it would get better.

It never did.

This was in 2000 and there was no smartphone to Google breastfeeding tips. It was just me, the infomercials on TV, and my hungry boy trying to eat.

I felt so alone.

We went to the pediatrician and I sat with my head hung low, tears streaming down my face as he told me to not give up. “The baby needs this.” He said. “This is natural and right.” My husband stood all proud in the corner shaking his head in full agreement.

I wanted to scream and punch them in the face. I wanted to hit them and yell, “Do you know what it is like to feel like your nipples are being bitten off?”

But I didn’t. Everyone around me was telling me I had to do this.

I felt so alone and so isolated.

A couple days later in the middle of the night I snapped.

NO MORE!  I drove to Wal Mart in the middle of the night, bought bottles and formula, came home and sterilized them and fed my child.

“I quit!” I wanted to scream in the darkness of the night, “I quit.”

For the next few days I could barely lift my arms, take a shower, or change out of the two sports bras I was wearing. My breasts were engorged like watermelons. No one told me you don’t quit breastfeeding cold turkey.

I felt so alone.

***
My book, Table in the Darkness, has been out now for about a year and a half.

I wrote the book to encourage and help others, so people would see and learn that yes…recovery is possible. But, what has emerged from it is something entirely different.

Something I never expected.

What women want, no matter if they are struggling with an eating disorder, depression, addiction, and/or the day- to-day living…what women need, more than anything, is to hear this one simple phrase.

Me too.

When I speak, write or someone reads my book, this is the message that is so loud and clear. Me too

We ALL want to feel like we aren’t alone.

We women, we NEED EACH OTHER!

Over and over I hear, “I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I struggled too. I feel alone. Me too. Me too!”

me too 2
That night while I was aching for some answers for my hungry baby, what I needed more than anything was to hear, “Me too.” I didn’t need another person telling me what I should do, I just needed a me too. I struggled with breastfeeding too!  Me too, I felt like I failed!

Now more than ever it is so easy to see the areas where you might feel like you are failing. Facebook and other social media can easily make you feel that way.

Why not instead, create a place where we say things like;

I am struggling in my marriage.

I wish I could be more social.

I hate my hair.

I want to write a book.

I want to dream.

I want to have children.

I yell at my kids.

And the resounding community of women yell back and wrap their arms around you and say, “YES! ME TOO!”

Me too friend, we are in this together. You don’t have to feel alone! 

This is the message. This is why I continue to write.

We need to stop clamoring for the positions of power and rightness, but to gather together in a world of me too.

Won’t you join me? Start encouraging one another with #metoo

me too 1

xo

Lee

What The Media Missed In The Rachel Farrokh Pleading Anorexic Story

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

While sitting in treatment planning at the eating disorder hospital where I work, I pulled up Yahoo. Images of the frail and bony Rachael Farrokh popped up on my screen.

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*Image from Google Images

I turned the screen to show some of the doctors I work with. (Here are just two of the articles, but please note …the images are very triggering. I will not post them here.)

CNN Article

Yahoo Article

All of them, just shook their heads.

While all of us can most likely agree that it is fantastic she is reaching out for help, those of us who work in the field and have struggled with the disease know there is more to this story than is being told.

The media jumps on these sensationalized stories of shock and awe. Look at how low a weight she is, look at her bones, and how could she get like that? Ohhh ahhh shock and awe. 

Right?

1. The images are highly triggering to those struggling. 

What they don’t realize is by promoting this overly thin image of this woman is that those struggling who aren’t uber thin take it as a message that they don’t need help. “I am not that sick!”  They say. “I don’t look like that!”

Of course this doesn’t make sense in rational thought, but in the world of eating disorders it is a common statement I hear every day. Patients seeing images such as this and thinking, “Oh see, I don’t look like that. I don’t need help.”

While anorexia and severe anorexia can eventually look like Rachael, it only feeds this misconception you can tell who has an eating disorder by simply looking at them. But this is not always the case. With anorexia often you can tell, but there are many other eating disorders that people need treatment for and often times you cannot tell if someone has an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are not solely about weight. They are about how body weight and image affect a person’s self-worth. They are about distorted body images and obsessive thoughts about how to become thinner or avoid weight gain. People of normal weight with eating disorders may actually suffer more, because they don’t receive recognition of their illness from others.” -ANAD Dismantling the Common Myths of Eating Disorders

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2. She reports treatment centers won’t admit her?

The other piece I believe the media was mis-informed about is this idea that treatment centers won’t take her because of her low weight. We have never NOT admitted someone because their weight was too low or too high. Now, if they have medical complications we do put them on a monitored unit, sometimes even ICU before coming in for inpatient, but to think this woman has been struggling for ten years and has never received help and/or can’t now…it seems very very fishy to me.

3. Her husband quit his job? 

And why did her husband quit his job to take care of her? This woman needs to be in the care of professionals. If she was at home using cocaine every day her husband wouldn’t quit his job to be home and watch her do drugs.

To think her eating disorder got to this level without help, seems a bit like denial and co-dependency to me.

4. Why the need for money? 

Is she raising money because she doesn’t have insurance? Or does she have insurance? If so,then why would she need the money? Why aren’t we told this? She would be deemed medically unstable and insurance companies cover that kind of treatment.

5. Why not legal guardianship?

Why hasn’t someone stepped in as a legal guardian? Where is her family? At such a low weight her brain is not functioning properly and so someone else should be in charge of the logistics regarding her care. Where is that information?

6. Where is the truth?

I think the truth of this story is somewhere in the middle. I am guessing she has been in treatment and hasn’t been willing to follow recommendations, or has left too early, or has refused to be admitted. And she reports she was administered 40lbs of fluid in one day??? I don’t buy it.

There is way more to this story than the media is telling us. The truth is, the media feeds off of of these sensationalized stories. Because it is shocking to see her all skin and bones. To me this story feels a lot like the commercials you see on TV where the dogs are in kennels and their sad eyes are looking up at you. You can’t help but be moved and motivated to take action.

I find it frustrating that the media is preying on our emotions to give money, without the full story.

Don’t get me wrong… I am happy this woman is going to receive treatment. I hope she can find the beautiful life on the other side of recovery. I have been where she is, not at that low of a weight, but at rock bottom, I am not in any way criticizing her. I am criticizing the media. For not offering the full story, all the REAL details about what is going on with this woman, because I know we aren’t receiving the full story.

Her road to recovery is going to be long, but it is possible she can receive wonderful care. Eating disorders are not a choice, but recovery is and I am excited that she is willing to make that choice.

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There are places out there that absolutely can handle this and would be more than happy to do so. I hope only that she is willing to stay on the road to recovery, and that the media would refrain from jumping so soon on these stories without all of the facts.

xo

Lee

 

 

Are You Afraid Of Your Own Emotions?

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

I stand with my feet in the soft warm sand and watch with wonder as the waves come forward. Some of them large and full with white fury and others so small they barely move the sea underneath. There are children standing close jumping over the waves and down the beach I see surfers anxiously waiting for the biggest one to ride.

I am mesmerized by the rhythmic movement as the waves come forward and then retreat.

They always retreat.

Even the largest most dangerous waves that will potentially drown you will dissipate. I remember being trapped under one of those waves as a little girl, my arms flapping in terror, my eyes unable to see anything but water and my body desperate for air…until I was able to find the surface and not fight the rushing water. I had to stop resisting and allow it to gently bring me back to the surface. Fighting the wave and resisting it made it worse.

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Emotions are exactly like this don’t you think?

These waves that come upon us, sometimes it is as if we are in the high tide and the waves will not relent, crashing at us with grief, pain or loneliness. I hate these big fat wet drowning waves. Hate the way they slay me.

But, what I have learned about life is it does you no good to ignore those waves. Pretending they aren’t there will eventually lead you to drown.

Sometimes I feel the smaller waves hitting against me and I ignore them, put on the happy face, and continue to march forward acting as if I don’t see them. And then I will be hit with a massive swell acting all shocked. Where did this come from, why do I feel this way? But if I stop and pay attention, I find the little waves were offering me clues and telling me what was coming, if only I would pay attention to the tide of emotions in my own body.

When I was deep in my eating disorder I would have nightmares about drowning. When I was awake there was a constant hum of anxiety running through my veins. A fear that emotions I was avoiding would overwhelm me and I wouldn’t be able to live through it. I was terrified that if I began to cry I would never stop. So I didn’t. I ran and denied any of the emotional signals for years.

You can’t stop the ocean even if you try. Eventually emotions need to be set free and not live in your body. All emotions, not just the good ones. It has taken me what feels like an eternity to learn this. Sometimes I forget until I am smacked in the face again by a large feeling I ignored.

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Recovery has made me no longer afraid of drowning.

This lesson, this lesson of learning to ride the waves of my emotions, is one I am STILL learning. I feel the tears and I ignore them, or I feel the pain and I placate it, still sometimes ignoring the natural human emotions.

Most of the time though, I have learned through this process of allowing myself to be human, I know I can actually live through the biggest waves. Not only can I live through them, but I don’t need to do anything to make them stop.

And you don’t either. You don’t need to starve yourself, eat them away, cut, or drink them away. All you need to do is ride them out. And sometimes you need to ride them out with someone who can allow you the freedom and safe space to surf through them.

But ride them out is EXACTLY what you need to do.

What we ALL need to do. It is what I do now. And I am finding that in the surfing I feel so messy, so uncontrolled, but so human.

So alive.

I am not a rigid false person wearing a mask of imagined perfection, but one who experiences the range of human emotions. Sometimes at inappropriate times that make others uncomfortable, but I am feeling them. And I am riding the waves.

Won’t you start surfing too?

Stop running from those feelings and allowing them space to do what they need to do.

You won’t drown, I promise. No wave stays forever just like no emotion stays forever.

Ride those waves dear friends, ride those waves.

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xo

Lee

The “Mom Effect” and How We Influence Our Daughter’s Body Image

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

She hid the cookies deep in the farthest part of the silverware drawer. The fridge was full of food she never touched. Well, except for the Slim Fast drinks that littered the shelves. Those, were the sustenance she lived on. And yet, I knew the cookies were part of her diet too, eaten late at night in the darkness of the kitchen. She pretended as if she ate, pretended for my viewing pleasure that she was consuming meals, but I was intuitive. I was paying attention to her every move.

How could I not, she was my mother.

She was the model I had to follow.

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Busy was her mantra, busy stole away the time it took to eat. Because busy was how mothers were supposed to operate. Frantically running about too busy to eat. Providing and sacrificing for everyone else, never sitting down to actually eat the meal. Never taking time to nurture or allow her body what it needed. Wasn’t that what a good mother did? Wasn’t that what a woman did?

I watched the scurrying about and the frenetic pace at which the mothering without eating occurred. And I thought this was normal. This was what I was to do too. Didn’t all mothers act this way?

Wasn’t I also required to do this, to be a mother? To be a woman was a combination of serving everyone else but one’s self. And the reward was thinness. And thinness was power.

And when I was launched from the nest into the world with food at my every turn, and depression knocking at my door…I only knew one response. To deny myself. To busy myself. To find power in the madness. And I adopted those words too, “I am too busy to eat.”

While her disordered evening only skimmed the edges of causing problems in her life, it ruined mine. It destroyed my body and almost killed me. I wrote about this journey in my memoir, Table in The Darkness – A Healing Journey Through an Eating Disorder.

It took me years to find my own way, to learn how to feed my body, to deny what I was modeled and instead take care of myself.

Was it her fault? Did she cause this in a daughter who watched her every move, who followed her every turn, who hung on her every conversation?

No. And Yes.

No, because my personality type and my addictive genetic predisposition tipped me over the edge of balance, led me to the place of not being able to stop. (Read Here about the genetic predisposition of eating disorders.)

No because I also struggled with depression, and the depression further fueled my desire to not eat.

And yes. Yes in that I had one model of eating. Her. I had one model of how to view my emerging and changing body. And while she would tell me to love my body and to eat, her actions showed me otherwise. I watched, I modeled, and I even when I tried not to, couldn’t deny what I was shown. How a woman was to be.

Too busy to eat. Never satisfied with her body.

And as I wander around this world speaking to women’s groups and working with patients struggling with eating disorders, I find myself baffled at this destructive mentality that is so pervasive with women.

Women who say they are too busy to eat, and does that affect their children? Women who tell me they often skip meals and do I think their children notice? Women who tell me they hate their bodies and do I think their children pay attention to that?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

No, mothers don’t cause eating disorders. But, YES, mothers…they are watching!

If you are walking around talking about how fat you are or how you need to lose weight. I urge you to stop it now.   

Moms are probably the most important influence on a daughter’s body image,” said Dr. Leslie Sim, clinical director of Mayo Clinic’s eating disorders program and a child psychologist. “Even if a mom says to the daughter, ‘You look so beautiful, but I’m so fat,’ it can be detrimental.

Research has shown time and time again that the same-sex parent is the most important role model for a child. 

Zero talk about dieting, zero talk about weight! Zero comments not only about your daughter’s weight, obviously, but zero talk about your weight and even other people’s weight.” – Says Sim.

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Check out what a recent study that focused broadly on appearance and, more narrowly, on how a girl’s self-image is shaped by her mom’s own self-talk discovered.

Fifty-five percent of surveyed moms admitted to complaining about their own looks, frequently in front of their daughters. Weight was the most common complaint, with 76 percent of moms saying they often talk about wanting to lose weight.

Such comments have a profound effect on our daughters, 

If a girl hears her mom voice negative thoughts about her own looks, she learns to be self-critical. She learns to seek out problems and focus on what she doesn’t like about herself.

We don’t just model behavior. We model attitudes and beliefs. We model outlook.” - child and adolescent psychologist D’Arcy Lyness, a behavioral health editor at KidsHealth who was closely involved with the study.

You might think she doesn’t notice. She does. You might think it doesn’t matter. It does. You might think it is normal and part of being a woman to not eat, to deny your body what it needs. It isn’t.

I can’t soften this message, I want to. I want to hug you and embrace you and tell you it will be ok. But, I need you to know the truth. You matter. The way you treat your body matters.

 Every time a woman passes a mirror and criticizes herself, there’s a girl watching.” - Gloria Steinem

It starts with you! 

We are raising a society of girls and boys with a fear of not measuring up. A fear of fitting into this “skinny ideal” that doesn’t exist.

 It starts with you. Right here. Right now.

When you say, “God, there are things I don’t like about myself. I wish I had different hair or a different color of skin. I wish I were taller, shorter, and skinnier. I wish I had more talent. I wish I could do ‘that.’ I wish I looked like him. I wish I had her smarts” and on and on. This kind of thinking is basically telling God, “You blew it! Everybody else is OK. But you goofed up big when you made me.”

When you reject yourself, you are in essence rejecting God, because he’s your creator. When you don’t accept yourself, it’s rebellion against God. You’re saying, “God, I know better than you. You should have made me different, with a different set of strengths and a different set of weaknesses.”

But God says, “No, I made you exactly to be you because I want you to be you — with your strengths and your weaknesses. Both of them can give me glory — if you’ll just start doing what I made you to do instead of trying to be like everybody else.”Pastor Rick Warren

Let’s stop this madness. Let’s be who we are supposed to be, who God created us to be. And let us model healthy living for our own children!

Won’t you join me? 

If this is something you struggle with, won’t you reach out for help?

Talk to your friends, your husband…someone!

If you are struggling with providing your body what it needs, maybe you need to talk with someone? Maybe you could benefit from seeing a registered dietician or a therapist?

I don’t want you to hide in shame about this, I want you to hear this message and do something different.

Let us raise a generation of women that are able to say, “I am hungry. I am going to feed my body.” Let our little girls see us and model healthy behaviors that will carry them strongly through life!

Start now. Start today.

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You are too important in that little girl’s life not to!

xo

Lee

Helpful Articles:

Healthy Body Image Tips

Mom’s Influence

Body Image and Mom’s Influence 

Eating Disorders and Genetics

Facts on Eating Disorders

Helpful Books:

Table in the Darkenss – by Lee Blum

Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty, and Life After Pregnancy - by Emily Wierenga and Dena Cabrera

The Body Myth: Adult Women and the Pressure to be Perfect – by Margo Maine

Mom, I Feel Fat: Becoming Your Daughter’s Ally in Develping a Healthy Body Image – by Sharon Hersh

Wanting to Be Her: Body Image Secrets Victoria Won’t Tell you – by Michelle Graham

 

 

Happy “Other” Mother’s Day

Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life

I loved reading the book, Are You My Mother? - by P.D. Eastman, to my kids when they were younger.

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The sweet tiny bird asking all the animals, “Are you my mother?” Not sure where he matched up, who would provide the nurturing he needed. And what we see often in the animal stories, is when the mother dies or isn’t present, another mother steps in. Even if it is a different species, the nurture hole is filled by another mother.

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With mother’s day approaching I often feel a bit of anxiety regarding this holiday.

The stories are sweet and gooey as are the cards. I stood in the Target isle this week, the cards glaring back at me, unable to find one that fit my story. The cards were pink and yellow with lines like, You are my best friend! Thank you for being my rock. 

My mother story isn’t conventional as many aren’t. My mothers and my personality were like oil and water. From a young age our personalities, our expectations of each other and our views on life contrasted. A consistent friction between the two of us, leaving both of us wanting for more. I can therapize and diagnose, and we did all of that. We have found our way now, but it was nothing like Hallmark writes in greeting cards.

And yet, a tremendous blessing emerged from this relationship that left me searching.

One that captured the other story of mothering. 

God knew the needs of the child he created, me. He knew that my emptiness and needs my mother was unable to meet could be provided elsewhere. And he led me straight to them.

The other mothers.

Growing up in my family of 5, I was often referred to as, “the other child”. And this “other child” needed an “other mother.” I didn’t know this of course, but can only see in retrospect the women who flowed in and out of my life at just the right time. Three unique and timely relationships that provided exactly what I needed when I wasn’t getting it from my own home.

First there was my Young Life leader, Jill, in high school. A woman so encouraging and loving she exuded grace and kindness. While I awkwardly stumbled through the teenage years and achingly struggled with my fractured home life, I had a steady Jill cheerleading me on. A woman reminding me that God loved me, a woman believing that I could follow my dreams. A fuel to a spark that had begun to fade, she was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time.

In my twenties I was blessed to live with a family in Minnesota, and the mom, Judy, wrapped me into the fold as if I was one of her own. Her tender blue eyes calming an anxious and anorexic me. She took me into her home over and over when I fell on my face yet again. She wa grace with skin on. A contrast in portraits of motherhood as I hadn’t known any other option than my own.

She offered me a different view of motherhood.

Ironically she was raising three boys, and I now have three of my own. To say that God knew what he was doing when I randomly stumbled upon this family is an understatement. Judy ushered me through my turbulent twenties and without her, I honestly don’t know if I would have made it.

As I began to recover from eating disorder God offered me another “other”. This was Jan. A therapist who passionately loved the Lord. Another tender hearted woman who wouldn’t let me get away with anything. A woman who helped me retrain my brain, to let go of the chaos, and who guided my husband and I into a stable relationship.

Because of these three women, Jill, Judy, and Jan (how funny they all start with “J”), my other mothers, I have come to believe that the women relationships in my life are crucial to my own growth, healing, and living. Because of these three women showing me the way, I am blessed to be surrounded with a gaggle of amazing, encouraging, and inspiring women in my tribe as I call them.

A season for all of it.

There was a season for my own mother, and then another for a different period of my life. I am grateful for every mother who led me to the next stage. These women, who plopped into my life at just the right time. What a gift, a treasure. And as I grow older I find, if I open my eyes and look around, God is still doing that.

Offering me others just when I need it. A sweet friend, a tender co-worker, or even a woman on the internet who can carry me through.

Mothering doesn’t always have to be only done by your blood mother, it can be done by the others too.

God does provide dear friends. Sometimes not in the traditional way that Hallmark tells us we are supposed to have it, but in just the right way. At just the right time. Women, we need each other.

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Thank you to all my other mothers on this mother’s day. I celebrate my own mother for setting me free so I could experience these others, I celebrate you, my others,  for speaking into my life, and I celebrate God for providing me with just what I needed.

Happy Other Mother’s Day.

Xo

Lee