Friday, December 16, 2011
The post is called "30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself". Though I am guilty of most of these, the ones that stand out so much for me personally are:
#2 Stop running from your problems
#3 Stop lying to yourself
#6 Stop trying to hold onto the past
#7 Stop being scared to make a mistake
#11 Stop being idle
#18 Stop holding grudges
#23 Stop trying to make things perfect
#28 Stop worrying so much
After reading this post I started thinking about my life, my eating disorder, my recovery, choices I've made, my past, my future-- basically all of the things I try to run from daily. But you can't do that. You can't bury all of your crazy and all of your problems underneath distraction after distraction, which is precisely what I am so skilled at doing. But I'm only hurting myself.
Once it's gone, you will never have the chance to get today back again. Once a moment has passed, it's over. There are no do-overs. But there are do-betters. Tomorrow is new, unspoiled, and full of promise and potential. Tomorrow doesn't have to be the same as today, or yesterday, or last month or last year. Tomorrow is untouched, undamaged, and the perfect opportunity for starting over.
To read "Thirty Things to Stop Doing to Yourself", click here.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Somehow, within the last three months, things went from good to bad to terrible. As indicated in my last few posts, after a brief relapse, I had lost 14 lbs. I wasn't eating at all. Now, I've gained it all back and I'm experiencing binge after binge after binge. It feels like I have lost control of my life again and all I can think about is food-- or, more precisely-- hunger. I have this burning, irrational, all-encompassing hunger that I try so greatly to suppress and deny. Honestly, it's exhausting. I'm not sure how I got so far off track, but I know that, once again, this thing is controlling/destroying my entire life.
I had today off of work. There were so many things I needed to accomplish but I didn't have the energy to do any of them. I spent my entire day fighting this battle between eating and not eating, switching loyalties from one side to the other and back again. Part of me wants to eat properly and nourish and care for my body, the other part wants nothing more than to lose weight. I am so conflicted that it wears me out. I starve, I binge. I eat normally. I work out. I skip a meal. I binge again. I work out again. There seems to be no logic or reason behind it. There are no decisions being made. It's as if I'm on auto-pilot and just going through the motions that some remote part of my brain signals for me to carry out. I feel so unbelievably, uncontrollably fat. It's as though moving and functioning and carrying out normal tasks are so much more exhausting because I feel like I'm twice the size I actually am. Again, I know that it's not "real", or that it isn't apparent to the rest of the world. It's my own issue inside my own head, but I can't find the switch to turn it off.
I realize this post is a major downer, but I had to say something. Until now, no one else has known what's going on with me. I have just been keeping it all inside, and I know how dangerous that can be.
I hope those of you who are reading this find yourselves in better spirits and in better health. I know that, like all things, this too shall pass. My faith in recovery has not wavered. I still believe it is possible, it is necessary, even, and that we all deserve it. I'm just realizing now that I can't do it on my own, and changes need to be made in order to achieve it.
Friday, November 4, 2011
We have an apartment at the moment which is much much smaller than our previous one. It's a two bedroom but there's only one bath. The kitchen is tiny! I just tell myself that it's "cozy". It really is, in a way. We have a fireplace (which we haven't used yet) and a little pond nearby with wild geese and swans and ducks. We are on the first floor, which means our kitty can't go out and play on the balcony unsupervised, but there are evergreen trees around our patio which add some privacy. Plus, they're nice to look at. And there are lots of birds and squirrels living in them.
It's always difficult adjusting to a new area, but since I've moved to different states so many times during the last few years, I'm used to that. I do have a an issue with the concept of "home" which I have written about before. For so long I felt like I didn't have a home because my father passed away and my mother got rid of our childhood home and moved in with another man. I've been shooting around from state to state and haven't settled in one place long enough to create a home of my own. Now it feels like everywhere is home. Or better yet, everywhere is not home. I don't feel like Michigan is much different from where I lived before. It's all unfamiliar. It's all this uniform "non-home", this state of "otherness" that encompasses everything that is not the life I used to have. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. I think it's made moving here easier.
Part of me wants to settle here. We don't have any foreseen plans for moving, but we are keeping the option open. Because of my fiance's job, we will be here for at least a year, but most likely a minimum of three. If we stay for the full three years, that will be longer than I've stayed in any of the cities I've ever lived in except my hometown. Then again, if we love it here, we could stay forever. My fiance wants to purchase a home somewhere outside the city. A forever home. That's a concept I'm not familiar with, but I'm open to. But it scares me, too. It's a big commitment. What if we buy a house here and want to leave, but can't sell it? I'm terrified of the idea of being trapped. Maybe it has something to do with those tricky control issues. Regardless, I am open to making the best out of our stay here, whether it's temporary or permanent.
As for my eating disorder, things still aren't where they should be. While my fiance was gone away on business, I lost 14 lbs. I know. It's a lot. Since he has returned, I have been eating a lot more and I've gained back 8 or 9 lbs. This stresses me out immensely. I feel like a big blob wobbling around from place to place. I know that it isn't true, but I can't help feeling that way. I need to stop weighing myself. There are so many issues going on in the world and so many people with so many problems. I feel like me worrying over what size my jeans are is so shallow and stupid. Then again, I know that it isn't my fault, that it's not a choice I am consciously making. I'm just so incredibly tired of dealing with my eating disorder. I wish I could just forget about it. Wouldn't that be great?
I hope you're all doing well, eating well, and feeling well.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
I know. That sounds messed up. It's like a parent who smokes cigarettes then warns their children to never smoke. It's contradictory. It's a little hypocritical. But it comes from a place of love. It comes from a place of, "I want to save you from making the same mistakes I've made. I want you to have a better life than I've had." In other words, I am human. Eating disorders suck. They are hard to recover from, but not impossible. Recovery is worth it. This disease doesn't have to be all-encompassing. I haven't forgotten that. I will always believe that. Even if, right now, it doesn't really seem like it.
Ultimately, I know that I need treatment. I need help. I cannot do this on my own. I am no longer too proud to admit that. I have avoided formal treatment for my eating disorder for the past 7 years. I like to blame it on my contempt for doctors (you can read a blog post I wrote about it HERE) but that's not the real reason either. The truth is simple: I don't want to give up control. Hmm. Let me repeat that:
I don't want to give up control.
At this point, "control" is such an eating-disorder buzz-word that it's almost lost its meaning. But, honestly, that's really what it comes down to-- I'm terrified of not being in control. Terrified. The thought of handing my life over to a staff of medical professionals makes my throat feel tight and my heart beat quickly. I get that little pit in my stomach. I want to hide, to run away. Basically, I want to keep doing what I'm doing, even though I know it isn't the solution.
Of course, you could make the argument that I'm not in control as it is-- that my eating disorder is controlling everything. While that may be true, I am more comfortable allowing my eating disorder to manage my life than a nurse or a doctor or a therapist or a hospital bed. It's not that I don't want to lose my eating disorder. I do. I just want to do it my way.
Obviously, my way isn't really working.
I know my life is changing drastically within the next few months: I am moving to Michigan, I am (at some point) getting married, we're looking to buy a house, I am starting a new job. And I realized that, for the last several years, my life has never been calm. I'm always moving from one state to another, starting jobs, quitting jobs, moving on. Changing. Expanding. I have never allowed myself to stay put and just to be. I think that would help a lot. It's time to stay put in one town long enough to make friends, to feel familiar, to redefine my negative definition of "home" by building one of my own.
On a side note, I'm thinking of tutoring once I get to Michigan for some extra income in addition to being a professional writer and a part-time makeup artist. I've been applying for teaching positions at colleges and universities, but none have worked out yet. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. My hopes for Michigan are high. I've never been there and I don't know what to expect, but I'm staying positive. As cliche as it sounds, I'm going to let myself start over.
All baggage left behind.
Can it really be done? We'll see.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
"Your body can tell you're pregnant before you can."
Think about that for a second.
Isn't the "your" and the "you" in this sentence referring to the same thing? It got me thinking-- why do we continually think of our bodies as separate entities from "ourselves" ? If we are not our bodies, then who are we?
Naturally, I applied this logic to my eating disorder. Nearly all of the scholarly research I've done on anorexia (I gave a lecture about this in December) refers to a paradoxical split that often occurs between the mind and the body of the anorexic. It becomes a matter of me versus she, of me versus it, me versus my body. This has certainly been my own experience. Throughout the madness and hysteria of my disorder, I never thought of my body as "me." My body was only this oddly shaped, inferior shell that I could shape and wield and torture and mold and control. I could change it. I could manipulate it. I was in control, not my body. But when I say "I", who do I mean? My brain, my soul, my spirit? Why is there a separation between body and between self?
Of course, a biblical explanation seems like it might do-- (as Christianity urges us to kill off the desires of the flesh and the physical body to strengthen our souls, which will never die) but I'm not sure if that is the only reason. I think it's probably more of a cultural habit that stems from philosophical theory which urges us to think of our bodies as separate from our physical beings (think Descartes and the solitary self). It seems as though the "self" is largely interior. But, to me, the self is more than just the body-- it's all-encompassing-- body, mind, spirit, soul.
Is anyone still reading this? :)
What I'm trying to say is this:
Though I have a tendency to get lost in my own mind, I am very much my body.
My body is very much me.
One cannot escape the other.
I am she and she is me.
If I am not my body, why is my body responsible for the way others see me? If you asked someone to describe me to you, odds are they would say I have brown hair. My eyes are blue. My skin is fair.
If I am not my body, why does it hurt when I fall down (which I do often) or burn myself or scratch myself?
I am my body. My body is not merely a mindless vessel equipped with arms and legs
to scurry me around wherever my mind desires. If our minds are in control, why do people get cancer? Why do organs fail?
I am my body. My mind is my body. My body is my mind.
It's the same thing.
That's why controlling and manipulating and torturing and shaping my body never worked the way I hoped it would-- because my entire being is interconnected. It's yin and yang. One part of affects the other, like an algebra equation. You can't divide one side without dividing the other. You can't declare war on one side without affecting the other.
You can't destroy one without destroying the other.
I don't know why, but I need a reminder from time to time to nurture and respect my body. It has never been natural for me to do this on my own. In fact, it's taken 27 years for me to realize that I even deserve it, but I do. Lord knows I haven't been doing all that I can lately to be good to myself.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
The hatred and discomfort I felt toward my own body started when I was 8. Until then, I had never cared, or realized even, that my body was different from anyone else's. At eight 8, my two best friends were cheerleaders. They weighed less than me. They were prettier than me. They could do better cartwheels and handstands than me. They looked different in their bathing suits. I remember realizing that and being very upset about it. I understood, even then, that food was what separated fat from thin. I asked my mother once why I couldn't just chew my food up and spit it out again without swallowing it, since the flavor was all I wanted anyway, and the flavor wasn't the part that made you fat. I've never been able to forget the look of horror on her face-- the same look she gave me when she saw me skipping meals years later, when she watched me lose 80 lbs, when I admitted to her that I threw up 8 times a day. When I admitted to her I didn't want help.
Throughout the rest of my childhood and young adulthood, I continued to struggle with my weight. My mother was always present in this battle, hovering in the background and shaking her head with that same look on her face. She had always been a thin woman who could eat whatever she wanted to without gaining any weight. On several occasions I recall her telling me that she would gladly trade me places-- that she felt guilty I wore larger sized clothes than she did. I remember how helpless she looked each time we went shopping. I always wanted the cute outfits and the cute outfits never fit me-- or, if they did, they didn't look how they were supposed to. Each shopping trip led to me holed up inside a dressing room crying. Crying and hating the person I saw reflected in the mirror-- the chubby girl standing in her underwear with a pair of cute jeans that wouldn't pull up any higher than her chubby thighs. My mother always said the same things:
That I was beautiful.
That she loved me just the way I was.
That God did, too.
That he made me this way for a reason.
That I needed to respect myself.
That I needed to love myself.
That I was just as good and as worthy as anyone else.
That I was just as beautiful as all my friends.
That I was gorgeous.
That I was perfect... just as I was.
Although everything my mother told me was true, I never believed it, even when I told her that I did. It took me gaining and losing mass amounts of weight, starving myself to the point of exhaustion and physical collapse, fighting for recovery, relapsing, wanting to die, repenting, wanting to live. It took a whole decade of downward spiral and victory and sorrow and happiness and triumph and defeat and I still haven't been able to fully believe all of what she said to me. I know that I should believe it. But how do I make myself?
I've learned that recovery from an eating disorder-- and from anything else, I guess-- is like this. There is so much space between saying and believing-- so much space. I know that I need to rid myself of my eating disorder forever. I know that. And I say that. But do I believe it? My first instinct is to say yes-- of course I believe it. But do I really? If I really believed it, wouldn't I be working harder toward making it come true?
I've realized that recovery with good intentions is a beautiful thing. That's how I started-- with all the best of intentions. With a whole new outlook on life and living and loving and existing. That was pure. That was real. Somehow my definition of recovery has shifted. Maybe I've been at it too long. I wonder to what extent I am hiding under the umbrella of "recovery" because I'm too scared to step out into the rain. As long as I say I'm in recovery, then people will leave me alone and start believing it. As long as I cling to recovery, people will pat me on the back each time I falter and understand that I am trying. But what if I'm not trying anymore? What if I can't believe it myself?
I have to step back out into the rain and face the storm. I have to put the effort into recovery that it requires. It's like going to the doctor for a sore throat. He gives you medicine to treat it. What if you don't take it? Just because you've seen the doctor doesn't mean you'll get better unless you've done all that he's asked of you. Recovery is no different. It takes effort. It takes cooperation. It takes commitment and dedication and passion and determination.
Honestly, I've been running low on all of those lately. After my last post, several of you reached out to me, whether in comments here or through facebook and e-mail, telling me exactly what I needed to hear. It really touched me to hear all of your heartfelt words and it helped put things in perspective. No one else in my life knows what I'm going through right now in terms of my eating disorder. Honestly, most of them never have. They don't understand. It feels good to be honest, and it feels good to know so many people care.
Somehow I feel like the worst of this is over. That by coming clean I can exhale and slowly start to move forward-- that I can stop excusing my negative behavior and own up to it for what it is-- that I can take a step back, be honest with myself, refocus, rebuild, and set off again in the right direction.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Working out (far too often)
Obsessing over food
Watching reality television
Playing Angry Birds
Listening to pensive indie bands (which I do love)
Somehow I’ve found myself in the midst of a depression. Depression is nothing new to me. I’ve dealt with it since I was twelve when my father was first diagnosed with colon cancer. I fade in and out of it so fluidly that sometimes I don’t even recognize. For the last few years it has been relatively mild (I don't take any medication). However, it worsened back in January when my mother remarried. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned her husband (soon to be ex-husband, God willing), but he is a very, very negative and verbally abusive person, which yielded a whole host of trouble. I’ve been so stressed and worried about my mother, among other things. Of course, my eating disorder is closely linked to my depression. And, of course, I’m not eating nearly enough. But it’s hardly even a conscious choice this time. It’s because my fiance is gone and I’m here on my own. There’s no one else to cook for and I’ve been too emotionally drained to cook for myself. I don’t have the energy to do anything at all. All I want to do is sleep. I started out eating frozen dinners just to keep from cooking—which I normally love to do—and I’ve slowly been eating less and less. In the back of my mind I know it isn’t right, that I was doing so well in my recovery for the last several years really, and that not eating is never an option. I know how unhealthy it is, I know how hard ED behavior is to overcome. I know how hard I’ve fought this thing and how much progress I’ve made and how I never ever ever want things to go back to the way the used to be. I know all of this but I can’t snap out of it. I can’t snap out of it because, without really trying to, I’ve lost about 8 lbs. Suddenly my brain insists that I can and should lose more.
“Don’t you love a challenge? 8 was easy. Let’s do 15!”
The one thing that has been keeping me solid in my recovery all these years is my ability to block out those eating-disordered thoughts. They have always been there, but I’ve been able to override them and do what is right. But now, it seems so much easier and requires far less effort just to let my eating disorder do the thinking for me. I’ve been fighting this for 7 years. I’m tired.
I’m not saying I’m giving up on my recovery. I’m not giving up and I’m not going back. I just need help, and thoughts, and prayers right now to keep me grounded and give me the energy and motivation to keep fighting. It is worth it, I know that. I believe that. Really I do.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
"...human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves."
I have reflected on these words many times throughout the years, especially in regards to my eating disorder. But, in the past, I often used this quote to negatively inspire myself. It fit perfectly. I could be reborn. I could change everything. I could alter my course, suppress what I ate, sculpt my body and emerge skinnier, better, more beautiful. I would be me, only better. I would be me, only perfect. Searching for this perfection became an all-encompassing obsession that ruined my life. I refused to believe that "perfect" was unattainable. I reached one weight loss goal only to set another. Before long, the number on the scale didn't even matter. Unless it flashed back 0, it wouldn't be good enough.
Is it good enough now?
A lot has changed since I've been in recovery. My body has changed; it's gotten bigger. It's gotten stronger. This was enough to convince everyone who knew me that I was also better.
"Better. Synonyms: convalescent, cured, fitter, fully recovered, healthier, improving, less ill, mending, more healthy, on the comeback trail, on the mend, on the road to recovery, out of the woods, over the hump, progressing, recovering, stronger, well". (http:thesaurus.com)
In other words, all former symptoms and issues vanquished. Anorexic no more!
If only it were that simple.
One does not go from Anorexic to Formerly Anorexic so easily. There is a long period of transition. A great chunk of time to think and reflect and heal and cry and eat and struggle and starve and struggle and fight and celebrate and lose and love and win. A lifetime of great, marvelous, continuous rebirth.
The quote is still one of my favorites, but I see it now for what it is: a celebration of our imperfections. An urging to grow, to try, to change and be changed. It isn't about being perfect at all. It's about doing the best with what we're given-- it's about making the decision to adapt to any obstacle-- and to grow because of it.
I may never be fully recovered, but I've come far enough to know that I am never going back. I will never treat myself the way that I once did. I am not perfect now and I never will be. Finally, I'm okay with that.
Stop chasing perfection.
You won't find it.
Stop punishing yourself.
You are beautiful now. In this moment.
You are good enough.
You are worthy.
You don't have to pull it together to begin recovery. You don't have to lose 10 lbs to begin recovery. You don't have to get a whole lot worse to "deserve" recovery.
You just have to let your body speak. Not your mind, your body. Your heart, your organs, your skin and blood and stomach and hands and feet and bones. Your body, the one you're hurting, the one you're depriving, the one you're neglecting, the one you're killing. You have to let it speak.
And then you have to listen to what it's telling you.
Monday, August 1, 2011
I also have some very exciting personal news. If you follow me on facebook you may know this already, but... I am engaged! My boyfriend, err, Fiance, proposed to me a little over a week ago. I am very excited about it. No wedding plans have been made as of yet, except I know that I want to have an outdoor wedding. The when is the big question. On a sad note, he will be out of town--and out of state-- for the next two months. He is en route to Wisconsin as we speak because of his job. This also happened last year. I was worried then that I wouldn't be able to properly feed myself and care for myself in his absence, but I did, proving to myself that I can take care of me. I won't lie, it's not easy. I have a hard time cooking a meal for just myself, but I do it anyway. I'm already thinking about what I'll make for dinner tonight. In my refrigerator I have zucchini, fresh corn on the cob, cabbage, leftover quinoa, green peppers, and a bunch of herbs. I'm sure I can whip something up out of those goodies. Speaking of cooking, my boyfriend... err.. Fiance and I have been thinking about starting a video blog featuring various cooking tutorials. He is a classically trained chef and I, well, am not. I doubt that we would actually go through with it, but, if we did, would anyone want to watch? I guess that's the question.
Finally, I want to apologize for my absence over the last several months. I feel like I have let some of you down. Maybe it's myself I'm letting down. I used to blog daily, then weekly, then, well, randomly. I want to recommit myself to blogging more often. The truth is, for now at least, it seems my eating disorder is pretty well controlled. I still have issues but they're not as common as they used to be. I've considered allowing my blog to drift slightly into the "healthy living" realm posting about my ed when it's particularly relevant, and posting about other things when eating isn't a real issue. But, I'm not sure if that is something you ladies and gentlemen would be interested in reading about? So, there are a few things I need to work out, but I will be blogging more often.
As always, I hope you all are well and wonderful. I hope you're being kind and gentle to yourselves, taking care of yourselves, and wearing sunscreen. Seriously. It's hot outside. At least it's hot here. And humid.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Thank you all. The link is located below. Have a wonderful day and be kind to yourselves!
Click here to sign!
Friday, July 8, 2011
I decided to tape the marriage certificate above the vanity where I get ready every morning to remind me to nurture and love myself. It may seem silly, but it's something I need to constantly remind myself. I have no problem nurturing and taking care of others, but I'm the worst person in the world when it comes to respecting my own body and its needs. I'm going to post the words to the certificate below as well as a couple of pictures. Here's what it says:
Dear God, I stand before thee as I join in marriage with the most important person in my life, me. I ask for your blessings so I may be totally conscious of my special needs always. I ask this so that I may be strong enough to love myself as I love others. I vow that from this day forward, I will care for myself by getting the proper rest. I will consume foods that nourish my body and soul. I will internally cleanse my body with a large daily intake of pure drinking water. I will exercise, not to burn calories, but to rid my body of toxins. I promise to take care of my skin, the largest organ of my body. I will nurture my soul with little gifts of pampering. I will celebrate my spirit with creative activities I love. I will romance my heart, by allowing intimacy into every moment of my life, but mostly, I vow to put my arms around me every day and to recite the words, “I will never leave me no matter what".
I don't really agree with the first line (I don't think I am the most important person in my life and I never will). But I do think most of what is said in this little certificate is valuable, especially for those of us learning to love and respect ourselves.
We're only given one life, one body, one shot.
We have to take care of ourselves. If we don't, who will?
We have to respect ourselves. If we don't, who will?
We have to commit to ourselves, to be honest with ourselves, to do good by ourselves. If we don't, who will?
We have to love ourselves.
If we don't, who will?
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
I had heard as a young girl that those individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa believed themselves to be fat when in reality they were frighteningly thin. My mother explained this to me when we saw the daughter of a local restaurant owner out at the department store. She was, at that point, the thinnest person I had ever seen, not to mention the skinniest person (apart from the cancer patients) in our very small, southern town. Her knee caps were the widest part of her body. Her cheekbones were sunken in as though she was sucking air. She seemed so fragile, probably 20 years old at best, though she walked across the parking lot with the gait of an 80 year old woman. All I remembered thinking was,
"How could she ever think she was fat?" 10 years later, people were asking the same question about me. I still don't have the answer.
Although I have made great progress in my recovery from anorexia and bulimia, I still have hang ups. Body dysmorphia is one of the biggest issues I still face. Here is the definition of Body dysmorphia as defined by the Mayo Clinic's website:
"Body dysmorphic disorder is a type of chronic mental illness in which you can't stop thinking about a flaw with your appearance — a flaw that is either minor or imagined. But to you, your appearance seems so shameful that you don't want to be seen by anyone. Body dysmorphic disorder has sometimes been called 'imagined ugliness.'"
I know that I've gained weight since I entered recovery, but it's very hard for me to understand that people on the street see me as, well, "normal." I assume that people think I'm chubby, or thick, or even downright fat. The reason is because that is how I see myself. When I look in the mirror, I see wide thighs, curvy hips, a stomach that isn't as flat as it could be. But it's more than what I see. It is so largely dependent upon how I feel. It is so very difficult to explain to people how it feels to be uncomfortable and restless inside your own body. I know many people argue "fat is not a feeling." I disagree. I have felt fat. I feel fat. I'm not saying it to gain attention or sympathy or even understanding. I'm saying it because that's the only way to explain how I feel.
I feel fat.
I feel like I'm too large to go out in public.
I feel like I'm too large to be seen.
I feel like people would say, "Damn, she's heavy."
I feel as though my pants are unusually tight.
I feel as though I don't belong.
I feel like I'm unworthy.
I feel as though I wish people would look the other way.
I feel like I should blend into the crowd and disappear.
So maybe fat is not a feeling, but the feeling that fat causes me to feel is uncomfortable. It's frustrating. And it's so very real.
The feeling, that is.
Sometimes I'll catch a glimpse of my body in a public place, where there are other bodies nearby to compare mine to, and I won't recognize myself. In the gym where I work out, my favorite elliptical machine is located across from a wall of floor-length windows. It is in a row with dozens of other machines which are always occupied. Sometimes, in the middle of my workout, I'll turn my head to the side to wipe my forehead with the back of my hand or brush my hair out of my face and accidentally see myself in the mirror, working out there beside all the others, and I'm taken aback by how I look. For that split second I don't look fat at all. I see my familiar brown hair, but then I'll see strangely sharp cheekbones, a bony nose, an unexpectedly slim waist. And the big kicker, normal thighs. It looks familiar, only not. It looks like me, only not. But it's only seconds before the confusion fades. I look down at my thighs, working and pumping in a circular pattern, and feel ashamed of how fat they look.
How fat they look.
I have realized that I am not very self-aware at all, even though I've always thought I was. I realize that I have no idea how I appear to others, what my body looks like charging around out there in the real world, how I'm viewed or judged or criticized-- or ignored. I only know how I see myself. I only know how irrational I am, how unfair I am, how unforgiving and appallingly self-scrutinizing I am.
I also know that I deserve better.
But how do we learn to take a step back and see ourselves as we really are? To see what I see sometimes in the mirror at the gym, or in a storefront window-- the self that somehow escapes me. Unfortunately, I don't have the answer to that either. But I do know this:
I am beautiful, whether I believe it or not.
I am worthy, whether I believe it or not.
I am important, whether I believe it or not.
I am good enough, whether I believe it or not.
The hard part is believing.
Isn't that what this is all about?
Learning to love myself unconditionally?
I guess I still have a lot of work to do.
Here's to believing.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
I don't want to wear a skirt. Why would I wear shorts. My legs are hideous. A swimsuit? You must be kidding...
This is normally the sort of dialogue that occurs inside my head when summer begins to materialize. But instead of trying to starve myself, something about the warm weather makes me want to exercise, to "get healthy", to "eat more cleanly", to "lose weight the healthy way", all under the guise that I'm doing something "good for myself."
But where do these feelings come from? Aren't they just eating-disordered mania in disguise?
I'm afraid so. But those of us who have and are recovering from eating disorders are not the only individuals to have this inner dialogue. Quite frankly, it comes down to pressure. We are pressured to have toned, tanned legs, beach-ready bodies, swimsuit-worthy waists. During the summer, there are no extra layers of sweaters or coats or scarves to hide behind. Unless, of course, you want to sweat to death or stay indoors. I don't want to do either.
But I refuse to feel guilty about my body.
I refuse to feel inadequate, insubstantial, insecure, unimportant, unworthy, ugly.
I refuse to waste yet another summer by holding back and not enjoying myself.
(I've wasted far too many)
So, I wore a skirt today, even though my legs are the one part of my body I am and always have been most afraid of. I wore a skirt without leggings. Without tights. Without self-tanner. Without worry. Or regret. Or trepidation. I wore a skirt because it was 90 degrees, unrelentingly humid, and I refused to swelter away another summer in jeans.
Wait, I'm sorry, did I just do something... practical?
Maybe this doesn't seem like much of an accomplishment to most of you, but for me, that's progress. I can count the times on one hand (today included) that I wore a skirt (without tights/leggings) or shorts *in public* in the last 15 years. How unbelievably sad is that? How irrational? Even at my lowest weight, I was deranged enough to believe my legs were huge and disgusting. But that's what an eating disorder does: it lies, intimidates, and destroys. That's why I'm celebrating practicality. Celebrating summer.
Celebrating this short, sweet, single shot at life we are all given.
This is the only life I have.
I've already wasted too much of it.
That stops today.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
So, I received some life changing news this week. It's official: in October I will be moving to.......
Whoa. Didn't see that one coming! I hate moving. I don't like boxes and packing and unpacking. And I don't like feeling lost and lonely in a new city. I've never been to Michigan, but I'm hoping beautiful things await me there.
As for food, all has been well lately. I pray the same thing for each and every one of you. Be good to yourselves, nurture yourselves, trust yourselves. Love yourselves.
Sorry if this is random. I'll be writing again soon.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
I hate this shirt.
I hate mayonnaise.
I hate when someone cuts me off in traffic.
I hate Mondays.
In reality, hate is not the adequate word to describe any of these circumstances. Hate is much greater, much more powerful, much more dangerous. Here is the definition via http://www.merriam-webster.com:
noun, often attributive \ˈhāt\
Definition of HATE
a : intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury b : extreme dislike or antipathy : LOATHING
This definition reminds me of the similarities between hate and fear. One usually drives or supports the other. I think immediately of the way some people have responded to Bin Laden's assassination. I'm alarmed to see many of my fellow Americans rejoicing, celebrating, and cheering over his death. Though I understand and agree that he was a horrible, evil man who needed to be held accountable for the innocent lives he ended, something deep inside my soul will not let me rejoice or celebrate the death of any living creature, period. I cannot celebrate death. Many of you may have seen this next quote circling around facebook and twitter the last few days as I have, but I think it's appropriate and meaningful, not just to this situation, but to the way we live our everyday lives. Martin Luther King, Jr said this about the subject of hate:
"I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
Like the words hate, love, and fear, darkness and light have also become highly desensitized. They've become a little too wishy-washy; their meaning has been stripped to the point of cliche and redundancy. But let's remember what they mean really. Let's remember the importance of light. Let's remember the importance of love. Not just for others, but for yourselves.
How many of us hate who we are?
Do you really hate yourself?
Your arms, your waist, your thighs?
Do you hate them enough to want to kill, to want to destroy?
I used to. Not now.
Next time you think you hate your body enough to punish it, remember what Dr. King said.
" Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. "
Hate breeds hate.
Evil breeds evil.
Only love breeds love.
Only acceptance breeds acceptance.
Love the light inside of you.
It's there, even if it's just a spark.
It's there, even if you don't see it.
Don't let it burn out.
Let it grow.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Unless, of course, the beach is crowded and I am wearing a swimsuit, which I avoid like the plague. This was the case Saturday. I spent 10% of my time marveling at the wonders of creation, and 90% of my time feeling fat, wishing I was thin like the woman lying 8 feet from me on the pink and white beach towel, that my abs were more defined like the girl in the blue bikini throwing a frisbee with her friends. I spent 90% of my time feeling ashamed and strangely out of place inside my own skin. I didn't take off my sunglasses, attempting to create a barrier between myself and the rest of the world. I tried to lie very still as if I could somehow dissolve into the sand, blend in and become so commonplace that no one would notice me.
After about an hour or two of lying on the crowded beach, my boyfriend unpacked the lunches we had brought with us. He had a tuna sandwich. I had a veggie sandwich with vegan mayo and spinach. He also brought along some fat free pretzels. There was no part of this meal that would have ordinarily made me feel ashamed to eat it. It was reasonably healthy. But I couldn't eat it. I felt as though the entire beach was gawking at me, counting every bite, validating my "fatness". I ate a little less than half of the sandwich and put it back inside the cooler. I felt so open and exposed, something I had not felt in a very long time. I lay on my back and watched the seagulls circle over me. I closed my eyes and listened to the sound of the tide rolling in and out again. I could no longer see the girl on the pink and white towel, the girl with the abs throwing the frisbee. I just listened and tried to forget. I became aware that I was sabotaging myself-- something I am guilty of daily. Any time there is a good opportunity or I am in a good situation, I unconsciously try to sabotage it and make myself miserable. It's not on purpose. But I always do it. I let my emotions, my eating disorder, all of the baggage that I have impose itself and manifest itself and steal all of the spotlight until I'm having a horrible time and a good situation has turned quickly into a miserable one. I realized that lying there on the sand. And I vowed to stop self-sabotaging, to enjoy my time at the beach, to enjoy my life.
So I pushed my sunglasses back onto the top of my head, took off the shirt I was wearing over my swimsuit, kicked off my sandals, and walked into the water. Past the girl on the pink and white towel. Past the girl with the abs and the frisbee. I stood with my hands on my hips, the entire beach looking or not looking, and let the water rush in to meet me. Literally and metaphorically seeking renewal.
My boyfriend walked out to the water to join me. We found a little deconstructed crab shell stuck in the sand, the legs broken and disjointed lying all around it. It put things in perspective for me somehow.
I realized before long that I was still hungry. Instead of fighting it, I returned to my beach towel, unpacked the rest of my sandwich, and finished all of it. It was a beautiful day. I've said it before and I will say it again, every day for the rest of my life if I have to:
There is no room for an eating disorder in my life.
Life is too short.
Life is too precious.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
The reason I really wanted to write today was to ask the opinion of you, my beautiful readers, regarding something that has been very puzzling to me lately. I belong to a gym in the city where I live. This gym, unlike any that I've belonged to in the past, allows children to gain membership (as part of a family plan, I'm sure) and use the equipment, most of them unsupervised. When I say children, I don't mean teenagers. I mean children. Little kids. 8, 9, 10 years old, swinging around on the elliptical like it's a toy. Not only is it unsafe, it begs the question, what kind of message is being sent these children about body image?
Even when the children are being supervised, it's still incredibly disturbing to me. Like yesterday, a father was working out on an elliptical next to his son, who was around 10 years old. The kid was pedaling the elliptical, sweating, wiping his forehead, sipping water. He was pushing himself as hard as I was. A few rows ahead of us, a trainer from the gym was teaching a kids class. 6 children were stretching, doing sit-ups, running in place, doing squats, taking turns on the treadmill. All the adults in the gym were going about their business. No one seemed to be freaking out, except for me. So I wonder, am I too sensitive? Is it because I have an eating disorder and I understand not only the benefit, but the possible dangers associated with diet and exercise? Is it because I used to be that kid, overweight, always thinking about my body, on a diet every day of my life before I was even in high school? I understand that childhood obesity is a problem in this country. But is strapping your kid to an elliptical where he can look at the calories he's burned the solution?
It made me think: what happened to the playground? What happened to playing tag, kickball, dodgeball. Red rover, red rover, send so-and-so over?
Isn't there a better way to teach our children how to be healthy?
In other words, can't we help them be healthy without calling so much attention to it? Can't we let them think exercise and healthy eating are just normal, not something they have to think about and be conscious of and monitor their progress with?
I understand there are two sides to this issue. I am not an expert in this field. It just seems so unnatural and unsafe to me. It seems so alarming because I was that chubby, unhealthy kid. I went on my first diet when I was 8 years old. I was taking diet pills on and off from ages 14-22. I've lost 80 lbs, I've been bulimic. I've tried every diet, every trick, I've been, at one point or another, almost every size in the clothing department. The point being, I've never felt just good enough. I've never been satisfied with my weight, no matter how fat or how thin. I've never been happy being me.
I just don't want anyone else to have to go through that. And when I see these kids at the gym I can't help but think of the child version of myself, struggling and sad and feeling fat and ordinary, wishing she were thin. Wishing she were pretty. Willing and sick and desperate enough to do whatever she had to do to lose weight.
And then she did. And it didn't change anything.
What was the point, then? What did it solve, all those years of dieting and exercise and purging and restricting and binge eating and crying and not feeling good enough and wanting to change and wanting to die?
It solved nothing.
I guess the point I'm trying to arrive at is this: if you are unhappy, if you don't feel good enough, if you don't love yourself, if you aren't at peace with who you are right now, then losing weight isn't going to change any of that. Even if the diet commercials and talk shows on television tell you otherwise. Changing your outward appearance does just that: it changes you physically. If you are emotionally damaged, it's the inside of your body that needs to be changed. It's your heart that is in need of healing. Your spirit. Your mind. Your soul.
No diet is going to change that.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I learned an interesting bit of information about my grandmother yesterday that should have been obvious or expected somehow, but wasn't. She too has insecurities about her body, she, the one woman in my life I've always viewed as a pillar of strength and wisdom and faith isn't always happy with the reflection she sees in the mirror. But she, unlike many of us, sees the deeper beauty that lies beneath the wrinkles, past the gray hair, the aging body. She sees the radiant beauty inside.
She says, "Sometimes I wake up and look in the mirror and think, Oh God, look at me. Look at this face." Then she sighs. "But I am a child of the King. Good morning, St. Elizabeth." And then she laughs. That long, heart-felt laugh.
She is a child of the King.
How beautiful is that? I share many things with my grandmother-- her hips, her thighs, her good heart, her birthday. I only wish I shared her positive outlook.
Why am I at war with my body?
What has it ever done to me?
What has it ever done but need nourishment, love?
What has it ever asked for except only to be accepted--- as it is.
The way it was made.
A child of the King.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Wednesday was my 27th birthday, though it didn't exactly feel like a day for celebration. My eating disorder ruined the entire evening. My boyfriend was taking me out for dinner after work. When he came home to pick me up I was putting on my makeup and doing my hair. I was in a good mood, a normal mood. So was he. But that all changed once it came time for me to get dressed. None of my clothes seemed to fit me correctly. I felt uncomfortable and large and everything felt tight. I became really anxious. My mood plummeted. I changed jeans three times. I kept dissecting myself in front of the mirror and mumbling to myself. My boyfriend sort of stood back in horror. It had been months since he'd seen me like this, but he knew what the problem was. He tried to tell me I looked beautiful no matter what I wore but I told him I looked humongous. He disagreed. He said, "I don't know what you see when you look in the mirror. You have nothing to compare yourself against. I know you think you're fat, but if there were an actual fat person standing next to you, you'd see that you're nowhere near it."
I just blew past him into the bedroom and changed clothes again. I was so anxious I didn't even want to leave the house. My throat felt tight and I started to cry, but I held it in. I grabbed my purse and we left. The entire way to the restaurant, eating disordered thoughts ran wild. My boyfriend's mood had dropped too because I was in such a bad mood it had affected him. Neither of us spoke. I sat there thinking things like, "I'm never going to eat again. I have to lose 10 lbs. 20 lbs. I am an animal. I am disgusting. I am not eating dinner. I'm not eating anything. Not today, not tomorrow. Not ever."
By the time we got to the restaurant, I decided to have a salad and a margarita. I don't normally drink, except on my birthday or other special occasions. But this occasion didn't feel special at all. We barely spoke all through dinner. I barely ate. We went to have coffee afterward and things started to look up slightly. I got a phone call from my nieces which made me feel better. But then we went home again and my boyfriend went to bed. I started crying again because I felt alone and not good enough. I don't know where all of these feelings were coming from but they overwhelmed me. I went to bed miserable, thinking it's the worst birthday I've had in years.
Then I remembered, at least I'm here another year. At least I'm alive. I should be thankful for each new year spent upon God's earth, for each new day.
Thankfully I've been able to come back to my senses and not act on the negative thoughts I had in the car that evening. I apologized to my boyfriend. He apologized too, though he really did nothing wrong. He said he was scared that I was going to break up with him that day which really surprised me. We've been together four years. The thought never entered my mind. In fact, we first became a couple on my birthday four years ago. So my birthday is also our anniversary. Then I started thinking about my last several birthdays. I realized, again, how far I've come:
March 16th, 2010: Turning 26
I still lived in Las Vegas. I worked the night of my birthday. When I came home around 9 pm, my boyfriend had prepared for me a vegan chocolate tofu cake with vegan chocolate tofu frosting and 26 candles. There is a creepy picture of me blowing the candles out. The next day we booked a hotel room at The Palms for a proper birthday celebration. We had dinner at Simon. Later (like 10 or 11 pm) we had chips and salsa and drinks at Gardunos. Then we went over to Palms Place and had drinks at Rojo Lounge. It was sort of dead and there were lots of really old men hitting on really young girls. After that we went back up to our room and drank champagne, no, Prosecco, on our balcony looking out over the city. We knew then that we would be moving in two months. It was sort of my "Goodbye, Las Vegas" moment.
My boyfriend lighting the candles on my tofu cake.
March 16th, 2009: Turning 25
We lived in Las Vegas, though we escaped to San Diego for my birthday celebration. We went to our usual spot, the dog beach in Del Mar (one of my favorite places on earth) and then to dinner in La Jolla at Trattoria Acqua. I wasn't throwing up anymore. After dinner we went to Seal Rock and watched the wild harbor seals diving into the ocean. We stayed at The Ivy. We went to some stupid night club inside. I hate night clubs. We didn't stay long.
Me in Del Mar
March 16th, 2008: Turning 24
This birthday was also spent in San Diego. We went to Sea World. I pet a donkey. I pet a dolphin. We saw the orca whales. We were in town during the Shamrock festival in the Gaslamp district (since my birthday is the day before St. Patty's day). My eating disorder was still very out of control. I was throwing up 8 or 9 times daily. We stayed at a hotel on the waterfront. We sat at a lounge inside the hotel. I had a blueberry martini. It was way too sweet. My boyfriend had a beer.
In Del Mar again, one year younger
March 16th, 2007: Turning 23
I was still an undergrad. This was at the height of my eating disorder. I was so sick I'd dropped out of school for a semester, though by this date I was taking three online classes: Appalachian Literature, Introduction to Nutrition, and The Literature of John Milton. I was working full time at the hospital. My boyfriend flew in to visit me. At that point we were only friends (we've known each other since 2004). He took me to dinner at a local Italian restaurant. I didn't eat much. Afterwards I went in the bathroom to throw up, as customary, but I didn't. Something was different. I told myself, "He bought me this lovely birthday meal. How can I throw it up?" So I made the decision, possibly for the first time ever, to fight against my eating disorder. We spent the night playing Scrabble and eating popcorn. He kissed me. I guess nothing has been the same since.
Can't believe my hair was ever this short. Then again, most of it had fallen out by then.
Birthday Lesson: Be grateful for every year, every month, every day, every moment of life. It's too short to be miserable. It's too short to be sick, scared, unhappy. Afraid.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
But there is another reason why I think this job is bad for me. Since I started working there, I've stopped eating. At least I've stopped eating the amount of food that I should be eating. I know. It's wrong. But it's time to come clean. I eat breakfast everyday. And then I skip lunch everyday. There are several days (at least two per week) in which I skip dinner too. The only days I eat what I should are my days off. Even then, I've been scheming of ways to slice off unnecessary calories. Ugh. I feel so disgusting for admitting it, but it's true. At first I blamed it on my hours. Some days I leave for work around 10 am and I don't return home until after 10 pm. Those are the days I skip dinner. Because it's too late, I tell myself. It's too late. The calories will sink right in. Can't go to sleep on a belly full of food. Sound familiar? I'd recognize that skewed perspective anywhere. Unfortunately, I've still been listening to it.
I've also been feeling very depressed lately. I understand this is all cyclical. I know it's related to not eating. When I'm sad, I don't eat. When I don't eat, I'm sad. I've also been dealing with all this family drama lately that has me heartbroken. Unfortunately, I've allowed all my negative emotions to fuel my eating disorder. And I've stood back watching my eating disorder creep back into my life without doing anything to stop it.
Wednesday morning before leaving for work I sent my boyfriend a series of texts. I said:
I can't force myself to go to work today.
It's not worth being miserable. And depressed. And ruining my body. And my mind.
Life is too short and too precious.
I went to work anyway but I was near tears all day.
Until that point my boyfriend hadn't realized I wasn't eating and the texts caught him off guard. When I get home from work at night he's already asleep. He assumes I'm eating the leftovers in the refrigerator because, well, why wouldn't I? I'm starving. But it's not that simple. Now he's worried and he thinks I should quit. Even though me quitting would mean we're broke. Again. Which terrifies me. He will be receiving a substantial pay raise in June. If I can only hang on until then.
I don't normally write posts like this. I try to be positive and uplifting. I try to see the good in everything. And I know there is good in this situation. There is a way out somehow. I'm just not sure what I'm supposed to do.
Quit and be healthy but broke?
Work and be sick and miserable but have extra money?
I think I know what I need to do. I spelled it out for myself pretty clearly in the text I sent.
So why is it so hard to quit?
Thursday, March 3, 2011
1.) Anorexia is a thief.
My life pre-eating disorder is frighteningly different than the life I have now. In the past I was happier. I was healthier. I wasn't so antisocial. I didn't second guess myself. I had more friends. I went out more. I didn't feel the need to withdraw into myself and sit at home all the time. I didn't feel like crap all the time. I wasn't always tired and drained. I could focus on tasks without getting distracted. Before my anorexia, I was a better me. My eating disorder stole everything I had. I'm just now beginning to get it all back.
2.) Anorexia is a destroyer.
Let's get straight to the facts. Eating disorders are serious business. They aren't fad diets or lifestyle choices. They are potentially fatal mental illnesses. According to NEDA:
" Between 0.5–1% of American women suffer from anorexia nervosa. "
" Anorexia nervosa has one of the highest death rates of any mental illness. "
" Between 5-20% of individuals struggling with anorexia nervosa will die. The probabilities of death increases within that range depending on the length of the condition. "
I refuse to be in that unfortunate 5-20%. I will not die from this. We will all die from something someday. But I will not die from this.
3.) I want a future.
Anorexia may own my past, but there is no place for an eating disorder in my future. I'm only 26. God willing, I will have a number of years of life ahead of me. My past may be troubled, but my future doesn't have to be. My future is unspoiled and uncomplicated. It's full of potential, of innocence. It's expansive. It's limitless. I can do anything and be anything. I can start over.
4.) The world is too beautiful. Life is too beautiful.
I am deeply touched and inspired by nature and by the world around me. I'm a stargazer. I'm wishy-washy. I stare at birds and trees and flower petals. Maybe it's because I'm sensitive, maybe it's because I'm a poet, but I see the beauty in every living thing. I'm learning now to see the beauty within myself.
5.) I have dreams.
This is connected to #3 I guess. Not only do I want a future, but I have dreams that I want to come true. I want to teach at a university. I want to get married. I want to have a family. I want to travel, to see the world. I want to make a difference. I want to plant a garden. I want to sit on the front porch somewhere in a little house tucked away in the woods and watch the world unfold around me. I want to sing. I want to write. I have a laundry lists of positive things to accomplish. My eating disorder has no place in any of them. My eating disorder is an interference. It steals the spotlight, the focus. It distracts me from doing the things I want to do and being the person I want to be. I've wasted too many years thinking about calories and fat grams and pounds and the size on the tag inside my jeans. I've wasted too many years feeling not good enough and out of place. No more. It stops now.
6.) I want to have better relationships.
Like many other people with eating disorders, my ability to form lasting relationships is less than desirable. I don't have many friends. I barely speak to the friends I used to have. We've grown apart for a number of reasons, my eating disorder being one of them. I push people away. I don't know how but it always happens. I feel them getting to close and I put my armor on. I'm impenetrable. But I don't want to be anymore. When I meet new people, I want to let them in. Here's to letting my guard down.
7.) I'm tired of being sad.
Depression is nothing new to me. I've experienced it for years, since I was a child. In fact, I can hardly remember not being depressed. There were a few years when I was very very young in which I was truly happy. I remember feeling sad and ashamed of my body at age 7 or 8. I suppose that's when I first started drawing into myself. My father fell ill with cancer when I was 12. That is when the depression really started to take flight. Throughout the years it picked up speed. When I was 19 and he passed away, it skyrocketed. And then the eating disorder came. I understand that all of these things are connected and that, over the years, they have fed off of one another. But I'm tired of being sad. We all deserve to be happy. I know that getting rid of my eating disorder will bring me one step closer to happiness.
8.) I'm ready to relinquish control.
Control is a tricky, tricky word for those with an eating disorder. I will admit firsthand that I am a major control freak. I wasn't like this before my eating disorder. I used to be very easy going and nonchalant. Now, I have to control everything. Every single thing. I can't do anything without planning it out first, and I make very detailed plans. Then I make several back-up plans. I'm meticulous, a perfectionist. I'm a nervous, neurotic mess. I can't give up control in any situation. I micromanage everything. It drives my boyfriend crazy. He's a chef and I refuse to let him cook dinner. Why? He might not do it correctly. I don't like to work as part of a team. I'd rather do it on my own so I'm certain it's done the right way. I never realized my issues with control were problematic until recently. I realize now that it, well, has gotten out of control. I think if I can manage to relax and give up control that it would take a lot of pressure and stress from me. I have to stop worrying about things. I have to learn to be easy going like I used to be. But it stresses me out just thinking about it...
9.) I have people who love me.
I know that I'm not as close to my family I used to be, but I still love them and I know they still love me. My boyfriend loves me. My mother loves me. My grandmother loves me. My nieces love me. My brother loves me. My sister in law loves me. My aunts and uncles love me. Deep down I know this. I have people in my corner even if it doesn't feel like it. I have people who depend on me, who need me. While I know that we can't recover for an eating disorder just for the sake of others, I do know that getting rid of my eating disorder would improve my family relationships. I have to be healthy for myself, but I want to be healthy for those who love me too. I want to stick around to see my nieces grow up. I want to grow old with my boyfriend. Even though an eating disorder is a very personal disease, it impacts all of the people around me. I can't change the damage it's done in the past, but, as I said, I can stop it from doing further damage in the future.
10.) My Dad wouldn't want this for me.
There. I said it. Someone I know said a couple years ago that my Dad would be ashamed of me if he knew I was starving myself. It ripped my heart out. I've never been able to forgive her for that. I don't think my Dad would be ashamed of me. I know that's not true. He would, however, hurt for me. He wouldn't want me to be sick or sad or miserable. He wouldn't want me to torture my body. When he was dying, all he wanted was another shot at life. He saw his body failing and deteriorating. He wanted nothing more than to live and I have life and I'm not even living it. I have a perfectly capable body and I'm destroying it. He wouldn't want me to hate myself or beat myself up or doubt myself or put myself down. He would want me to be happy because he loved me. Because he loves me. He would want me to love myself.
What are your reasons for fighting?
Friday, February 25, 2011
I've written here before about the terrible rift in my family. I will spare you the details. What is important is that my brother and I almost never speak. My father is dead. My mother is remarried (as of last month) and she doesn't call me anymore. We don't speak unless I call her, which my pride won't let me as often as I want to. My mother and I grew very close after my father's passing. But now that she's remarried, it's like she's a totally different person. I've only met her new husband once. From what I have observed and from what she has told me, he is very controlling. I don't know if he simply won't let her contact me, or if she just doesn't want to. Either way, I feel brokenhearted, betrayed, abandoned, alone.
Maybe it's silly for me to feel that way. I'm not a little girl anymore. I'll be 27 in a few weeks. But I feel utterly abandoned. Orphaned.
A few days ago at work one of my coworkers asked me whether or not I missed living in Las Vegas (it's been almost a year since I moved from there). I told her yes, I missed it very much. She asked if I still had family there. I meant to tell her that I didn't have any family there. But the words that came from my mouth were, "I don't have any family." I didn't even realize what I'd said. She placed her hands on my arm and said, "Honey, what do you mean you don't have any family?" I felt tears rising up in me but I held them back. Talk about the Freudian slip of the century.
I know that I do have family. I know that they love me. And I love them very much. But our relationship is so wounded that none of us communicate with one another. We don't see each other. We don't call each other or speak to each other or e-mail each other or text each other.
I do have family. But we are no longer the family we once were.
All of these negative emotions have been fueling eating disordered thoughts. And I have been using them as an excuse not to eat, to lose weight, to funnel all of my energy into letting myself feel pain instead of forcing myself to fight against it. I know that's not okay. I've been praying very hard for God to mend our broken family, to soften our hearts, especially mine. I've been asking him to help me to not hold grudges, to not be bitter. And I realized that we don't have to stay broken. But we will stay broken until one of us takes the first step forward, a peace offering. A white flag waving.
I've never been one to surrender. I can hold a grudge longer than anyone. But so can my brother and so can my mother. I guess we're more alike than any of us realize.
Someone has to give in.
I don't know if I can do it, but I have to try.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
I don't think I need to explain how I feel today. Or maybe I do. People assume, myself included, that once the grave is dug, the body is buried, the mourning period has passed, and the griever has returned to what appears to be a normal life again, that the pain is over, or that it's less somehow. But that isn't true. I miss my father terribly. I miss him more than I'll ever be able to explain. 8 years seems like a long time. It seems like it should be easier by now to cope with his passing. But each year that goes by, instead of learning to deal with his absence and miss him less and less, I miss him more and more. I am constantly reminded on days like today that he's never coming home. And then I grieve all over again.
I wrote a post a couple of months ago in which I had a major epiphany. I had always assumed my eating disorder was my unintentional way of coping with the death of my father. But I realized while writing that post that my eating disorder was actually my way of not coping with the death of my father. Shortly after he passed away my eating disorder began. I had no time to think of him. I had no time to approach and deal with the emotions that followed his death. I kept myself busy with diet plans and calorie counting and constant weight loss.
So, 8 years later, I still haven't properly dealt with all of this. I still haven't faced the issue head on. Every time I think of my Dad I either smile and then think of something else very quickly, or I feel the knives in my throat and the sensation that I'm going to cry, and then think of something else very quickly.
After my father's funeral, everyone commented on how well I was taking his passing. Considering how close he and I were, I suppose everyone thought I would fall apart. And I did. It just took a few months to manifest itself. Of course I cried at his funeral. I did nothing but cry for days and days and days. And then I went numb. According to those who believe that there are 5 stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance) I have never made it past stage 4. The denial, the anger, and the bargaining all happened when he was so sick with cancer he could no longer talk or walk or function, when he became bed-fast and the doctors told us he'd never recover. The depression set in too, but after he died, it skyrocketed. Then the eating disorder kicked in. And the acceptance, well, I suppose I haven't gotten there yet.
I've always thought of the depression and anxiety I feel due to losing my father as something completely separate from the anxiety and depression I feel due to my eating disorder. But I'm learning very quickly that perhaps they're related. And perhaps I can never recover from one until I'm ready to recover from both.
I have to admit my food intake has been low for the last two weeks. I've been anticipating today for a long time. I've been thinking about Dad a lot. I've been thinking about the collapse of our entire family structure. I've been thinking about lots of sad things. I haven't been thinking of recovery. I've also been working a lot. I've worked 7 shifts in a row, many of which were doubles. Most days I returned home from work about 10 or 11 pm. I've eaten breakfast every day but that's it. No lunch, no dinner. I justify this by telling myself that I don't have time.
But that's not true.
I don't think that this is a relapse. And I know that my behavior is not okay. I know I need to eat. I know how vitally important it is. I know all of those things. But I'm so overwhelmingly sad that I don't even have an appetite. I also know that's no excuse. Like I've said before, recovery has to be a conscious effort. You have to actively think about it and pursue it if you want to accomplish it. Unfortunately for me, I haven't been, at least not lately.
I have a lot of work to do to get myself healthy. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. I have a lot of work to do, but I still know I can do it. I don't know how, but I have faith.
Each year on the anniversary of my father's death I can think of nothing but the Emily Dickinson poem "After great pain a formal feeling comes." In the final stanza, she says
This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.
Here's to letting go.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
I went to the doctor yesterday to get the results of my last round of blood testing. I've known for years now that I am anemic (low iron) and Vitamin B-12 deficient. However, I learned yesterday that I am critically low on Vitamin D. A normal range of Vitamin D present in the body is somewhere near 50. Mine is 5. The doctor stressed the importance of returning my Vitamin D to a healthy level. Without it, I could face serious, serious issues such as osteoporosis, osteomalacia (soft bones), heart problems, etc. Proper amounts of Vitamin D are crucial for maintaining Calcium and Phosphorous levels in your body. Unfortunately for me, an irresponsible vegan who doesn't take her multivitamins, I know that my diet is the reason I'm vitamin deficient. Vitamin D is found in egg yolks, fish, meat, dairy-- all things I strictly avoid. It's also found in sunshine, so I'm going to make an effort to spend more time outdoors. Plus, the doctor gave me a prescription to slowly raise my Vitamin D level over a 12-week period (she said raising it too quickly can cause kidney stones). I try to manage my protein levels and iron levels by making smart food choices, but obviously I've neglected to take the importance of vitamins seriously. I had no idea how bad it was.
So I started thinking about all of my lovely readers. Do you know if you're getting the proper amounts of vitamins? Do you take multivitamins regularly? Do you care or know anything at all about nutrition? I understand that many of you see nutritionists and dietitians regularly, or have seen them in the past. I never have. As I've said in previous posts, I have avoided proper treatment for years, to my own detriment (mostly because I've had no medical insurance, but also due to the lack of trust I have in doctors).
I took a nutrition class when I was an undergrad during the height of my anorexia. I told everyone, including the instructor, that I signed up for the class to help get over my eating disorder. In reality, I was only looking for ways to better starve myself. I thought somehow learning the ins and outs of the human body would give me some sort of advantage, a way to further manipulate and control it. It turned out to be the hardest class I had ever taken. Not because the material was difficult to understand, but because in my eating disordered state, I couldn't accept anything the instructor said as true. On tests, she asked questions like, "How many calories should the average woman eat per day?" My brain wouldn't let me write down a rational answer. And for our final project, we had to record everything we ate over a three day period then calculate the calories, fat grams, protein, vitamins and minerals for those days and compare them to the numbers the book said were healthy based on age. As I said, at the height of my eating disorder, I was eating between 0-800 calories a day. Needless to say, all of my levels were lower than they were supposed to be and my grade suffered. At the time, I was offended the instructor didn't take my eating disorder into consideration, appreciate my honesty, and give me a good grade. But now I see I should have been offended that I didn't stand up for myself and feed my body the nutrients it needed. Even now, this far into recovery, I'm realizing I'm not as healthy as I thought I was. I still have a lot of work to do as far as a healthy diet goes. My body is no longer the enemy. I want to nurture it, to heal it, and to make peace with it. Today is the day for change.
I've been reading a lot this morning about the thirteen essential vitamins we need to be healthy. Here is a description of each of them that I copied and pasted from Medline Plus (here's the link) in case anyone is interested. Please try and understand the horrible things your eating disorder is doing/has done to your body. Maybe you don't care now, but one of these days, you'll wish you'd been kinder to yourself. There's no time like the present.
Each vitamin has specific functions. You can develop health problems (deficiency disease) if you do not get enough of a particular vitamin.
Vitamin A helps form and maintain healthy teeth, bones, soft tissue, mucous membranes, and skin.
Vitamin B6 is also called pyridoxine. The more protein you eat, the more vitamin B6 is needed to help the body use protein. Vitamin B6 helps form red blood cells and maintain brain function, among other things.
Vitamin B12, like the other B vitamins, is important for metabolism. It also helps form red blood cells and maintain the central nervous system.
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant that promotes healthy teeth and gums. It helps the body absorb iron and maintain healthy tissue. It also promotes wound healing.
Vitamin D is also known as the "sunshine vitamin," since it is made by the body after being in the sun. Ten to 15 minutes of sunshine 3 times a week is enough to produce the body's requirement of vitamin D. However, many people living in sunny climates still do not make enough vitamin D and need more from their diet or supplements. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which you need for the normal development and maintenance of healthy teeth and bones. It also helps maintain proper blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant also known as tocopherol. It plays a role in the formation of red blood cells and helps the body use vitamin K.
Vitamin K is not listed among the essential vitamins, but without it blood would not stick together (coagulate). Some studies suggest that it helps promote strong bones in the elderly.
Biotin is essential for the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates, and in the production of hormones and cholesterol.
Niacin is a B vitamin that helps maintain healthy skin and nerves. It is also has cholesterol-lowering effects.
Folate works with vitamin B12 to help form red blood cells. It is necessary for the production of DNA, which controls tissue growth and cell function. Any woman who is pregnant should be sure to get enough folate. Low levels of folate are linked to birth defects such as spina bifida. Many foods are now fortified with folic acid.
Pantothenic acid is essential for the metabolism of food. It is also plays a role in the production of hormones and cholesterol.
Riboflavin (B2) works with the other B vitamins. It is important for body growth and the production of red blood cells.
Thiamine (B1) helps the body cells change carbohydrates into energy. It is also essential for heart function and healthy nerve cells.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
I had originally intended to write about something completely different today, but I received an e-mail from one of my dear friends that really struck a chord in me. She forwarded a quote by David Foster Wallace that says,
"If you can, think of times in your life that you've treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. And I think it's probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we're here for is to learn how to do it."
Sometimes I just need to be reminded of that. Sometimes we all do.
We are all valuable as human beings.
We all have something special and good, something uniquely our own to offer the world.
We are all imperfect, but we are all important.
We have value.
We have worth.
We are too good to be wasted.
It's easy to remember those things when we've done something good, or when something good has been done to us. But it's hard to remember our worth when times are bad. But we are just as worthy. For so many years, my eating disorder held me down an tricked me into believing I wasn't worth anything, that I didn't matter, that no one cared, that the world wouldn't miss me if I was gone. But, like I said, anorexia lies.
Please remember that.
Be good to yourselves.