FEAST Symposium Summary

Lots of people have posted fantastic, detailed, wonderful summaries of the FEAST symposium. When my internet is not being stupid, I'll even share some of those links!

My summary is going to be somewhat less detailed. The main reason? I got to be co-Master of Ceremonies, which meant that I was very, very busy during the whole conference.  Everything was a blur, really.  I was paying attentiona and absorbing the information, yes. The speakers were fantastic.  But I also had to have part of my brain watching the clock, keeping an eye on the audience, making sure the speakers had their slides loaded and time cues, and so on. {{The upside was that I got to hand Dr. Insel some magnetic buckeyballs.}} It meant that I was constantly thinking of what might happen next rather than what is happening right now.

I loved doing the MC thing. It was a tremendous honor and kind of fun, considering I got to play Oprah for a while. But it also means my memory of both days is a little fuzzy.

It reminds me a lot of how I've been living my life: constantly worried about the future (and obsessing about the past) without actually paying attention to what was going on around me. So when people reminisce about high school or college, I just feel rather baffled. First of all, having several serious mental illnesses during this time does tend to make your experiences less than stellar. As well, I was so focused on achievement and getting the right grade/internship/whatever so that I could do XYZ that I didn't actually experience things. It was about what's next not what's now.

Which, the more that I think about it, is a pretty sad way of experiencing life--or rather, not experiencing life. Much of this is, for me, related to anxiety. I get so worked up about what might happen that I feel I need a contingency plan for anything that might happen. And so I'm constantly thinking about that rather than, say, taking a hike with my friends. Of course, if an emergency did happen, I would probably be the person you'd want to be stuck with (assuming you wouldn't stab me because of all my fretting).

The problem is that I've really missed out on a huge chunk of life because I'm not really there. It's hard to come to terms with, and it's something I know I need to work on, but sitting down and trying to summarize the FEAST symposium really got me thinking and let me actually put my finger on what was going on in my life.

I do have some further thoughts that I will share tomorrow as well.

Have any of you experienced this there-but-not-really syndrome? How did you get better at staying in the moment? Please share in the comments!

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Charlotte UK said...


I was talking to a terminally ill friend yesterday. We spent a lot of time talking about coping with having a life-threatening illness and how to stay "in the moment".

We both concluded that we couldn't change the past. End of. No point wishing and hoping. It was there.

As for the future, the sky might fall in but there is nothing you can do about it.

Living with cancer has taught me that I should do the things that are practical and will make a difference in the future - write a will, a letter of wishes, cancel my subscription to Readers Digest. However, trying to make too many plans and micromanage the future is a hiding to nothing. Also, worrying about whether the cancer will come back and where is rather pointless (and can lead to chronic hypochondia). I am living each day as it comes. Enjoying the moment. Not missing the opportunities. Loving myself. Because by loving myself unconditionally, I have more time and energy to give to those whom I love and who matter to me.

Hope this helps. xx

Katie said...

This is definitely something I relate to a lot. I barely remember a lot of my past, particularly when I was ill, because I wasn't entirely *there*. I'm still guilty of letting it happen now too - usually by being too distracted by something online to concentrate on a conversation or a sunset, things like that. The reason my own summary of the symposium is quite detailed is because I didn't have my phone or my laptop. I use both to distract me from my anxiety, and in the process I end up distracting myself from life in general. It's something I'm working on too...

But just to say I relate, far too much. And it's never too late to change - look at the marvellous June, jetting off on helicopter rides around the Grand Canyon! Now THAT sounded like an experience...

t said...

I constantly struggle with staying in the moment!! I'm always thinking about what to do next, what might happen next, what I ought to be doing instead, and on and on. It takes conscious effort for me to enjoy the moment and not think seven steps ahead like I'm playing a larger than life game of chess. But even when I do manage to focus on the here and now, I feel disconnected. I feel like things aren't quite real as if I'm watching a movie instead of participating in real life which sucks a bit of the joy out of the situation. I'm not sure why there is such a disconnect or how to improve upon it.

Anonymous said...

Mindfullness meditation has helped me so much with this. I thought once my nutrition improved I'd b more in the moment but I felt my head was head actually got busier because it had energy to function so I remained out of the moment. But mindfulness has changed this for me. I haven't perfected it yet and that's ok because I'm human ;)

hm said...

Yes- I think being prone to anxiety does this- also being a control freak who is always looking to nail everything down and make it certain- it is very easy to let the "now" moments slip away and be replaced by fretting and planning. It helps to focus on something living- children, a friend, a pet- try to let everything go except the living thing in front of you- find something there to delight in and experience a few moments of "now."

Jennifer said...

Wow, Carrie.
Periodically I have wondered why I do not remember very much about my boarding school and college years and now I believe I have a better understanding of why that is, thanks to this post.
I was wrapped up in my eating disorder and very much focused on grades and what was next rather than living the moment.

Although I remember much more of my life since college, I do think that being present really only began in my thirties. Was it a brain maturation thing? Probably. Was it because I quit my ED? Probably. Was it because I started focusing on my daily living? PRobably. Now in my sixties, I can say that thanks to my daughter introducing me to Mindfulness and what it means plus my therapist teaching me to live more in the present, I am more present and less stressed. And, I am taking better care of myself. I say ditto to what Charlotte UK wrote in the final paragraph.
Spend time with friends. Take a walk without the ipod. Listen to the birds in the morning. Listen to your cat purring. Look at the beauty around you, no matter what the season. Use your camera to catch that beauty (this has been a startlingly helpful thing for me to do). Feel your cat's fur. Feel texture of fabric. Feel the warmth of your coffee cup. Be present. Breathe. Notice that heart rate going down and peace coming over you. Read Peace is Every Step or Present Moment Wonderful Moment by Thich Nhat Hanh. Not all at once. Just a reading a day.....
Love -

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time being present as well. I'm usually worrying about the future, especially the near future like if I have free time coming up with nothing to do or something to do that I'm not sure I want to (In other words, pretty much all the time). Also I tend to get even more down on myself for not being present and let it prevent me from doing things. Like I won't do things because I tell myself: "You'll just be thinking about food the whole time anyways." I don't really have a lot in my life - maybe because I always overthink things and deem everything "pointless". This probably doesn't help any of you, except maybe just know that you're not alone.

Anonymous said...


I am visiting your site for my Women, Food, and Feminism class. I am pleasantly surprised at what I see.

I understand this feeling whole-heartedly... it makes me tear-up thinking about how someone else (besides myself) feels this way and is able to articulate it in a way that is so relatable.

I, too, have been diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses including generalized anxiety, major depressive disorder (depression), borderline personality disorder, and PTSD. So, I know bearing the burden of trying "to stay in the moment" is hard... extremely hard for person's like us.

Thank you for your blog. I will check back soon.

xoxo RAY

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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