Blogmas Day 10: The struggle between looking “too skinny” and looking “too fat”

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So here’s the thing…

I look back on old photos of myself, old videos, read old documents I wrote and saved to a hidden file on my computer, and I think to myself, that girl was so damn broken. She was so hurt. So fucked up. I found videos of me singing and I looked so skinny. So underweight, but nobody saw. Nobody noticed. Likely because I hid it well, but still. I found old documents that listed everything I wanted to change about me physically.  That entire list was nothing but me saying I wanted every single part of my body to be free of fat and to be trimmed and toned. I remember being scared of an apple. An apple. They have, what, 100 calories in them? I was such a mess. I was so broken.

When other people think of someone in recovery, they assume it means that person wants to be skinny. That person looks back on old photos and misses that body. That is not true for me, and probably for a lot of people in recover. When I think of that time period, I get sad. I get upset that I was that girl. I get upset that part of me still behaves in that way and part of me does not want to let go of the eating disorder because I identify with it.

Being in recovery for me is so confusing. The reason being, my brain is not completely healed, it may never be. So, while part of me wants to be skinny, is afraid of gaining weight, the other part of me is also terrified of looking too skinny again, of looking underweight again. There’s also this part of me that is just as scared about looking too heavy, overweight, etc. I am very confused and lost and this is a daily battle that I will likely face on and off for the rest of my life. If I manage to be a lucky one who fully recovers, great, but that’s rare. I get that, but I want to be further in recovery than I am and for the life of me, I can’t wait until the day comes when I can just be comfortable in my damn skin and see things in a way that goes beyond calories, image, social acceptance, etc.

I just want to be done with this, even though being done with this is one of the most terrifying things I have ever had to face.

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First day of treatment: Blogmas Day 5

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Today was my first day of “official” eating disorder treatment. I wasn’t going to blog much about today because I felt like this was a very personal topic that doesn’t belong in a Blogmas post, but screw it.

I have been battling with anorexia/bulimia since I was 12. I started treatment for that and some other issues when I was 19, but for whatever reason the ED was overlooked and left untreated. That is, until today.

I started seeing a new psychologist about a year ago (on and off, not consistently for a year) for some completely unrelated issues I was having. At that time, the ED was completely in check and I was good. Recently though, a lot of my old ED behaviors and though patterns have come back and seeing as I never really went into ED treatment, I never learned about the ED. I never learned coping skills or the why of it all. I just kind of taught myself how to live with it and go about my life.

Due to my recent slipping back into the ED, my new psychologist has decided to do ED treatment, which is about a 20 session program. Today was session 1 of that treatment, as I did very well. I learned how the process will work, why it has to work that way, and was told what things we will be targeting throughout the treatment. I’ll be learning about nutrition, coping skills, how to properly handle any strong urges I have. We’re going to target my anxiety over food/body image and talk through my thoughts. I’m actually quite excited for this process because I’m going to learn so much about myself and how to go about my life happier and healthier.

So far, I am doing very well. I am a very motivated patient and I am already eating a wide variety of foods. A lot of my problems lie in the visual aspect of food, partial restriction, and the urges I get to purge when I feel full or stressed out in general. So, as the treatment progresses we will target those areas along with others and I will continue to grow and do well because that’s my only choice. There is no option B, there is only Option A.

How I get through Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday. It’s full of love, laughter, family, and of course…food. The word many of us genuinely fear going into that third Thursday of November. I think Thanksgiving will always cause a little bit of a spike in my anxiety, but I also know a few ways to get through that day and end it with a smile and a mind full of peace instead of fear.

For me, the part of Thanksgiving that caused me the most anxiety was actually the variety of food and the build up of my mom cooking everything and laying it all out on the table. I wasn’t so much scared by the visual of the food, but the anticipation leading up to it and the idea that I would be putting so many calories into my body. Keep in mind though, “so many calories” for me meant consuming maybe 200 calories as my meal.

That being said, this is how I make it through Thanksgiving.

  1. I remain aware of how much I am eating. However, I do not mean this in the sense of caloric intake, but rather the physical amount of food and how my body feels while eating it. I remain intuitive to when I feel like I am getting full or when I know I am full and I put the fork down there and say I’m done. I respect my body and I do not worry about other people may be thinking.
  2. I am also aware of when my anxiety is telling me I’m full and when my body is actually physically full. They are two very different feelings. The anxiety based feelings are more thought based. For example, I’ll be thinking “That’s a lot of food” or “There has to be a lot of calories in this Turkey, I think I can be done”. When I’m actually physically full though, it’s less of a mental thought process and more of a feeling in my stomach. A feeling that I finished my plate of food and my body feels satisfied. It takes time to learn the difference, and I still struggle with it sometimes to be honest, but that is something that has really helped me get through my family meal.
  3. I eat slowly. This is probably the most important part for me. I used to rush through my Thanksgiving meal because I just wanted to get it in my body without thinking about it. I wanted to show my family that I was totally fine, there were no problems, I was eating and smiling, but I HATED that I was eating “so much food”. So instead of savoring it, I shoved it down and either forced it back up or got very depressed and anxious over it. So now, I purposely take my time with my food. I put a little bit of everything I want on my plate and I eat it slowly. I savor it. This gives my body time to process what I’m putting into it and time for my brain to tell me “hey you’re full”. It gives me time and when I eat slower, I actually end up eating better because I’m much more engaged in conversation and paying less attention to getting the food from the plate to my mouth, which in turn reduced my anxiety and ED related thoughts.
  4. I remind myself when I am finished eating that all I did tonight was nourish my body. I gave it what it needs to fuel my brain, my muscles, my organs, to keep me alive and healthy. I remind myself that I ate a normal amount of food and I pride myself on staying calm. If I start to have thoughts of purging, I again remind myself that all I did tonight was eat. I did what everyone does on Thanksgiving and that is perfectly okay. Throwing up will hurt the body that works so hard to keep me alive and I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to hurt the thing that keeps me going. I want to protect it. If I start to feel worried that “everyone’s going to see how much I ate”, I remind myself that you don’t gain 10 pounds over night and your body doesn’t change over night. I will look no different the next morning, and if I do, it’s probably just bloating and that is natural occurrence of the human body.

So, that is how I get through Thanksgiving. I hope this helps someone and if you have any tips for me or want to share how you personally get through Thanksgiving while in recovery/post recovery, I’d love to hear what you have to say. 🙂

We’re approaching Thanksgiving

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When everyone is excited for Thanksgiving and you’re just sitting there like…uuhh…nope.

I like Thanksgiving. I really do like the holiday. I think it’s a day to cherish your family and friends, to be grateful for what you have and not dwell on the things you don’t. I think Thanksgiving is about so much more than stuffing your face with so much food that you physically feel like you’re going to throw up. I always liked Thanksgiving, just not every part of it.

Coming together over food is really just a cultural thing. It’s something we as humans enjoy doing, chatting and eating, eating and chatting, it’s a great time to catch up and to laugh and to reminisce on good times. For me though, coming together over food was always anxiety inducing. I was always very scared of ordering the wrong thing at a restaurant or having food stuck in my teeth or eating sloppily or dropping/spilling something. That was the social anxiety in me.

The eating disorder came about when I was around 12, and Thanksgiving just got harder and harder as the years progressed. I remember seeing all of the food on the table and thinking “okay, I just need to eat a little bit and nobody will think anything”. So that’s what I did. I ate some turkey, some potatoes, some corn, and a bit of cranberry sauce. And every bite I took lead to the thought of “am I full yet?”. Then, when I felt full, I felt gross and I would go throw up my food or I’d curl up in my bed with my knees to my chest and think about everything I ate and how my body has changed and what I look like now. I was very scared of those very low calorie foods. I was very involved with the eating disorder as well as some body dysmorphia.

So, Thanksgiving has really never been easy or exciting for me. At least, it hasn’t in a while. I’ve gotten so much better over the past few years. This will be my 3rd Thanksgiving where I feel less afraid of the food that my mom will make for my little family of 4. I know that last Thanksgiving I ate an entire plate of food and two pieces of pie. I felt some guilt immediately after and the following day I definitely felt those body dysmorphia symptoms, but overall I had very little urges to throw up, very few urges to restrict the following day. I was able to tell myself that what I’m feeling is the ED talking and the anxiety talking. I was able to push through those feelings and really enjoy my Thanksgiving, the food my mom made, and know that it was going to be okay. I knew I wasn’t going to gain ten pounds over night or that  my body was going to suddenly look ten pounds heavier in the mirror.

I did very well last Thanksgiving, so here’s to having an even better holiday this year.

Finding that balance between watching how much I eat and “watching how much I eat”.

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I find that one of the hardest parts of recovering from an eating disorder is watching what and how much you are eating without actually “watching what and how much you’re eating”. I never realized how hard this was going to be. Granted…that’s probably because I had never thought about getting into recovery before…so…there’s that.

Recovering from an ED is really about achieving a healthy body weight, and accepting it, The ultimate goal for whoever is helping you through recovery is not to get you to love your body, although that’s an amazing bonus. Their goal is to get you to accept the weight and to treat your body right. This process involves gaining weight, sometimes that through a simple guide on the right nutrition for your body, other times it involves a strict meal plan, really depends on you and your treatment provider. Regardless of how you are getting your nutrition though, you kind of have to watch what and how much you are eating in order to make sure your body is receiving the nutrients it needs and the caloric intake that is required for your height/weight and body type.

So, in recovery, we’re watching what we eat, but we aren’t allowed to really watch what we eat. We are told to be aware, to monitor, to weigh in during the beginning of the process, but we can’t calorie count. We can’t read labels. We aren’t allowed to weigh our food or go on any diet pills or restrictive plans. All of that is great, it’s so good for us, but it’s confusing because we’re told not to watch how much we eat, but we also have to watch how much we eat and make sure we’re feeding our bodies properly.

I guess the line is really drawn when it becomes obsessive? People watch what they eat, it’s part of living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight and healthy body. It’s just a little more difficult for someone in recovery or someone who is currently post-recovery because we have to watch that fine line. We have to be just a little bit more aware than you do because of our history. It just always made me chuckle a little bit because we’re entering recovery for watching what we eat (of course it’s to an extensive degree and our lives are probably at risk…) but when we’re in the recovery stage, we have to watch how much we’re eating, just for a completely different reason.

Does anyone else see what I’m saying? I don’t mean it in a bad way by any means. I absolutely understand how the process of recovery works and why it works that way, it’s just interesting to me because, personally, that’s always been the hardest part for me. Finding that balance between watching how much I eat and watching how much I eat.

I miss having an eating disorder…

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I have a question; is it wrong or abnormal to miss struggling with an eating disorder? I know that sounds strange and probably also sounds like I’m still struggling with it. I don’t necessarily miss the starving or calories counti…no that’s a lie. Yes I do. Okay, let’s just break this down a little bit.

When I think of my past with the eating disorder, I don’t get that sense of pride for having “beat it”. When I think about my past behavior, past addiction, I actually almost miss being anorexic/bulimic. The main reason being, I never felt as if I reached the stereotypical physical image of someone who is considered to be anorexic/bulimic, like I didn’t reach my “goal weight” or goal “appearance”. As if I was striving for something but never actually got there, like I had failed. I see images of girls (and I say girls because I am a girl so naturally those are the images I was looking at) and I feel like I failed. I feel like I wasn’t really anorexic because I didn’t look like them, not yet at least. I was on my way there, but I got stopped in my tracks. The weird part about that is I wasn’t stopped by someone else like a doctor or a friend or even a family member, I was stopped by myself. So, that essentially means I knew I was sick and I didn’t want to keep getting sick so I asked for help. I didn’t want to look like that or be like that. Why is it then, that looking back, I feel shameful? I feel like I failed? Shouldn’t I be proud that I stopped myself before it got so bad?

The other reason I feel as though I miss being sick, miss having an eating disorder, is because it gave me a sense of identity. It gave me something to work towards, a reason to get up in the morning and keep going, because I had a goal. It was an unhealthy goal, a life threatening, dangerous goal, but it was a goal. It was me. It was all that I was. Even though I had other passions, other desires, a common sense level smart enough to know that it needed to stop, the eating disorder was my identity. Almost like a secret identity…actually…exactly like a secret identity. Nobody ever knew I was sick. Nobody knew I was counting calories. Nobody knew that eating an apple freaked me out because it has about 100 calories. ED gave me an identity, a purpose, and a goal. Taking that away, I’ve lost such a big part of myself and I am struggling to find things to replace it with.

So, if someone reads this and can give me some answers as to whether or not it’s normal to “miss” an eating disorder, I would appreciate it. If someone would clarify why I feel that way or what your interpretation of what I’m saying is, I would love to read your responses and get some feedback.

p.s. I’m not looking for counseling, I have a psychologist I can call if I need to. I’m really just ranting and wondering what you all reading this think. I am not in any danger, I have no intentions of going back to ED behavior. These thoughts happen somewhat often and I just wanted to share them and get some feedback on them.

Let me know what you think!

Tonight I want to throw up

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Tonight I want to throw up.

Tonight I feel sad and I feel overwhelmed by the thought of what I ate tonight.

The intrusive thoughts of him making an appearance.

Tonight I feel like crying.

I’m supposed to stop and observe the facts right now to help, so I’m gonna do that.

I wasn’t feeling this way until I started thinking about food tonight and him.

I ate very well tonight. I’m wanting to throw up because I ate ice-cream followed by chips and salsa. My stomach does not hurt, it’s a mental feeling. I want that unhealthy food and those calories out of my body. However, the facts are that the amount of ice-cream I ate wasn’t all too much, and the chips and salsa, the same thing. Neither were a lot or in an excess. They were just all at once, too fast. This feeling I am having, the desire to purge, it will pass. It always passes. So I will not throw up, I will wait for it to pass. I am allowed to eat ice-cream and chips and salsa. That is okay. What I need to do is better listen to my body and my brain when I know something will not make me feel good right now.

These are intrusive thoughts, nothing more, and then will not last forever. They never do.