Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Virtual Support Group/Recovery Buddies

Though it affects the lives of everyone who loves us, ultimately, an eating disorder is a very personal disease. And though no one can make you recover but yourself, having people who understand what you're going through (even if it's only one person) can certainly help. I know that many of us have been in some sort or recovery or treatment facility, talked to therapists, doctors, dietitians, nutritionists, or experienced a recovery support group. But I also know that many haven't. Recovery can be terribly expensive and not everyone (myself included) can financially afford to get the care they need. That's why I've been thinking of creating a virtual recovery support group. I am not a therapist or a doctor or medical professional of any kind, but I have a feeling that many of us could benefit from having a place (aside from our blogs) where we could vent, tell honestly how we are feeling, what we are struggling with, what we need to overcome, etc. I know I could certainly use a little extra encouragement and support and motivation from time to time.

So, I am curious to see if any of you feel the same way. I have created a group via google for eating disorder recovery support. If you are interested in joining this virtual recovery group, please e-mail me here and tell me your name, your e-mail address and your desire to join the group. Or, if you wish, you can just leave that information as a comment at the bottom of this post. Whatever works for you.

I hope that those of you who do join will post to the group frequently and engage in virtual conversations about your recovery journey. However, it's okay to join and become a silent participant, too. Most importantly, this will be a safe and encouraging environment to help us all defeat our eating disorders (not just anorexia. Anyone recovering from any type of eating disorder is welcome). If anyone aims to criticize or condemn, please do not join! Also, don't feel obligated to join if this isn't something that interests you.

For those of you who may not feel comfortable posting and participating in a group environment, I encourage you to at least find one person who you can talk to openly and honestly about your recovery. If you already have that person in your life, that's wonderful. But if you don't and you're interested in finding a recovery buddy, feel free to e-mail me. We all need a little support and motivation and strength from time to time. I would be more than happy to speak privately to any of you about the obstacles you're facing. Again, I'm not a therapist or a doctor of any sort, but I'm a recovering anorexic who also happens to be a good listener.

If you don't feel like talking to me that's okay. Please talk to someone. Help is out there! You just have to ask for it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Desensitizing Triggers: Recovering in the Real World

I know that most of us in the blog community try to be respectful to our readers by not posting information that could trigger bad behavior or encourage relapse, such as specific weight, caloric content/consumption, etc. But what about the real world? How do we avoid being triggered then?

I've learned that the world doesn't understand eating disorders, much less what it takes to recover from one. If you turn on the television, open a magazine, or log onto your internet connection, it doesn't take long to see why. Almost every commercial is a weight loss how-to guide. People who have never had eating disorders are encouraged to lose weight and are made to feel horrible about their bodies regardless of what size they are. If even people without eating disorders are feeling the pressure, how do you think that makes us feel? How are we supposed to handle that?

I watched television this morning while eating breakfast. Halfway through my english muffin, a Special K commercial came on. Of course, it's about weight loss. At the end the woman asked, "What will you gain when you lose?"

Wait, what? Think about that.

What will you gain when you lose? It made me want to spit my breakfast out. It made me feel horrible. It made me feel guilty for eating, for not losing weight, for not gaining something. The truth is I don't need to lose anything. If I lost weight I would gain nothing. In my case it should have said, What will I lose when I lose? Everything.

But the commercial wasn't meant for me. Luckily, I was able to realize this and I continued eating my breakfast. I realize I'm not their target market, but that doesn't matter. Triggers are everywhere. Society wasn't created to tiptoe around people in recovery. Our only option is to try to think with clarity.

A few years ago, when my eating disorder was much worse, I wouldn't have been able to ignore the commercial and continue eating my breakfast. About two years ago, I worked with a guy who flirted with all the female employees, especially me. It was annoying but I ignored him for the most part. One day in the break room, everyone discussed my food choices and eating habits as if it were their business. People said things like,

"I've never seen her eat."

"She doesn't eat anything. She works through lunch breaks."

"She's vegan so she only eats lettuce."

And then the flirt chimed in.

"Look at those hips. Obviously she's eating something."

Of course he meant it as a compliment. To him, like many men, hips are attractive. To me, they were the enemy. Naturally my eating disorder took his comment and ran with it. My entire life, even at my lowest and highest weight and every weight in between, I've always had a small waist and larger hips/thighs/bottom. Some people call it an hourglass figure. My eating disorder wouldn't let me see it as anything but fat.

Since my recovery began, I've been placed in countless situations like the one above. Each time I have been triggered by the outside world, my first reaction was to let my eating disorder take over. "Okay, obviously I'm fat so, I'll go back to not eating."

In reality, I was using these triggers as an EXCUSE to act out the eating disordered behavior I was otherwise trying to suppress. I was allowing myself to wallow, to regress, to give in to my eating disorder even though I knew better. At that stage in my recovery, I knew better. It's like a little kid. His parents can tell him not to do something, the kid knows he isn't supposed to do it, but the minute his parents aren't looking, he does it anyway. We cannot be that kid. We have to hold ourselves accountable. We have to respect ourselves enough to not allow ourselves to do the wrong thing. More than that, we have to respect ourselves enough to make sure we do the right thing.

As I finished my breakfast, another commercial came on. This one was for mini babybel cheese. It's the one where the girl is in the mall passing out samples of this cheese to shoppers. One shopper is carrying a newly purchased dress. The babybel girl gives her some cheese and says something like, "Do they have that dress in my size... which is... size awesome."

It's a silly commercial, but there was something so strangely empowering about this lady saying she's size awesome. I like that. My mother always told me to dress the body you were given. Be the size that you are. It doesn't have to be the size of the person next to you, the one in the magazine. Just be you.

It reminds me of my favorite little vignette in The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.

They are the only ones who understand me. I am the only one who understands them. Four skinny trees with skinny necks and pointy elbows like mine. Four who do not belong here but are here. Four raggedy excuses planted by the city. From our room we can hear them, but Nenny just sleeps and doesn't appreciate these things.

Their strength is secret. They send ferocious roots beneath the ground. They grow up and grow down and grab the earth between their hairy toes and bite the sky with violent teeth and never quit their anger. This is how they keep.

Let one forget his reason for being, they all droop like tulips in a glass, each with their arms around each other. Keep, keep, keep, trees say when I sleep. They teach.

When I am too sad and too skinny to keep keeping, when I am a tiny thing against so many bricks, then it is I look at trees. When there is nothing left to look at on this street. Four who grew despite concrete. Four who reach and do not forget to reach. Four whose only reason is to be and be."

Monday, January 10, 2011

We've seen the landfill rainbow. We've seen the junkyard love.

Intuition, Déjà vu.
The holy ghost haunting you.
Whatever you got, I don't mind.

- Over the Rhine

Usually when I'm hit with an unexpected dose of inspiration, I make a note of it on the notes app on my iphone. More often than not, this occurs when the lights are out and my eyes are closed and I'm trying to drift into dreamland. But recently, I've found myself making notes of everything. I used to have the best memory. Now I can't remember anything. Here is a list of notes I made over the last few months word for word-- the totally random things I thought were important enough to remember:

1. Pay credit card bill - January 4th, 1:38 PM

2. "You'll never know your friends from your enemies until the ice breaks." - Eskimo Proverb - January 2nd, 9:00 PM

3. Download Johhny Cash "Ain't no grave" (Someone sang this at my father's funeral. Obviously NOT Johnny Cash.) - January 1st, 4:46 PM

4. Make a list of all the happy memories I have of my brother and I together. - December 30th, 10:17 AM

5. I wish there was a pill or an injection to cure eating disorders. - December 29th, 1:19 AM

6. Number 99, Just as I am - December 26th, 1:52 PM

7. John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey. Spirit of God descending on Jesus like a dove. - December 26th, 12:55 AM

8. Get a pet mini donkey. - December 25th, 6:41 PM

9. Get a pet capybara. He's a love machine but can't be left alone. Needs lots of water. Vegetarian. Vitamin C. - December 25th, 6:34 PM

10. Get a pygmy goat. - December 25th, 6:26 PM

11. Look for a new belt for my fella. - December 25th, 1:19 AM

12. "For with God nothing shall be impossible." Luke 1:37 - December 25th, 1:14 AM

13. Whoever I was then I can't ever be again. - December 23rd, 11:35 PM

14. When I worked at the hospital, each time a newborn baby came into the world they played nursery music over the intercom. - December 15th, 11:40 PM

15. x amount of sweet potato = x amount of calories - November 16th, 4:33 PM (Obviously a bad day...)

16. Irony of working in hospital while anorexic and bulimic. Irony of being sick and shrinking to nothing with doctors and nurses all around me. - November 12th, 2010 11:48 PM

17. Soymilk. Apple Butter. Sweet Potato. Squash. Zucchini. Garlic. Onion. Banana. Cauliflower. Grapes. Vegan mayo. Chickpeas. Rosemary. Avocado. Mushrooms. Carrots. - November 12th, 11:13 PM

18. Zicam cuts colds short. - November 8th, 10:52 AM

19. Sleepytime vanilla. - October 16th, 11:56 PM

20. There's never a testimony without a test. - September 25th, 7:32 PM

21. List things that are worse than being fat. Shark attacks. Car crashes. Natural Disasters. Drowning. Being sick. - September 15th, 10:39 AM

22. "Don't dream it, be it." - September 23rd, 1:06 PM

23. I'm afraid of being wrong. - September 23rd, 12:42 PM

24. Yoga. Pumpkin Soy Latte. Joan Didion. Begin editing. Laundry. Gym. Blog. Read. Sleep. - September 22nd, 8:57 AM

25. Tooth brush. Cat food. Cough drops. - August 21st, 3:22 PM

26. Eat at Akasha in Culver City and order the vegan onion rings. - August 17th, 12:32 AM

27. Persians are love machines. Can only be house kitty. No street smarts. - July 29th, 11:37 AM

28. You ate. - July 28th, 4:48 PM (Not sure why I made a note of this, but I have a feeling it was a very bad day.)

This made me think, what is the importance of memory? What do the things we choose to remember say about us? I think this list has something important to say about who I am.

I've been thinking a lot about my eating disorder lately. Next to the death of my father, it has been the hardest thing I have ever experienced. Still, when I look back on it, why do I have a tendency to only remember the good things and forget the bad? It's hard for me to remember my lowest points. It's hard for me to remember how sick I used to be, how scared, how miserable. It's hard for me to remember just how little I ate. It's hard to imagine myself slung over the toilet throwing up time after time after time. Sitting on the rug afterward crying. Crying because I felt guilty, crying because I felt no one understood. Crying because I felt helpless and alone. It's hard for me to remember, but that doesn't make it any less real.

Maybe it's hard to remember because the pain of experiencing it once was bad enough.

Maybe it's hard to remember because deep down I want to forget.

But is it good to forget altogether? Or are the bad experiences of the past meant to teach us something about the future?

I don't have the answer. What do you think?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Today's Ten Reasons: Ten Reasons I Love Me

I've made a commitment to myself to take the time to inwardly and actively reflect on my recovery by listing ten positive things about me, ten reasons that I love myself, ten reasons I am thankful, etc. Here are today's ten:

Ten Reasons I love me:

1. I have made so much progress. I am proud of myself for trying and for sticking with my recovery.

2. I have a big heart. I used to think this was a bad thing. It always led to me getting hurt. Now, I realize it's a good thing. I have more room for love, for myself and for others.

3. I'm pretty darn cute. I don't mean in a physical way. I mean in terms of mannerisms. I'm basically like a 26 year old little girl. I used to think this was a problem, too. However, now I think having the heart and imagination of a child is a good thing.

4. I have a good work ethic. I love the dedication I have toward things I am passionate about.

5. I respect people. I try to treat everyone fairly, even if they don't treat me fairly. I will always stop what I'm doing to help someone else.

6. I love love love animals and I love myself for loving animals. Maybe this goes back to having a big heart. I can't stand to see an animal hungry, scared, or in pain. I can't even count how many strays I've rescued, cleaned up, had neutered/spayed and made pets out of. My Dad always said we'd have an elephant in the living room if I could figure out how to squeeze one through the backdoor.

7. I treated myself to a delicious breakfast this morning-- a big hunk of homemade vegan whole wheat cherry pistachio oat bread. I love that even though I still have issues with my eating disorder, I can (most of the time) take care of myself.

8. I have an undying faith in God. I love that by loving him, and by his love for me, I've learned how to love myself.

9. I love that I have a sense of humor. It makes it easier to get through the day when you can stop and laugh at things. I love that my boyfriend is like this, too.

10. I love myself for sharing my story. If everyone is afraid to speak about the bad things that happened to them, how will there ever be change?

Maybe this sounds a little too much like bragging about myself but that is not how it is intended. This exercise is meant to build self-esteem and strengthen self-respect and self-value.

Can you think of ten reasons why you love yourself today?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Health and Happiness

The last few weeks have been full of medical appointments and testing. Doctors are still trying to figure out what has been making me so dizzy. The dizziness isn't as bad as it was originally but it's still there. Since September I've been in the emergency room three times, undergone one CT scan, two x-rays, two MRIs, and multiple rounds of blood testing and they still can't tell me what's wrong with me. Every test comes back normal, which is good. But it doesn't help me figure out what's going on or how to stop it.

I'm supposed to see an ENT and a Neurologist, though I'm still waiting for my primary doctor to schedule those appointments. I also need to see an OBGYN because of ovarian cysts. One ruptured Thursday causing me yet another trip to the emergency room. I saw my primary doctor today and she told me the blood work I had done was basically normal, even my B-12 and iron levels. That is the first time in 7 years (since my eating disorder began) that everything has been normal! I credit it to good nutrition. I've been making an effort not only to eat enough, but to eat the right foods for my body's needs. I focus less on calories and more on nutrients. I choose foods with high levels of protein, iron, and B & D vitamins since those are the areas I'm generally lacking. I'm not interested in torturing my body. I'm interested in nourishing it.

I do have to admit that all of these appointments have triggered my eating disorder in some ways. For example, most of my labs required me to be fasting. That word alone triggers something deep within me, and I apologize if it triggers any of you who may be reading this. I understand that the point is to test my blood levels when nothing is in my body, but the very act of having nothing in my body brings back too many familiar sensations. It's like recovering from alcohol abuse only to be told by someone you have to drink alcohol before they can help you. Regardless, I overcame it, and I'm eating regularly.

Normally I request at doctors' offices not to be weighed or at least not to know what the scale says. With my new doctor, I was too embarrassed to ask for that, so I know my weight now. As you can imagine it stressed me out. It's better not knowing. Even though I am making steps to love myself and nurture myself and accept myself no matter what, hearing a number higher than I anticipated was like a little punch in the stomach. But it doesn't matter. For the first time in my life I'm realizing a few pounds are not going to be the end of me. Just more proof the grip anorexia once had on me is loosening and loosening.

Before long, I will shake her off completely. There is no doubt in my mind. Life without her is too good. I'm too strong, too happy, too free to go back.

I don't normally make resolutions for the new year, but this time I'm going to. Very simply, I am dedicating 2011 to health and happiness. That means doing everything I can do to be the healthiest, happiest me that I can be.

I wish the same to everyone reading this. Health and happiness.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Four Things

This little game was originally posted by the lovely Missy and I decided to play along. I love these!

Four Words/Phrases I Might Use Too Much

* You're a wild animal.
* What the hell?
* Frickin/Flippin
* Cool.

Four Things I’m Passionate About:

* Writing
* Literature/Reading
* Animals
* Yoga/Pilates

Four Things You’d Discover Upon Meeting Me (in real life)

* I'm quiet.
* My hair is pretty long.
* I'm a good listener.
* I sing a lot when left to my own devices.

Four Things I’ve Learned from the Past

* Nothing is really free.
* Our plans are usually different than God's plans. God knows best.
* Nothing lasts forever.
* Time is fleeting. It doesn't slow down for anyone.

Four Things I Eat that Freak People Out:

* Soy everything: Tofu, soy milk, soy ice cream, soy protein powder, soy protein bars
* Healthy things: quinoa, barley, bulgar, lentils, brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, pea sprouts, bean sprouts
* Vegetable soup accompanied by a PB&J on cinnamon raisin bread.
* Vegan "mayonnaise"/Vegan "cheese"

Four TV Shows I Love:

* Gilmore Girls
* Golden Girls
* Top Chef or anything else on Bravo
* Ghost Hunters

Four TV Shows I Loved:

* Jeopardy (Okay, I still do.)
* Full House (Oh my)
* The Newlywed Game
* SNL (I know it's still on air but I never watch it.)

Four Things I’m Looking Forward To

* Getting a job
* Traveling
* Seeing my neices
* Moving

Four Things I Love About Winter

* I don't like winter! Okay, less humidity?
* I can wear scarves and hats and boots and coats.
* No sunburns?
* The sky is white when it snows.

Four Ways Poor Nutrition Destroyed My Body:

* My period is never regular. When it does come, it hurts five times as much as it used to.
* My teeth aren't great. Even the wind hurts them.
* I'm cold all the time.
* My toes are purple and my limbs fall asleep.

If you are reading this TAG YOU ARE IT! Answer these questions on your blog.

Thanks Missy! That was fun.