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?