I’ve decided to change two things on my blog. I am now sharing my first name and I’ve changed my profile picture to a face shot of me.
My initial reason for excluding this information was that I wanted to keep my blog completely anonymous so if someone I knew stumbled upon it, they would have no way of identifying me. I’m no longer scared of this. I don’t want to hide myself anymore or feel the need to “protect” others from knowing the real me (which, let’s be honest, was just a way to shield myself). I’ve included my name in my blog now because I’d like to get to know others better and to know me better. I’ve also included my picture because I feel it is safe to do so now that I’m at a restored weight. Prior to this, I feared triggering others by posting a picture of myself at a sick weight. I’m still going to refrain from posting pictures of my figure. I know how much my eating disorder likes to compare my body to everyone else’s in an attempt to make me feel my [perceived] inferiority. Even though I’m at a healthy weight now, I acknowledge that it may still be difficult for others’ eating disorders to resist the urge to compare. Healthy doesn’t come in one size. A quote I saw once and instantly fell in love with goes like this, “your best weight is whatever weight you reach when you’re living the healthiest life you actually enjoy.”
So, whether you’ve been reading my blog for a while or just started with this one, it’s nice to finally meet you 🙂
It has fully dawned on me that I will never be able to go back to the way it used to be when I was sick. The “good ol’ days” are gone. All thanks to insight.
Because of iop and outpatient work, I know too much about the true nature of eating disorders. I now know that restricting won’t fix my problems or change my circumstances, it can’t give my life purpose, it cripples me mentally and leaves me less able to regulate emotions, come up with solutions, or think rationally. It gives my body no choice but to slow my metabolism, function at bare minimum, and feed on itself – and not on my fat, but on my heart, muscles, other organs, etc. Nor does it make me a better person and it can’t redeem me.
I thought I knew all of this prior to iop, and yet my behaviors were out of my control. Sadly, I think seeing others experience various consequences of prolonged eating disordered behavior made it click for me. Witnessing a friend of mine go into a coma and lose the ability to walk or use her legs at all due to her restriction and compulsive exercise made my eating disorder seem less like the harmless kitten it projected itself as.
I still struggle and slip. I have days when I question if life wouldn’t be better if I had my old coping techniques back. At times I miss being thin and believe that is of utmost importance. Sometimes I don’t finish my meal plan.
And yet … there’s something that pulls me back to solid ground every time I start to fall. I think it’s me guided and supported by every person who gave a piece of themselves to help me learn how to live.
A year ago today, I entered the iop program at the Center for Balanced Living. I want to take a moment to reflect on what I learned during those 8 weeks of treatment:
- “From the neck down, a carb is a carb.” – Sonja
The body breaks down a marshmallow, apple, donut, or carrots into the same simple sugars. The body doesn’t know where the nutrients came from and therefore fitting a donut into my meal plan will have no different affect than having an apple and peanut butter.
- “Stop should’ing all over yourself.” – Sam
It’s easy to hold unrealistic expectations for ourselves and to then berate ourselves for what we were never able to accomplish in the first place. Sam enoucraged me to express what I would have liked to see happen rather than state what should have happened.
Use “and” instead of “but” to join two seemingly-opposing ideas together. When I say “I know my body needs it but I don’t want to eat,” the but seems to invalidate the first statement and suggest that the second is what I should base my decision on. If I say “I know my body needs it and I don’t want to eat,” I’m allowing both statements to be valid and true without pinning them against each other.
- “What’s the next right step?” – Sonja
Leave mistakes in the past, learn from them, and focus on what I need to do from here.
- Radical Acceptance
“We can’t avoid that pain, but we can control how much we suffer over the pain that we experience. Suffering is the part we can control.” – Karyn Hall Ph.D.
- Check the Facts
Does my emotion and/or its intensity fit the actual facts?
- Even when the body is sleeping or in a coma, it still requires a great deal of nutrients because it is still performing many tasks, such as: heart, breathing, brain function, fighting infection, temperature regulation, filtration, hair and nail growth, build and repair tissues and muscles, digestion, hormone regulation, rem cycles, building bones.
- “Taking the best care of me means people get the best of me — not whatever’s left.” – Molly
- It’s unrealistic to expect to be happy 100% of the time.
- Why my body needs:
Carbs — main source of fuel for brain
Proteins — build/repair muscles/tissue, antibodies
Endurance Fuels — to make cholesterol, digestion (vit. ADEK), protect organs, myelin sheeths.
- 10 Cognitive Thinking Errors
1. All or Nothing Thinking
3. Mental Filter
4. Discount the Positive
5. Jumping to Conclusions
7. Emotional Reasoning
8. “Should” Statements
10. Personalization and Blame
- Relapse Prevention Plan
My therapist challenged me to consider something that would have never occurred to me on my own: to view my clothes that fit just a couple months ago as “sick clothes.” The reason I wouldn’t have thought of them as such is because I’ve been in recovery for 2 years now – so how could clothes that fit 3 months ago be sick clothes? I’ve viewed my recent weight gain as unnecessary and pinned it on my increase in abilify (aripiprazole). As a result, I’ve been wracking my brain to figure out how I can lose the weight without engaging in eating disordered behaviors and hadn’t considered purchasing clothes that fit my new size. I’ve simply been functioning under the assumption that I will go back to my smaller recovery size and therefore have no need to invest into new clothes.
Sternly, my therapist reminded me that they have no weight loss goals for me and that none of my motivation for working out or reducing alcohol should be weight-related. She then encouraged me to view my old clothes as sick clothes “because it is impossible for you to fit into them without engaging in eating disorder behaviors.” That was rough for me to hear … impossible? All this time I had believed there was some healthy way to go about it … and I justified it by telling myself that I’m not aiming for my sick weight, I just want to fit into the clothes that I’ve been wearing in recovery for the past year. She reiterated “this is the weight that your body wants to be right now. And the abilify works really well for you so going off of it just for weight reasons is not rational.”
I’m still processing all of this and working really hard to stay calm. The eating disordered part of me mocks that I’m exactly what I feared I would become: fat and out of control. The healthy side of me is striving to not respond the way I’m tempted to. After all, I’ve worked so hard and invested so much into recovery. I’ve never made it this far before. And overall I’m pretty happy. Isn’t that worth having to buy a larger size for? And my treatment team insists I’m still healthy.
So my goal is to pack away all the clothes that don’t fit.
I came across a snippet of a conversation a friend and I had about a year ago. We were discussing me starting the iop program and I was questioning whether I would be able to do it.
She was right; it does mean giving your all on a daily basis and it is worth fighting.
I do think it is worth pointing out, though, that it does get easier. It’s still a battle and I have to choose every morning what kind of day I’m going to have AND the choosing as well as the doing becomes easier over time. Part of that is simply due to the fact that our bodies adjust to consuming an appropriate amount of food. There’s another portion that can be chalked up to the science of how habits are formed. The last piece, I believe, is our increasing buy-in into the whole notion of recovery.
Around the time when she and I had this conversation, I was meeting with my former nutritionist and failing to fully comply to my prescribed meal plan. Now, about a year later, I write this after having finished my meal-plan compliant lunch that I can honestly say I enjoyed while sitting at a park in the sun. The amazing thing is, I didn’t notice the change from one day to the next. I remember, a number of months ago, realizing that eating my full meal plan didn’t physically hurt anymore, but that’s about it. Which goes to show that it truly is just one step at a time.
My therapist brought up something today that I was completely unprepared for: ending therapy. My shock was apparent as I began explaining why I didn’t think I was ready: therapy grounds me, it keeps me in check, I still slip up, etc. My therapist kindly explained that therapy isn’t supposed to be a security blanket and that it can become a handicap if prolonged. She continued to describe the progress she has seen in me — I’m stable in my weight and meal plan, I don’t need coaching to figure out how to handle situations, rather I handle them on my own and report back to her how I did so, and that I seem to have found considerably more of myself.
I’m still taken-aback. She reassured me that I didn’t need to make a decision today, which I found comfort in. The idea of not having someone there to walk me through my mindset, decisions, and reactions is somewhat scary; I’ve had that for 3 years now. But I think I see what she means. When my first therapist informed me she was moving out-of-state, I bawled for days. I was in such a different place in my life back then; I didn’t have any control over my eating disorder and I had no ability to make decisions on my own. Now, though, I can feel a source of inner strength that pushes me through the difficult times I’ve been going through. I’ve felt the need to rely on others less and less, though their continued support and love means the world to me.
As I was flipping through some old pictures on my phone a few days ago, I came across a screencap I saved over a year ago. Back then, I identified with the “what barely recovered looks like” column and felt very hopeless and discouraged by the amount of work ahead of me. As I glanced through it the other day, I smiled as I realized that I can align myself much more so with the “what fully recovered looks like” column. I don’t consider myself “fully recovered” and know that I still have work to do. I almost put the word “lots” before “work” but upon reflection, that didn’t seem accurate; I don’t think I have lots of work left to do, just some.
I’ve made a few decisions this past week that I feel very proud of, though they are small. I want to share them so I can look back and remember my strength.
- I went to the grocery store and consciously chose foods that I could easily and happily fit into my meal plan.
- I decided against getting a fitbit, rather I’m going to get a “be brave” recovery bracelet.
- I’ve continued to follow my exercise regimen.
- I have decided to not weigh myself any more and have stuck to it.
I hope this is encouraging to whomever reads it. I was once convinced I would never be able to be healthy and happy. And yet, here I find myself just that. You can do it. One step at a time. And it is worth it.
I’ve engaged in some thoughts and behaviors that my eating disorder tells me I should be ashamed of and correct immediately. They’re things that I’m not proud of but at the same time … I don’t think they’re as horrible as I feel compelled to believe. I haven’t even admitted these to my therapist or nutritionist. I want to get them out here so I can start to let go of the guilt.
There are times when …
◇ I’m at peace with my body and weight.
◇ I feel beautiful.
◇ the amount of effort it would take to restrict doesn’t feel worth it.
◇ I look forward to my next meal.
◇ I don’t care what others think of my food choices.
◇ I opt to not go to the gym.
◇ I knowingly eat over my meal plan … because I’m hungry or because something sounds good.
These secrets have a dual effect on me. Part of me knows they’re a sign of true recovery, which gives me hope. The other part of me fears they make me a bad person because I know I wouldn’t be diagnosed with anorexia today if I walked into a physician’s office. That’s a lot of why I haven’t admitted any of these to my treatment team – I worry they’d laugh at me and wonder why I am convinced I have an eating disorder.
For so long, so much of my identity was dependent on being anorexic. It was the one thing I knew I could accomplish, and was thereby my sole source of pride. I liked that people would jealously refer to me as thin and I found purpose in reaching new weight and fitness goals.
But now, my grip on those things has loosened and part of me is glad for it. It’s the same part of me that feels grateful to be alive and knows how fortunate I am to have all the blessings I do. That part tells me I’m happier now than I was back then even though I’m wearing larger sizes.
◇ I am happy