The Angel on my Shoulder Hung an “Out of Office” Sign

I feel like I’d be lying if I didn’t say that for a moment, if only a brief moment, it felt like it was my eating disorder and I against everyone else.
In the cliché scenario of the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, the angel had hung an “Out of Office” sign, and the devil was none other than the eating disorder I had catered to for an unknown amount of years.
Sitting in my appointment replaying the week over in my head, “I did alright” I told myself. Allowing myself to eat pizza, toast (with butter), and other terrifying foods that sat somewhere between dentist appointment and pap smear on list of things I really wanted in my body.
Then hearing, “I’m concerned, this isn’t good. There has to be a shift.”
At that moment, the devil on my shoulder gave me a high-five and felt ready to tag team the world.
Having to sit and acknowledge the fact that no, maybe running and working out isn’t a great idea right now was enough to bring tears to my eyes; Unable to figure out how I would cope and numb everything if I wasn’t able to lift and go to the gym.
They joke that “Denial is more than just a river in Africa.”
Which is true, to me it felt more like a hot tub, surrounding me with comfort and warmth. Trying to get out of it would be uncomfortable, and leave me wanting to dive back in head first, to what I had grown accustomed to. Much like the parable of the boiling frog, in which a frog is placed in warm water, and the temperature slowly rises to boiling, until the frog is boiled to death.
I wanted more than anything to stand up, I could feel ED tugging on the neck of my shirt. I wanted to let ED ruin this appointment. I wanted to act like a 2 year old, the “terrible twos” – type of two year old, and have a fit. I wanted to tell her she didn’t know what she was talking about.
The dietitian, with more letters behind her name than actually in mine, I wanted to tell her she didn’t know what she was talking about. I wanted to gesture to the waiting room and shout that “I DON’T LOOK LIKE HER! I’M FINE.” Once again, using my weight and my capabilities in the gym as my only standing as to why I am “fine”.
Now, taking a step back, I know that what she says is truth, and I know something has to change. (I’m also glad I didn’t make an ass out of myself yesterday).
It speaks volumes when something as little as trying to take a break from exercising sends me into a full blow panic and fit. Now, trying to remind myself that; not running is an accomplishment for me.
Taking another step back, I realize that if I had the type of body my ED says I should want, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy, or do, the physical activities I want. Plus, then what? I’d be another year or so older, still struggling with an eating disorder, maybe weighing less, but at some point being right back here.
It’s been a reoccurring theme lately from various people, that your heart only gets so many beats, so why waste them on things I don’t enjoy?
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Trusting The Process With a Trust Problem

If not now, then when?

The question was enough to fuel my morning drive to work.

Recovery has been filling my mind and thoughts, probably more than it should.

Life is going great, I have no more stress than the next person,

A good job                                          an awesome dog

A warm apartment                          a running car                      supportive friends

Coffee                                                  benefits                               paid time off

The ability to run

Why does my recovery want to take a sudden stop?

I don’t think it was sudden, it never is, but the restricting became more and more, until my list of foods was as depleted as my ability to fight ED off.

I’ve begun seeing a nutritionist, after months and months of putting it off, not wanting to go, etc. I like her, she is a believer and advocate of HAES, believes in intuitive eating. Overall, I have enjoyed the experience.

Yet the battle in my head is still raging.

It isn’t as easy as the “talking back” that I hear others talk about so frequently. No, for me, it has to be factual.

Which kinda fueled the internal dialogue this morning.

On more than one occasion I have been in a room of people struggling with their Eating Disorders, whether it be in treatment, support groups, wherever.

I look around, (and no, this is not going where you think it is going), and sometimes I am almost the oldest in the room, sometimes I am practically the youngest. When I am at the upper range of age I remember being their age, being so filled of denial, and so full of my eating disorder.

When there are people much older than me, I think of that is how I want my life to be at their age?

Should my life be focused on my body and eating disorder when:

I have kids

Get married

Start another job

My kids are grown up

My siblings get married

So, if not now, then when?

I also have “Trust the Process” tattooed on my wrist, to remind me of recovery.

I’m struggling with following my meal plan given to me, and it is so difficult to listen to my body when I am hungry and not feel the need to run first in order to “earn” the food that my body needs.

I am telling myself that I wouldn’t want someone to tell/question me on how to do my job, so then why am I questioning and fighting her so much?

She knows what she is talking about and is on my side, so why am I fighting her?

I need to focus on Trusting the Process.

I may not always enjoy it or find it easy, but I’ve been here before.

Invalidating Before and After

 

With Eating Disorder Awareness week slowly but surely creeping up, there has been something that has really been bothering me.

 

The fucking before and after pictures.

 

I realize, that for some, they can be helpful. You can see how far people have come, the weight they have put on, etc.

 

For some though, it is a complete and total nightmare. Can we quit glamorizing the before and after pictures??! YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LOOK LIKE THOSE PICTURES TO BE WORTHY OF RECOVERY.

 

YOUR WEIGHT DOES NOT INVALIDATE YOUR NEED FOR HELP!

 

I was one of those people who saw emaciated people and wished to look like that. I wanted so badly to be tiny like “those girls”. That was also my justification for not needing treatment. “I wasn’t THAT small.” “I didn’t look like THAT.” So in my mind, it made me less worthy of recovery.

 

As if somehow, my weight had a direct correlation on the amount of pain and suffering I had gone through.

 

Those before and after pictures do nothing but add to the stigma of how you are “supposed to look”

 

Hungry *Warning: calorie/carb counting*

Why, why don’t I want to eat? I’m hungry, I know I need to, but I just don’t want to. Nothing sounds appealing. My stomach is growling though.

I take out my phone and go to My Fitness Pal; I type in the Larabar I ate, considering it “breakfast”, but who really knows what it is, and does it even matter?

I’m hungry, but I feel like I just ate. Maybe I’ll drink a little water. No, a lot of water.

I eye the speckled banana on my desk and type it in, considering that “lunch”. It immediately calculates the calories, the 19 g of sugar and the 30 g of carbs.

I’m hungry, but not that hungry. Not 30g of carbs hungry. Not 19g of sugar hungry.

Is it fear? Am I worried about foster care? Am I afraid I’m gonna gain weight?

Why am I afraid of carbs? What has happened lately to set me into this cycle?

It doesn’t make sense. It never makes sense.

I’m hungry, and now I’m out of water.

Exploded Recovery

Lately, my recovery has seemed to just have exploded.

I am not saying this is a happy go lucky, I’m cured, kinda scenario.

On the contrary, I do not eat breakfast every day. I don’t eat 6x a day and track my meal plan. I haven’t measured out my food in a long time. And hell, sometimes I have a bowl of cereal for dinner.

What I am saying though, is that I no longer turn down food based on their calories or power and fear they have over me.

I have eaten cookies for breakfast, but had a salad for lunch, but those two are no longer connected in my mind. I eat what I want, when I want. If I just ate a half hour ago, and my stomach is growling, I drink some water, and pull out a larabar.

I still exercise, and the voice is still there, but it is no longer the loud screaming, jagged tooth beast demanding my every action. It is now like a snide child who hasn’t gotten it’s way and makes jabs when it can, “I mean, you did just exercise, you probably shouldn’t have breakfast.” “Or,” I’d retort back, “I have some awesome avocado toast waiting with my name on it.” It doesn’t always make the voice go away, and I don’t always make the correct choice, but I do the next right thing.

That also doesn’t mean that my body image is all rainbows and sunshine every day, but I am learning to accept my body and realize that restricting won’t do me any good, and eating one cookie won’t hurt me.

I may still turn food down, but it is because I genuinely don’t want it. Not because my Eating Disorder doesn’t want me to have it.

Do what you can, even if it means a snack! Feel free to reach out!

Complacency

It was that awkward moment when I realized I’m not doing as well as I thought I had been.

There was no purging, I was starting to go out more with friends, work was at a steady lull.

I had stopped going to therapy, and had stopped going to the support group. I felt fine, so thought I’d take some time off.

I’d been so busy ignoring my Eating Disorder, that I had neglected to see it had slowly began to crawl its way back into my life. Then, Saturday, it hit me like a ton of bricks. “Holy Fuck. I’m running twice a day again.”

I hadn’t thought about my Eating Disorder, I hadn’t even been thinking about eating, and that was the issue. When I sat down and really reflected, I realized I wasn’t doing “better” I was just neglecting my recovery and becoming complacent. I hadn’t been eating, or even packing breakfast, and lunch was a joke, not packing anything for that either.

I haven’t been fully involved in my Eating Disorder.

But I haven’t been fully engaged in recovery either.

Insanity in Group

“Insanity is doing the same thing

                                over and over again

                                                  and expecting different results.”

                                                                                                –Albert Einstein

This isn’t the first, or even second, time I’ve left group and felt like it was a waste of time, effort, gas, and regretted going all together.

This evening was nothing different. It takes the “same shit, different day” motto to the extreme.

I feel like I have been going for so long that I know everyone, their back story, and what they are bringing to the table every week.

She is sick and feels like shit.

She so desperately wants to be in a relationship.

She sleeps all day, and struggling.

Sure enough, I was right, I even called it earlier when I was in my appointment.  

Not wanting to even go this evening, one of the girls texted me asking me to come. So I threw on my Nikes, put a baseball cap on and hid myself under a comfy hoodie and headed to support group.

If we were all making progress or something, that would be great, beneficial, something.

It just feels like something has to give. Maybe we need a group exercise, or an assignment, something to pull us from the perfunctory routine of what seems to be a whiny venting session. Or maybe I just need to quit going so often, that way when I go, it is something new.

I sat there, trying to listen, be supportive, but it was the same things I had just heard the week before. My ass bone grinding against the uncomfortable chairs, and being able to smell myself since I had yet to shower post run.

The thought was even there, “Text brother, get him to call you. That’s your way out. Answer your phone, and leave.” Still, I was trying to give group the benefit of the doubt. I may have said two words tonight. It just didn’t seem worth it.

Same shit, different week.

I could have bitched about my head hurting.

Whined about work.

Praised my awesome lunch.

Bragged about a delicious apple cake.

Instead, I sat there. Knowing what would happen if I opened my mouth. Not so much praised for the good, but fixated on the bad.

I would talk about how I ran today, but how I had a black  bean burger yesterday for lunch. It would quickly become a “How often/much are you running?” “Oh, well are you eating lunch every day?” I understand where they would come from, but it just didn’t seem worth it. I may just be being a stuck up bitch, but lately it just hasn’t been beneficial at all, and I don’t think I am getting anything out of it.

I don’t see me returning for a while. Think I’m done re-living the same Thursday of my life over and over.

 

My Motto Growing Up Was, “Never Let Them See You Cry.”

                                “I think you grow up feeling shame about the stuff your parents didn’t allow you to talk about when you were little. So anything that a parent  makes ‘off-limits’ – that’s the shit that’s going to make you crazy when you get older. If you want your kids to be normal, let them talk about everything, then they won’t have any shame around it; then it’s just not a big deal anymore. If you grew up with a lot of ‘off-limit’ things, you have to ask people and figure it all out. The more you know, the more you realize you’re not the only one.”  -Brene Brown “I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t)”

                What if I was to tell you that I have read this paragraph at least a dozen times, and each time I do, the truth just rings even clearer.

I don’t think Dr. Brown could have written something any closer to the truth. Some families avoid controversial topics such as drugs, sex, rock n’ roll religion, politics, alcohol, body image. Making it very awkward to talk about later in life, or even confusion in their own opinions and beliefs on the subject.

What if though, “the stuff your parents didn’t allow you to talk about when you were little” was basically everything? I’m not saying this in a hyperbolic way either.

For as long as I can remember, I cannot recall a time where my mother and I sat down and had a serious conversation, of any sort. Granted, she talked AT me, and barked orders. My opinions were her opinions, not being allowed to have any idea or opinion that differed from hers (this was considered selfish, ungrateful, talking back). If we were sitting down to “talk” it was full of shame, belittlement, and ended with punishment.

I was not a sheltered kid, in any way, but I do firmly believe my mom was so wrapped up in her world, that I was neglected normal everyday advice and conversations someone usually has with their child. We never had the sex talk, ever, I learned it from the back of the bus. Every topic had shame around it. Mom called me a slut in high school when I asked if I could go to a football game with friends. Sex Ed was one of the most unnerving experiences of my life, once again, not sheltered, but I was appalled that people spoke so openly about sex. My perception of sex was one based solely on control. After angry drunken fights at all hours of the night, loud obnoxious make up sex was next on the list. This became perfunctory in my little head. People didn’t do that because they loved each other, they did it at the end of a fight. The constant “I love you, I hate you” routine in my life was extremely confusing to me.

Another huge one for me was emotions. I very distinctly remember one circumstance in particular. I was sitting on a railing, my foot got stuck between the bars. As I jerked my foot free I fell forward and bashed my nose on the edge of a bench. Immediately, my mother can running over, yelling at me for being so careless and for not listening. This was typical, as was “stop crying before I give you something to cry about”. I was not allowed to cry, I had no right to be angry.

 If I was proud of an accomplishment, I was either selfish, or I was instructed promptly how it had been done “half-ass”. Feelings were regarded as weak, and unable to control yourself, I would be spanked or punished, and still expected to hold it together. Some people hear the saying, “Never let them see you sweat.” My motto growing up was, “Never let them see you cry.”

It just became so much easier to not say anything at all, then to say or do something that would later on be held over your head or used against you. I made sure to never need anything and tried my best to hide. “Fine” was an emotion. That was the deepest it had gone in years. “You look upset.” “No, I’m fine.” It was practically my name and identity. It wasn’t until treatment that I began to learn feelings, much like a kid in pre school.

 

 

My Faith mixed with the Food and Fear

It’s a question I have been asked several times, but I’ve never actually stopped to dig deeply and dissect the answer.

The question may differ slightly,

“How did I get into Christianity?”

“Why did I choose to stay involved?”

“Have you always been a Christian?”

but the answer inevitably brings me back to a certain time in my life.

I can vividly remember being somewhere around 6 years old. I remember our apartment, the glass table, the beanie babies piled high, the kitchen bar, the stained bathroom floor from when I spilled red nail polish. I never remember church. I remember the park, my neighbor upstairs, my cat, the statue of the panther in the living room. I never remember praying.

Around 7 years old I was dragged along with mom who moved to North Carolina with some strange man who would later become my stepfather. I remember my bus stop, my dog, my teacher. Still no church or praying.

In 2000 my brother was born. At some point, unsure of exactly when that was, it was decided among my parental units that my brother, in order to keep him from being damned to hell for reasons I was unsure of at the time, was going to be baptized/saved/christened. I guess by default, I was volun-told that I was to participate in such religious ritual as well. I remember the smell of vegetable oil on my forehead and how I was sickened that I had some greasy oily stuff smeared on my face by a stranger. Up until that point that was the most religious experience of my life.

In 2004 my sister came into the picture. Somewhere between moving and the birth of my sister we began to make an appearance to a church. We stood up, knelt, sat, knelt, it felt like a bad version of Simon says. I watched as my parents introduced me to people that could be my grandparents. We showed up, smiled, and left. One Sunday morning I was getting ready for the perfunctory routine, I had decided to put on mascara and was instantly ridiculed by my step dad.

This is also when their religion seemed to be found more frequently at the bottom of a bottle than in a church pew.

Being under 13, I remember one night, after they had been praising the bottle again. A fight broke out. I gestured to my brother to go to our room and that I’d be right there. I grabbed my sister from her high chair and was going to take her with me to our room. Immediately, I was spun around by a slurred patron saint of the bottle. “You don’t EVER take my child away from me!” With that, my sister was ripped from my arms.

Another move, and another sibling later, I was in middle school. My parent’s religious worshiping of the bottle increased as did my self-hatred. I wasn’t allowed to speak up, have an opinion that was different from my mom’s, or stick up for myself. I turned all the feelings inward. Turning to self-harming, purging, anything. I was already hurting with all of the screaming and fights, which I was convinced was my fault anyways, so it made sense to punish myself, and simultaneously release some of the built up angst. I was blamed for why my parent’s argued. This logic made sense in my world since I had introduced the two of them by accident. I wasn’t sure if they hated me because of it, and if only I was thinner, better behaved, made better grades, maybe they wouldn’t hate me and their marriage would get strengthen.

Eating less, cutting more, purging when I could.

I had the opportunity to go to Ireland on a student program. I was threatened by one of the leaders that if I didn’t start eating I would be sent home.

A family friend invited us to church with them. We reluctantly began to go. I had learned from my past experience with church that it was time to put on my nice clothes, put on a smile and pretend everything was amazingly awesome in my picture perfect world.

Behind closed doors my family threw stuff, screamed, hated each other. My mother would wake me up at all hours to clean my room, clean the kitchen, whatever. Digging her nails into my arm and screaming, as my brother cried from behind her, “Don’t hit her mom!” My parent’s would scream and fight until the church door. With that, the name calling was suddenly, “Oh sweetie, I love you.”, “I love you too honey.” With controlling displays of affection to show to the church how great our family actually was.

I began to question what I was told about God, and even the very existence of God.

“God doesn’t love me, if he did why would he allow this?” I would question.

My own mother would push me against walls, dig her nails into me, and throw stuff at me. The next morning she would say “I love you, have a great day at school.”

I doubted the very word of “love” and it took years for me to be able to tell her I loved her back.

I continued to put on a happy face when we went to church, and was criticized by my parent’s when I wanted to go to church on Wednesdays for youth group, being asked, “Don’t you have anything else you could do besides go to church?”

I went into High School, from moving so much I knew almost everyone in my class. I told myself I would never drink or smoke weed, I didn’t want to be anything like my parents. I began to drink, and would smoke during the off season of sports.

I don’t remember a lot during this time. I went to school, did sports, was on student government, had a job, didn’t eat. Did anything I could to not go home.

Being told that what happens in this house, stays in this house.

My math teacher is the reason I actually became involved and plugged in. During Senior year I moved in with my pastor and his wife. Being told once again that I am the reason their marriage is so rocky, so if I moved out for a while…..

I changed my number, paid my own bills, went to church. Pastor and his wife actually gave me curfew, and I was thrilled someone actually cared about me and where I was. I was diving deep into Christianity, my devotional, and church in a way I hadn’t. We talked, like a family, prayed, like a family, went on trips. There was no yelling, and I realized what I had lived in wasn’t normal.

My parents left the church, I was eventually forced to move back home, and continued to stay at that church for as long as I could, refusing to ever go to church with my parents again.

My math teacher would pray for me and with me. I had convinced myself that if I don’t talk about what’s going on at home, then it’s like it doesn’t happen. After the cops were called, I began to open up to my teacher who invited me to her house, prayed with me, shared books and articles with me, and invited me to Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She spoke of her mistakes, I told her about mine, but it was never from a criticizing or demeaning place, but one of hope and love.

After graduation, I moved out, again. Found a church which I attended regularly, as well as a girls college bible study that my teacher led up. It was a safe environment. Learning about mistakes, love, forgiveness for not only ourselves, but others. There was something peaceful about the entire thing, a sense of belonging and security. How faithful God is and all He has in store for us and our future.

During all of this, my self-harming would come and go, and I was consistently struggling with my Eating Disorder. I was told by several people, that someone must have been looking out for me.

Deep in my eating disorder I would eat under 100 calories a day, and was running and lifting. I was taking diet pills, laxatives, and going to the gym. I have sustained injuries because of it, but when I look back, it is crazy to me that nothing severe happened. There is no reason that I shouldn’t have collapsed during a run, or seriously damaged my body.

I can only think that God has something in store for me, for keeping me around.

I continue in my faith for many reasons. It is one step further away from becoming my parents, every person I admire and look to are strong in their faith, and just the pure honesty that is spoken and how I feel after digging into my devotional.

Trust the Process!!!

Self-Empathy & Compassion

Self-empathy, to me, I feel like this is a brand new topic. One read about in fictional tales, along with princesses with flowing locks of hair and birds that make my bed for me.

In Brene Brown’s book, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t), she goes on to explain the difference between empathy and sympathy. I’m very guilty of using these words interchangeably for years, but now having such a better understanding of the words. I want someone to empathize with me, but don’t want their sympathy. Brenė puts it,

“When they talked about their ability to overcome shame, they clearly pointed to empathy: sharing their feelings with someone who would understand and relate to what they were saying. Conversely, women used words like hate, despise, and can’t stand to describe their feelings about sympathy seeking- looking for sympathy or being asked for sympathy.”

Empathy, is looking for acceptance, and understanding that we are not alone in our experiences.

It has been argued you cannot give what you don’t have, this also including love and empathy, but I respectfully disagree. It is so much easier to give others empathy and the benefit of the doubt. I questioned daily why I was much more able to cut others slack, or be more understanding of others, why I was so hard on myself, and I believe this is a lack of self-compassion as well as empathy towards myself.

I fully believe that everyone has something in their life they are dealing with. Whether it be a sick family member, mental illness, recent death, financial issues, whatever it is, so I attempt to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. That is it though, right there. I don’t know everybody’s story, as much as I love hearing peoples’ stories and hearing how far they’ve come. What if I did though? Honestly, I might be more empathic and compassionate towards them, realizing what they are dealing with on a daily basis. Why is that any different than myself?

I know my story, I know what I have been through. I may not think it is “All that bad” but I know there are people out there who believe I am “brave” “strong” “courageous”. It is the shame of believing the lies I have been fed for years, and internally believing that I am not deserving or worthy. I am much more empathetic and compassionate to those I don’t know their story, than myself.