Friday, April 20, 2012

Where I've Been and Where I'm Going

It's pretty obvious that I have not been dedicated to writing this blog in a long time. I love all of you dearly. You have helped me in many ways through your sweet and insightful comments and e-mails, and I am thrilled to know that my words have helped some of you as well. One reason why I haven't been writing is because, for once, as far as my eating disorder goes, things are finally okay. I'm eating three "normal" meals a day. I'm not counting calories. I'm not losing or gaining weight. I'm just doing the very best that I can to take care of myself. I have also been very busy with work. I've been traveling recently, making wedding plans, looking at houses to purchase, applying to PhD programs, and spending time with my fiance and our cat. It seems like I am only inspired to blog when things are going horribly wrong. But lately I have been thinking that I should change the focus of this blog, or create a new blog altogether, where I focus on being healthy. I'm not sure if that's what I'll do. I'm just tossing ideas around. I feel like I just need to move forward and leave my eating disorder in the past. Sometimes blogging about it feels like a step backward, like I'm giving it too much thought and attention when what I really need to do is abandon it and move on entirely.

Regardless of the decision I make, for all of you who e-mail me or contact me, that doesn't mean I don't want to talk to you. I do! I love talking to you. If you need advice, if you have questions about recovery, or if you just need someone who understands to listen, I am and always will be available. Always. So please do not hesitate to contact me. It won't impose on me, offend me, or trigger me in any way. I love hearing from each and every one of you. I know how scary an eating disorder is, how isolating it is, how hopeless it feels. But I promise you, it doesn't have to feel that way. You can live a better life. You can be a whole person. You can be healthy, you can be happy. But you cannot do it with an eating disorder holding you back. You have to let it go.

That's really all I'm trying to do.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Normal vs. Healthy

There are several ED-related buzzwords that make me cringe a bit each time I hear them: "triggering", "fear food", "thinspiration", "meal plan". Today, however, the words I am focusing on are "normal" and "healthy". I don't like either of these words because I believe their definition varies from person to person. Too often, society tries to measure everyone against someone else's vision of normal and healthy.What is normal for me or healthy for me is not necessarily normal or healthy for you. But, more importantly, what is normal for me, isn't necessarily healthy, period.

I realized this a few moments ago while enjoying my lunch which consisted of a mandarin orange, one of those 100-calories bags of popcorn, and a handful of chocolate candy. By no means is this lunch the nutritional ideal for anyone, but, for me, it's quite normal. In other words, within the context of my life,this was not an unusual lunch for me to have (usually I eat breakfast, try to skip lunch, then eat dinner, only to end up snacking on a variety of nutritionally-derelict items). While this might be normal for me, it is not healthy, even though I do little to change my behavior. It seems I need to be reminded that behaviors aren't normal just because they are repeated over and over again.This is an important concept to keep in mind during recovery. It is easy for us to fall into patterns, to repeat certain behaviors, and become oblivious to them. But we need to be self-aware enough to identify which behaviors are "normal" in the larger scheme of things, and which behaviors feed from eating-disordered thoughts and impulses. Next, we have to fashion a plan to remedy these behaviors if they are damaging or if they interfere with our recovery, our health, or the quality of our lives. I can guarantee that my substandard lunch was the product of my eating disorder. Now, what am I going to do to fix it? Stop skipping meals. Stop restricting. Eat well-rounded meals with proper nutrition to avoid absent-minded snacking and hunger-induced binges.

I also have to remember that eating disorders are not normal. Of course this seems like common sense, but after you've lived with an eating disorder for a number of years (whether you are in recovery or you are not) your life begins to feel somewhat normal because it's all you know. Even if you aren't happy with the way your life is progressing, if you're sad, if you're tired of being sick--whatever-- it begins to feel safe and normal and the desire to change things lessens. The need for total recovery fades and you begin to live this pieced together sort of life in which you are partly recovered and partly broken. You step in and out of both realms, trying on both masks and constantly swapping one out for the other. But in order to ever be truly happy, or truly healthy, or truly normal in the most basic sense of any of those words, we have to self-aware. We have to look inward, notice our patterns and behaviors, and work hard toward changing those which are negative, destructive, lazy, neglectful, or hurtful.

Otherwise, we're living life half-full.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Let's Be Honest: Recovery Warfare

Do you want to recover from your eating disorder?

Do you really want to get better? Wholeheartedly?

For the last five years or so, I have told myself and everyone around me that I genuinely want to recover from my eating disorder. The problem is, that's a lie, sort of. Of course I want to recover from  my eating disorder. Of course I know it's deadly, it's killing me, it has stolen everything from me, destroyed my health, and destroyed my relationships. Of course I want to get better. Don't I? Then why haven't I done it already?

I admit that deep down I have been afraid to fully part with my eating disorder because I feel to some extent defined by it. I realize this thinking is illogical, though all eating-disordered thinking is illogical, and that is precisely the point. I will never be fully recovered unless I am willing to give up my eating disorder. It isn't going to disappear. I have to sacrifice it fully. Give it up. Burn it. Kill it. Destroy it. Forget about it. Let it go. Move on. 

I realize this isn't easy. I know that recovery isn't as simple as making the choice to get better and trying to implement changes in your life; it takes dedication and daily commitment to overcome an eating disorder. Recovery is most definitely an active choice--something we have to work towards and put effort into. But I believe that if we aren't willing to let go of our eating disorders, of course they aren't going to leave us. We have to leave them. We have to put more effort into being well than we put into being sick. Granted, eating disorders aren't choices and all behaviors and compulsions fueled by our eating disorders are/were out of our control. I know that when my eating disorder was at its worst, I put a lot of effort into being sick-- obsessively counting calories, hardcore restricting, adhering to strict workout regimens, etc. Even though this behavior was fueled by madness, I put effort into obeying it. Why can't we take that same amount of effort and discipline and apply it to our recovery? Why can't we channel the dedication and discipline created by our eating disorder and turn it into a weapon to aid in our recovery?

Guess what: we can. And we have to, if we ever want to be free.

I know I am guilty in being "lazy" in my recovery. It's time to get tough. I am kicking my eating disorder's ass and setting it on fire.

Forgetting about it
Letting it go
Moving on

Who's with me?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why recovery is STILL worth it

I was invited by Anne-Sophie from Fighting Anorexia to participate in a recovery advocacy project. I, along with Anne-Sophie and a list of other great bloggers, are posting this month on our reasons for recovery. Though I have written on the reasons I entered recovery several times on my blog, one particular entry of mine stands out the most. In August of 2010, I wrote a very short post called "Why Recovery is Worth it". Here is what I said: 
"Why recovery is worth it:
In recovery, you realize your body is special.
You are worth saving.
Life is too short to be miserable, sick, and hungry.
Food has a purpose.
It fuels your body to give you the energy to live.
You will remember what it feels like to hope and to dream.
If you're healthy, you can actually begin to make them come true.
When you're free from your eating disorder, you are free.
Your thoughts are your own.
You don't have to answer to anyone.
You don't have to lie to people or live a double life.
You don't have to feel guilty.
You don't have to hate yourself.
Food is not the enemy.
You don't have to be afraid of food.
Your hair will stop falling out.
Your stomach will stop growling.
You won't be light-headed.
And you won't gain a hundred pounds.
Eventually, you'll stop fighting with the mirror.
You will begin to trust yourself.
You will begin to take care of yourself.
You will begin to love yourself.
You can start over.
It's not too late.
You are worth saving. "

After rereading this post today, I've realized a number of things:
1. I still believe every word I wrote back in August of 2010, even if I don't always follow my own advice. I know that I should, and I'm trying to do better.

2. I believe I am worth saving. I believe you are worth saving too.

3. Sometimes, dedicating your life to recovery once is not enough. Sometimes we fall down. Sometimes we need reminders. Sometimes we need to take a step back, reevaluate where we stand, and learn the best way to move forward. We need to dedicate ourselves forever, not just a moment in time.

4. Transformation is not a future event. It starts now. Today. Don't say you'll begin recovery tomorrow or next week or next month or when you've lost another five lbs. Do it now. None of us have any promise of tomorrow. Life is too short, too beautiful, too precious, and too fleeting. Even if your world is so dark you can't possibly see that right now, I promise you, it is.
Recovery is possible. Recovery is worth it. Recovery is necessary.

I also once said: "But I've realized recovery doesn't mean boring. It doesn't mean normal or mediocre or bland. Recovery just means healthy. How can I be spectacular and different and unique if I'm dead? Anorexia = another statistic. Anorexia = death. Dead means dead. Dead means it's over. No more chances. No coming back. But with recovery comes hope. Hope means good things will come. Recovery means energy. Energy means I can do all the things I want to do. Recovery means promise. Promise means a chance to be all the things I want to be. Recovery means life. It means more than life. It means to be alive. Unique. Special. Free."

Are you ready for freedom?
What will you do today to take steps toward recovery?
What does recovery mean to you?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Breaking Free From Bananas

I will admit it. I am addicted to bananas. I eat one banana per day for breakfast, alongside a whole-wheat english muffin and a ginormous cup of coffee with two tablespoons of soymilk. Always. For the last four years. Every. Single. Day. I purchase bananas each time I'm at the market, regardless of the quantity I have waiting for me at home. This never changes and I don't want it to. At least I didn't, until I realized this breakfast routine was the dirty work of my eating disorder.

I realized this today when I woke up and started making my usual breakfast. I scooped out the appropriate amount of coffee beans and filled the coffee maker with water. I opened the english muffins, popped them into the toaster, and reached for one of three bananas that were sitting in a wooden bowl on my kitchen counter. All of the bananas were a little overripe, which is how I like them. As I peeled the first banana, the entire thing was rotten inside. Like, brown mushy rotten. Like, no one on the planet would find this appetizing rotten. So I tossed it and opened the second banana-- same thing. Gooey mushy brownness. So I peeled the third banana, same thing. All three completely inedible and now staring up at me from inside the trash can. The coffee had finished brewing, the english muffin had finished toasting, and I had no banana. I commenced freaking out. I paced around my apartment mumbling. Stood there in disbelief. Sent a text message to my fiance, as if somehow he could fix the Bananaless Breakfast Disaster of 2012. Just as I was considering hopping in my car in my pajamas and house slippers to buy more bananas in order to complete the missing breakfast component, my fiance responded with a text of his own that read simply, "You're crazy."

He's totally right.

I am crazy.

This is not normal.

It's not about bananas at all.

I have an eating disorder.

It's about control.

It's about patterns and likeness and familiarity in a world that is constantly changing and overwhelming me.

It's about calories, or the lack thereof. I know a breakfast of a banana and an english muffin is not substantial enough to fuel my body throughout the morning. That's why I'm tired and hungry again not long after I've eaten.

It's about my eating disorder ruining my life. It is not normal to have a major meltdown when I have no bananas for breakfast, when there is a refrigerator and pantry full of perfectly suitable breakfast foods at my disposal. It is also not normal to panic when my banana supply, or my english muffin supply, is dipping dangerously low and run out to the store to buy more. I feel like a drug addict. That's how serious I get about this. And it scares me.

I know that bananas are good for you. They're full of potassium and fiber and even have a considerably high amount of iron for a fruit, which I need because I'm severely anemic. They can also help to regulate your digestive system, and some say reduce your risk of stroke. Plus, they're really tasty and I enjoy eating them. I'm not going to stop. But I know my dependence upon them are the work of my eating disorder, so I have to break free. No more bananas for me, at least not for breakfast, that is.

I am proud of myself for labeling this behavior as ED related, and furthermore, for shutting it down.

So, what did I eat instead of bananas this morning?

I had grapes instead. Tomorrow, who knows?

Do you have any foods that you are dependent upon?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Starting over, again.

Thank you all so very much for all your wisdom and support. You guys are truly, truly amazing and know how to make a gal feel loved. Since my last post, I have made an effort to be more positive and to treat myself better. Last night, one of my friends on Facebook posted a link to a blog that really inspired me. It isn't targeted at ED recovery, but all of the advice listed can be applied to recovery and to every aspect of life, so I'm sharing it with all of you. More than that, I am taking the advice to heart. Maybe it seems simple and self-explanatory, but we need to be reminded of these things from time to time to ensure we are valuing and protecting ourselves.

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

Redefining my Recovery

I have been thinking lately about the possibility of seeking formal treatment. As far as ED recovery goes, I have never played by the rules. After one bad encounter with a medical professional when I was at my worst point, about 6 years ago, I swore off formal recovery and vowed to beat this on my own. But now, for the first time in a long time, I am feeling very vulnerable, very dysfunctional, and very sick of having an eating disorder.

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

Welcome to Michigan

I haven't written in a few weeks because I was in the process of moving all the way to Michigan. The fiance, the cat, and I are all safe and happy and tucked away in our new place here. The cat did much better with the move than I anticipated. When I moved from Las Vegas to the east coast, he had such a difficult time in the car. Moving is hard on everyone. There are still a lot of things left to unpack and sort out, but it's coming along. I started my new job a few days ago but I'm not sure I will be keeping it. The pay is great but it's very boring, not at all what I expected, and it's about a 25 minute drive. That doesn't sound like very far, but it's all these twisty little lakeside roads that will be hell to maneuver once winter comes. Living on the west coast for so long, I am certainly not used to driving on wintery roads! Plus, I drive a sports car. I am looking for jobs closer to where I'm actually living and I've had two interviews at one place so far. I'm really hoping it works out. I also plan to start tutoring and doing freelance work as well once I'm more accustomed to the area.

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

Hiding, Coming Clean. Starting over.

There is only one real explanation as to why I haven't been blogging lately. I could lie to myself and say it's due to all the stress of moving (we're moving to Michigan in three weeks!) but that's not it. I am not blogging because I am not in a good place right now in terms of my recovery. I am not eating enough. I am losing weight. I am not proud of this, but one thing I have never been is a liar. Over the past year and a half, you, my beautiful readers, have become my friends. I respect you all too much to lie to you. Also, I love you enough to urge you not to follow my mistakes.

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.

Fresh start.

New beginning.

All baggage left behind.

Can it really be done? We'll see.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Separation of Self: Is My Body Me?

For the last several weeks I have been unable to fall asleep before three in the morning. It hasn't been on purpose. I try to sleep-- I just can't. It could stem from my work schedule, or more likely, my caloric restriction (which I am working on). Regardless, I've been spending more time watching television at night than I have sleeping. During a late night tv session, one commercial caught my attention. It said:

"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.

Have you?