Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Missing the Illness, Part One

One of the topic suggestions was how to deal with missing being sick or deathly thin.  At first I didn’t think that I could write on this topic, because I had no idea what the person was talking about.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I did know what the person was talking about and just didn’t want to admit it.

I don’t miss being sick, and I honestly don’t miss being deathly thin.  But I do miss the results of me being sick and deathly thin.  I don’t miss the tiredness, the constant cold, the feeling like crap, the inability to attend all my classes or do all my work, and I certainly don’t miss the fact that when I was sick the papers I wrote made absolutely no sense (even though I thought they were brilliant at the time).  I like being a competent adult.

Here’s what I miss that I was ashamed to admit: I miss being sick because when I was sick, other people took care of me and checked in on me more often.  People called me to see how I was doing.  People offered their support on a regular basis.  Friends offered to eat with me or cook for me or sit with me or talk to me.  When I was in treatment, I had a whole treatment team taking care of things and I could finally let go, give up some of the control, and let someone else call the shots.  I “just” had to sit back and accept the help offered.

I was ashamed to admit this because I’m thirty-some years old and an adult and shouldn’t need other people to take care of me, right?  But life has been rather stressful lately, and I’ve found myself wanting to throw up my hands and let someone else step in and be the adult.  I don’t want this responsibility, and I find myself wanting to retreat.

But here’s the thing–There’s no magic age we reach when we stop needing other people.  No magic number when we stop needing someone else’s care.  No turning point where we’re supposed to be able to do everything on our own.  This has been an exceptionally difficult lesson for me to learn: that it is okay to need someone else.  I may not need them in the same way I did before, but you know that quote “No man is an island”?–it’s true.  I am not this self-sufficient island, capable to taking care of every small little thing, one-hundred percent of the time.  I need other people in my life.  I still need other people to call me and say, “how are you doing?”  I still need a shoulder to cry on.

There’s a significant difference between when I was deathly thin and now, however: Now, I use my voice to meet those needs rather than my body.  And that, as most of us know, can be terrifying.  A lot of us developed our eating disorders in part because we didn’t know how to use our voices.  But I do know one thing: my friends appreciate me using my voice and find me easier to relate to now than when I used my body to speak for me.  And I’ve found that they are more able to meet my needs now that I use my voice and not my body.  But yes, this way is, initially, harder and scarier.  As you keep using your voice, however, it gets easier.  It may take a long time for it to feel natural, but it will get easier.  And you will find the people around you more open and honest.  And they will be more willing and able to be close to you.

So I challenge you–if you are missing being sick, what, exactly, are you missing?  And what have you gained that you would lose if you become sick again?  Do you really miss all the physical complications of an eating disorder?  Are you willing to give up the freedom you have gained?  And once you identify what you are really missing, can you write down ways to meet those needs?

Remember that you deserve to have those needs met in healthy ways.  You do not deserve what the eating disorder does to your body and your life.

Use your voice, not your body.  Your body will thank you.

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April 30, 2011 Posted by | Communication, Eating Disorders, identity, recovery, relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Perfection Calls . . .

Perfection

I haven’t done any official studies or surveys.  I’ve read a lot of books and I’ve done a lot of writing.  And I’m going to guess that a lot of people reading this blog regularly have issues with perfection.  And in our eating disorders, we’ve found something that, finally, we’re “good enough” at.  The perfect meal plan, the perfect number.  In DBT language this is, of course, emotion mind speaking.  Wise mind knows there is no such thing as perfection.  But we cling to perfection in our eating disorders.  A lot of us cling to perfection in our recoveries as well.

I honestly thought I had conquered my issues with perfection in my recovery.  Then three things happened this past February that rocked my boat and made me reach for anything that would make me feel “good enough.”  A) I decided, for a multitude of reasons to leave my PhD program, even though school had always been my “thing.”  B) I was hit by another depressive episode that landed me in the hospital (I’m bipolar, type 1).  C) While I was in the hospital, my cousin died.  He was the only cousin of mine on that side of my family whom I could say I really knew.  And my emotion mind said, “If you hadn’t been in the hospital, you would have been able to help your cousin.”  Definitely not my wise mind speaking there.  Not one ounce of rational thought in that sentence at all. And because I was in the hospital, I could not attend the funeral.  Another sign of failure.

I did not realize until I did some journaling homework for therapy this previous week how much I wanted that “good enough” feeling back.  How easily that feeling translates into “restrict” and get to XXX number.  I feel lucky in that my therapist is willing–and rather adamant that we do so–to address this now rather than wait until I’m at a dangerous weight or my medical stability is in jeopardy.  Rather than wait until there is a glaring problem, we’re going to stop it from becoming a glaring problem.  Yes, my therapist is willing and this makes a huge difference, but I have also been honest with him, and that has, perhaps, been a bigger contribution.  Years ago, I never would have been this honest this early.

How my therapist and I are tackling this issue is different than how I’ve tackled it with other therapists in the past.  There’s this little part of me that’s going, “He’s not doing it right.”  As if there is one perfect way to recover or make progress.  But even without doing studies or surveys, I know that there is no one perfect way to recover.  We forget that we all got to the illness in different ways for different reasons.  We forget this because when we wind up on an eating disorder unit together we’re either at rock bottom or close to it, and that looks the same.  The initial stabilization is similar for a lot of people, but then we need to remember that we each need to approach recovery on a unique path.  We must confront the different issues that led to the eating disorder, the different anxieties we have about recovery, and we must use our individual strengths as much as we can.

I guess what I’m trying to explain is that you can’t recover “wrong.” I’ve heard people say that they aren’t doing it (recovery) “right” or “good enough” or “perfect.”  There are many paths to recovery.  Many different approaches.  Some will work for some people; some will work for others.  There is no magical formula for recovery.  Do not judge your own  recovery by comparing yourself to someone else.  The two of you are two different people and have different needs and will require a different amount of time. Are you headed in the same general direction?   Are you working towards the same thing?

Your recovery is all your own.  People use “Ed” to name their eating disorders.  Give your recovery a name, a name that has personal significance and meaning.  Write down your reasons you want to leave Ed in the dust.  Write down what you stand to gain by working towards recovery?  Give yourself permission to go at your pace; give yourself permission to stumble along the way.

Write “perfection” on a piece of paper and then tear it into tiny pieces.

April 28, 2011 Posted by | bipolar disorder, coping, death, depression, Eating Disorders, recovery, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Pull of Friendship

One of the topics that several people suggested I address is eating disorders and friendships.  That is, maintaining friendships with people you either met in treatment or met through an eating disorder forum or support group.  I briefly tackled that topic here, but I think it’s a worthy topic to look at in more detail.

The question isn’t whether or not you should maintain friendships with people you met in treatment if you are both doing well.  Congrats to both of you, and I hope you continue to support one another in recovery.

But what about two different scenarios–the first being if you aren’t doing well and have basically stated you don’t intend to and the second being that you are trying as hard as you can to work toward recovery but you have certain friends who are doing everything they can to cling to the eating disorder.

In the first post I mentioned, I address how when I was sick, I was super-eating-disorder-activist.  I lobbied, I spoke at colleges and universities and conferences.  And the vast majority of my friends also had ties to the eating disorder world.  Looking back, I do not think this was helpful.  What I needed to be doing was “normal” stuff that would teach me I could have and enjoy a “normal” life, such as school, work, friends and family and social engagements that had nothing to do with eating disorders.  I needed to purge myself of the eating disorder identity (every pun intended).

I am not sure I could have recovered if I had kept up close ties with everyone from treatment.  The people I maintained contact with were people I would have been friends with if we had met in a class or on the subway or at a coffee shop.  The eating disorder just happened to be this unfortunate coincidence that we shared.  AND all of these friends also wanted recovery, so we were able to support and encourage each other in a positive direction.  If we bitched about a bad day, the response was more along the lines of “What can you do to turn it around?” than “Ugh, me, too.”  We called each other out on things we saw that weren’t recovery focused.  I still have a couple of friends do the same for me.  Recently I wanted to take a break from therapy, and one friend questioned my motivation for that and asked if it would, in all honesty, be a good idea.  And after journaling on the topic, I realized she was on to something.

Does it sound cruel to do what I’m suggesting?  Keeping friends who are actively pursuing recovery and not maintaining friendships with those who aren’t?  I repeat something I’ve said before: Protect your own recovery at all costs.

After a year of self-enforced exile, I returned to the online eating disorder community.  And I still maintain online friendships with people who are at all stages of recovery, even those who say they don’t want recovery.  I know what it’s like to have people give up on me and walk away, and to say it hurts is an understatement.  Now that I am strong enough, I will not be that person who walks away.  Neither will I be the false, cheery voice that only says, “You can do it, hun, hang in there.”  I am not afraid to ask questions and to push someone in the direction of recovery.

But I know myself right now, and know that I am not triggered by pictures or comments or numbers or people going in and out of treatment.  I could not say that when I first started on the road to recovery, hence my friendships with recovery-minded people who would not trigger me.  Know your triggers, and if something/someone is triggering you and you are having a difficult time staying on-course, there is nothing wrong with taking a step back from that group or from that friend.  When you are more solid in your own recovery, then, if you want, you can return and help others.  If you are still triggered, then that is not the role for you.  Your recovery is your number one priority.  Do not compromise it, do not put it in danger.  If talking to others or posting on forums helps you, then keep that up.

Know yourself.  Know your triggers and take steps to avoid them whenever possible.  Your life is on the line.

April 27, 2011 Posted by | Communication, Eating Disorders, recovery, relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

we’re allowed to be human?

Bad Day

I’ve gotten a couple of messages recently from people who are either fully recovered or have been almost fully recovered for some time or who have been doing extraordinarily well for sometimes . . . and the fact that they’ve been doing well has been no secret.  Friends congratulate them, offer encouragement to “keep moving forward” and the like.  And they think they’re through with the eating disorder.  They like their new, free life and have things to live for that they couldn’t have imagined before.

And then, out of the blue, a weekend comes along triggered by stress, memories, poor body image, fear, and a whole lot of other things.  And they find themselves engaging in old eating disordered behaviors.  And, in general, two things happen in each case (other things happen but aren’t as predictable) : A) they feel crappy about themselves, or ashamed, or afraid this means a total relapse; and B) someone else will say, “But you were doing so well.”

Let’s look at B first.  How do you think it feels to hear someone say, “But you were doing so well.”  Sure, it may be true, but what do those actual words imply?  A) That you should have continued so well; B) this is definitely not good; C) You’re certainly not doing well now; and D) All of that progress just went down the drain.  So what kind of feelings do these linguistic interpretations stir up?  A whole crapload of shame and embarrassment.  And the feeling of letting someone else down in the process.  A lot of us have this perfectionistic background and grew up with the need to please others no matter what, so hearing that we’ve let someone down, well, all the old issues just come roaring up to the service.

What’s wrong with saying, “Sorry you had a rough weekend, but I know you can get back on track like you did last time.”?  What’s wrong with saying, “Is there anything you want to talk about?”?  What’s wrong with “I’m here if you need anything.”?  Knowing someone is there, beside you, willing to sit with you, is tremendously better than hearing that, “But you were doing so well” and all of that statement’s implication.

Now let’s look at A.  Is this a reason to feel shame?  No.  We expect people new in recovery to have lapses and bad days.  Well, guess what?  Years of self-harming behavior don’t disappear in a month.  Those tendencies may be at the back of your head for some time.  And what’s important is not the two days you slipped back into old habits but afterwards when you realize what’s going on and work on turning things back around and getting back on track.  That’s what the comments should be about: the strength and determination it takes not to let one off weekend pull you back into the eating disorder.

I keep this blog. I encourage people through snail mail and through facebook.  I’ve lobbied for the Eating Disorders Coalition.  I’ve given talks during NEDA Awareness Week.  I’ve helped friends find treatment.

I’m supposed to be better, right?  I mean, I call myself recovered.  Fully recovered.  And yet, this past month has been difficult.  Change and loss have always difficult for me, and when my life seems to be made up of changes and loss?  And I’m still struggling with depression and receiving ECT each week, soon to be every-other week.  And I’ve found this fully recovered self struggling with restricting.  I’m still not over my desire to disappear when things in my life well, to put it plainly, suck.  (And yes, I know I can’t disappear.)

Here’s what’s making this not a relapse: I started talking to my therapist after I noticed I wasn’t eating as much after only four days.  There is no hiding it from my treatment team; they all know.  There is no trying to get away with something.  There is no desire to keep going, only a desire to get back on solid ground rather than stay in this muddy terrain.  And there have been steps taken to get back to that purely solid ground.  And there has been pride for everyone one of those steps taken.  I won’t let myself get to a dangerous point, but I don’t even want to be below an ideal point.

What does this make me?  Human. I’m not perfect.  My recovery was never perfect.  I’m not perfect.  I never will be.  But just because I’m having a hard time does not mean I’m no longer in recovery.  I care too much about the life I gained to give that up.  But it will take some work on my part to get back to that fully recovered self again.

I am not ashamed of where I am.  I am damn fucking proud of myself for bringing it up with my therapist before he noticed anything.  I never would have been able to do that in the past.  There’s a lot of things I’m doing now that I never would have been able to do in the past.  And that’s what I’m choosing to focus on.  As i said in a recent post: The past is in the past.  The future has yet to happen.  But I live in the now.  What I choose to do now, not what I chose to do last week, is what is important.

April 27, 2011 Posted by | Body Image, coping, depression, Eating Disorders, feelings, recovery, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Trance of Unworthiness

my meditation beads

I thought I had escaped from the trance of unworthiness when I recovered from my eating disorder, but a certain event on Thursday reawakened all those issues of “not good enough” that I’ve been plagued with my entire remembered life.

A good friend recommended that I read the book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach (Copyright 2004), from which the following guided reflection comes:

Do I accept my body as it is? / Do I blame myself when I get sick? / Do I feel I am not attractive enough? / Am I dissatisfied with how my hair looks? / Am I embarrassed about how my face and body are aging?  / Do I judge myself for being too heavy? Underweight? Not physically fit?

Do I accept my mind as it is? / Do I judge myself for not being intelligent enough? Humorous? Interesting? / Am I critical of myself for having obsessive thoughts? For having a repetitive, boring mind? / Am I ashamed of myself for having bad thoughts–mean, judgmental or lusty thoughts? / Do I consider myself a bad meditator because my mind is so busy?

Do I accept my emotions and moods as they are? / Is it okay for me to cry? To feel insecure and vulnerable? / Do I condemn myself for getting depressed? / Am I ashamed of feeling jealous? / Am I critical of myself for being impatient? Irritable? Intolerant? / Do I feel that my anger or anxiety is a sign that I am not progressing on the spiritual path?

Do I feel I’m a bad person because of ways I behave? / Do I hate myself when I act in a self-centered or hurtful way? / Am I ashamed of my outbursts of anger? / Do I feel disgusted with  myself when I eat compulsively? When I smoke cigarettes or drink too much alcohol? / Do I feel that because I am selfish and often do not put others first, I am not spiritually evolved? / Do I feel as if I am always falling short in how I relate to my family and friends? / Do I feel something is wrong with me because I am not capable of intimacy? / Am I down on myself for not accomplishing enough–for not standing out or being special in my work?”

When I read this this morning, all I had to say was, “Wow.” I admit I am embarrassed to claim how many “yeses” I answered to these questions.  And I thought, “well, some of these things I should feel bad about.” But Tara had an answer to that as well: The point is not to work on changing ourselves, but to accept ourselves in the present moment. We are doing the best we can right now.  Tomorrow, that’s another story.  But right now–we can’t change the present moment.  So why drag ourselves down with blame and guilt and shame?  Try to do better tomorrow, or the next moment, but remember that we are who we are right now.  And we can’t change what happened one second ago.  So accept it, learn from it and take what self-knowledge we can from it, and, ultimately, accept ourselves.  As is.  Right now.  Not how we could be.  But how we are.

I know I get caught up in how I could be.  What I should have done.  What I will do next time.  I need to learn how to be content with where I am in the present moment and not judge myself for the right now.  I need to learn from the right now, but not get so caught up in it that I can’t appreciate the present moment as it is.

The picture above is of my meditation beads.  I have a very eclectic spirituality.  I am Christian, but I also find value in other spiritual disciplines because they lead me closer to God.  And myself, a lot of times.  My meditation beads are made of Rose Quartz, a gemstone that is said to open the heart’s center and aid in healing emotions as well as the physical heart itself.  Rose Quartz represent unconditional self-love and self-forgiveness.

My therapist taught me a meditation that I have found to be extremely useful, and after reading the section of Radical Acceptance this morning, I find it all the more relevant.  It’s a meditation that exists out there in variations.  But this is the one I learned:

“Breathing in, I calm my body (breathe in) / Breathing out, I smile. (breathe out) / Dwelling in the present moment (breathe in) / I know it is the only moment. (breathe out)”

I had already decided my Easter Sunday would contain no work, but be a time of knitting, artwork, relaxation, maybe a nap.  Now, after reading this section of the book, I’ve decided today is the perfect day to use the meditation my teacher taught me.

The present moment is what we have.  The past is in the past.  The future has yet to happen.  We dwell in the present moment, a perfect time for acceptance.

April 24, 2011 Posted by | Body Image, coping, depression, Eating Disorders, faith, feelings, mindfulness | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

anger anger anger

A recent question on Hillary’s Hope page on Facebook got me thinking.  Anger.  Such a loaded topic.  Such an important topic for those of us struggling with any type of eating disorder issues or self-harm issues.  What the hell are we supposed to safely do with our anger?  Am I right in assuming a lot of us were never taught this?  That stuffing our anger and not expressing it was the “accepted” way of handling anger?  And that this only led us to more self-destructive paths?

I know I was not allowed to be angry growing up.  “Just deal with it” was the lesson I learned–except no one taught me how to deal with it.  I began cutting when I was twelve, “successfully” keeping it a secret until I went to college, when it exploded beyond my control and there was no way of keeping it a secret anymore.  And by that time, I was hospitalized a few times and eventually sent to a treatment program for self-harm.  Of course, no one had yet to teach me how to really deal with anger and the eating disorder was under full swing.  (Like most people with eating disorders, however, there were multiple causes, so the anger was just one of many.)

I still have problems with anger.  It’s “unladylike” or “inappropriate” or “better left ignored.”  There’s a problem with stuffing it, however.  Eventually it builds up, this gradual crescendo until it can’t stay stuffed anymore and something has to be done to release it or else I get tempted to self-harm or engage in eating disorder behaviors.

So here are some of the ways I have found helpful in managing my anger:

  • Journal.  I journal every day.  But I have found that writing down my anger helps diminish it.  I can be as blunt and tactless as I want because no one will ever read it.  I can exaggerate.  I can blame.  I can name names.  I can go into as much detail as I want.  It’s my journal.  My story.  It’s how I feel and I don’t have to worry if I’m representing the other person or the situation accurately.  I get down my feelings.
  • Artwork.  Different from my normal artwork where I try to actually make a beautiful picture or a meaningful image using skills I learned in art classes.  Nope.  This is when I get out my oil pastels or my crayons and a blank sheet of paper and basically scribble.  I make angry marks on the paper with furious motions and end up with spirals and black circles and thick, dark lines.  It’s a release of physical energy that I can see.
  • Going for a walk.  I have to be careful here.  I used to go for runs when I was angry, and that helped tremendously.  But I can’t do that because of my heart condition anymore.  I can’t even walk fast.  But I’ve found that getting outside and taking a walk through the nearby flower and sculpture garden really does help.  Maybe it’s just time working its wonders, I don’t really know.  But I’ll take it.
  • Cry.  Yes.  I’ve learned to cry now.  I used to not cry at all when I was thick in the eating disorder.  But a good cry in an appropriate place and time can be one hell of a release.
  • Stick my hand in ice water.  This one I learned from my therapist as a way to distract myself if I want to cut.  I found it works for anger as well.  Fill a bowl with cold water and three or four trays of ice cubes.  Then stick your hand in it.  Excuse my language here: It’s fucking intense.  I can’t keep my hand in there very long; I don’t think anyone could.  But try to.  And see if the intensity helps lower the intensity of the anger.  Or releases it altogether.
  • Knitting. Knitting allows me to focus my energy on one thing and one thing only.  And I’ve found that when I don’t have the physical energy for some of the above things, this works rather well.
  • Collage.  I have a crapload of stuff to make collages out of.  And when I’m making one for me and not as a card or letter for someone else, I can make that picture as full of anger as I want.  I can make it ugly.  I can put words in it that I wouldn’t speak out loud.  And then–and perhaps this is what makes it effective–I can tear it to shreds.  Just the act of ripping it apart is a release of energy that I thrive on when I’m angry.  So let’s add that:
  • Ripping something apart.  Find something you don’t need.  A piece of paper.  An old letter.  An old (paid) bill/statement.  Rip it into as many pieces as you possible can.  Let all that energy behind the anger fuel the ripping process.

These are just the ways that I have learned to deal with anger.  I would absolutely love to hear your   healthy ways of dealing with anger.  Let’s help each other by making as long of a list as we possibly can.

Let the comments commence:

April 22, 2011 Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, feelings, self harm | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

self-respect and eating disorders

lost in another world

I recently asked people to offer topics for my blog, and one of the ones I received was respect.  Having self-respect/not having self-respect while having an eating disorder or while recovering.  It’s taken me a couple of days to figure out how to put what I wanted to say into words.

While I was anorexic, I was also a straight-A student in undergraduate and then graduate school, a successful writer, held two separate jobs, and (I hope no one disagrees) was a supportive and encouraging friend to others.  I could knit up a storm even then and loved making things for others, I cared for my two cats, and I kept up my apartment.  All of these things (aside from the eating disorder) should have resulted in a decent amount of self-respect.

Did I have any self-respect?  Only when I lost weight.  I took no pride in any of the other things I was doing.  The eating disorder had full control over my mind.  Part of the problem was that I did not let very many people know what I was struggling with.  The friends who did know tried to get me to focus on my strengths and abilities and talents.  But by that time, I was convinced there was nothing to focus on of that nature.

When I entered recovery, I suddenly realized everything I could do.  It really was like discovering something brand new to me, but one of my friends commented that I could do all of those things for quite some time.  I just couldn’t see it.  All I could see was the eating disorder.

Now?  Fully in recovery?  Sometimes I still feel guilty for taking pride in something I’ve done or made.  Self-respect still can feel, well, wrong, sometimes,  just out of years of habit.  I am able to fight it now.  When I notice the guilt kicking in, I am strong enough to recognize that it’s misplaced guilt and then remind myself that taking pride in yourself and your abilities and strengths is a good thing.  (Yes, you can be over-prideful, but I bet that’s a bit difficult to achieve when you’re used to putting yourself down every chance you get.) I wonder what would have been the course of my eating disorder if I had been able to take pride in myself all along?

My challenge to you?  And my challenge to me?  Make a list of everything that you are good at.  Make a list of your strengths.  Make a list of your abilities.  Make a list of your positive characteristics.  This won’t be easy.  Your eating disorder will be screaming at you the entire time.  For if you don’t believe there is anything good about you, you are more likely to stay with the eating disorder and not believe recovery is possible.  If you make these lists, you can see that you have things to work for in recovery; you have a life aside from the eating disorder.  If you need to, ask a trusted friend to help you.  Keep the list in your journal or daybook, someplace you can see it regularly, so you can remind yourself of everything that you are aside from the eating disorder.  These lists can help you fight; they are your ammunition against the eating disorder.  The more strengths you can list, the weaker the eating disorder becomes.

I’d love to hear your comments on self-respect and pride.

And if you have any other topics for blog entries, let me know.

April 20, 2011 Posted by | Eating Disorders, feelings, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

More on Facebook

So I decided I needed another post on facebook, and it probably won’t be the last.

Let me make one thing clear: I wish I had had facebook when I was starting to accept I had an eating disorder.  I would have found other people like me instead of feeling like I was the only one. I could have found support; I could have found suggestions for healing; I could have found places to get professional help; I could have expressed myself and been heard.  All things I didn’t have in the beginning.

I am concerned about one thing–posts expressing the desire to quit, how worthless the person is (not feels, but is), and how pointless all forms of help are.

Again, let me clear on one point: We have all felt like quitting, we’ve all felt worthless, and we’ve all felt that help is pointless.

Let me write the same thing in two different ways:

1. I’ve been feeling frustrated lately and exhausted and this brings up feelings of wanting to quit and I could really use some encouragement right now.

2. Life sucks.  It’s not worth it.  It’s pointless, and I’m not bothering fighting the eating disorder anymore.

Or:

1. I feel so isolated and alone and don’t know where to reach out for help.  I know other people are out there fighting, but I’m having a difficult time connecting with them right now.

2. Everyone hates me.  Everything I say is wrong and I might as well just shut up because that’s what other people want me to do anyway–just disappear.

 

In both cases, Sentence 1 expresses feeling, difficult feelings, and asks for help.  There is no blaming.  There is the confusion and pain that come with fighting an eating disorder and the fear of seeking/asking for help.

In both cases, Sentence 2 expresses the same feelings, but blames the people reading and/or makes offering help nearly impossible.  How do you convince someone life is worth it?

AND what happens if the person reading Sentence 2 isn’t in such a hot place him/herself?  If the reader is already contemplating giving up and thinking about the pointlessness of fighting and of life in general, Sentence 2 is only going to reaffirm those feelings and prevent that person from asking for help.  So now we have two people on the verge of quitting and shutting out help and advice.

No one is saying that you should silence yourself on bad days.  These are the days when you need to voice your feelings the most.  But–and this is one hell of a significant but–how we word things has a great impact on those around us.  While we can’t be responsible for everyone’s feelings, we can be responsible for our own actions and the likelihood our actions and words have of harming others.

Facebook is a wonderful, needed form of support.  Responsibility needs to come along with the territory, however.

April 13, 2011 Posted by | Communication, Eating Disorders, feelings, relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

100% “real” recovery

the full-length mirror I used to avoid like the plague

A discussion was taking place on a facebook page about whether or not “real”, 100% recovery from an eating disorder is possible.

The old belief, professionally, was that no,  you could never recover.  The eating disorder would always be there, and, hopefully, you would manage it.

Guess what?  That’s not the belief anymore.  I am recovered.  Fully recovered.  I have friends who have recovered.  Fully recovered.  No obsession with food, no fears of food, no more letting the number on the scale dictate how you feel and what you eat and how you act.  Most of my friends who used to have eating disorders don’t own scales.  And don’t miss them.

I will confess I own a scale and that I keep a record of my weights.  I also keep a record of my blood pressure, my pulse, any dizzy spells, and any tachycardia spells.  I email these to my cardiologist once a month, more often if the tachycardia is prominent, because I have a genetic degenerative heart condition.  My weight is one of the ways my cardiologist can see how my heart is functioning.

But I no longer weight myself in the same exact outfit every day.  Or at the same exact time.  And regardless of the number, I don’t change what I’m going to eat that day.  It gets written down in my daily log and then I put it away.

Why do I have “real” in quotation marks? Because I also have friends who are at a stage in recovery where they are functioning at 100% but do have to make sure they are eating enough or some days they are tempted to not eat as much or they don’t own a scale because it would become another obsession or they still have fear foods.

Is their recovery any less real than mine?  Absolutely not.  They have moved beyond managing symptoms but aren’t quite at the “free completely” stage.  There’s really no linguistic term for it.  They are living full lives.  And they will say that all that effort, all that work, to get to a point where everything is managed and they can live a full life again was totally worth it.

I used to not have a mirror in my apartment.  Now I do.  And I no longer want to tear it from the wall when I stand in front of it.  I wear clothes that fit me and not someone twice my size.  I dress up, something I never used to do because then people might look at me.  I’ll go out to eat now, and choose my meal based on what I want not on what has the fewest calories.  I put creamer in my coffee.  I wear makeup.  I do my hair in snazzy ways sometimes.  I look people in the eye when I talk to them.

These are just some of the things that are different.  The biggest thing that is different is that I feel free. No longer does the eating disorder decide what I eat, drink and what I do to exercise.  Those things are decided by me, and each day is different because I feel different each day.  If I’m exhausted and have spiked a fever (from my heart condition) I don’t go for a walk. When I had the eating disorder, I still would have walked, as if I didn’t have a fever.  I allow myself to be human now.  And being human is so much better than trying to be this perfect machine.  And being human can be fun, another thing that I never really experienced while I was anorexic.  Oh, I smiled for people to make them think I was fine, but I was too obsessed with food and drink and exercise to really be anything other than faking it.

Recovery is a hell of a lot of hard work.  But yes, it is possible.  And yes, it is worth it.

April 10, 2011 Posted by | Eating Disorders, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

chronic illness

a heart necklace in place of my literal heart.

I have a lot of coming to terms to do, as far as this chronic illness is concerned.  Yes, I’ve finally started using that phrase with consistency: chronic illness.  There is no denying it.  Today I was exhausted, and I spiked a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. And at first I was confused.  I mean, a runny nose won’t make my fever spike that high.  Then I remembered my cardiologist telling me not to be overly concerned about sudden fevers–they are a sign my body is beyond tired.  (As long as all the flu symptoms and other illness symptoms aren’t present, of course.)

I was reading from this book: Dancing at the River’s Edge: A Patient and her Doctor Negotiate Life with Chronic Illness. (And yup, it’s available on Kindle, too)  And this one quote came up that explained today perfectly:

“The life threatening times come, and then they go away, and then you must brace yourself.  You do not brace yourself for the next horrific death-defying moment.  Instead, what you much brace yourself for is the day-in-day-out wear and tear of it. What really hallmarks a life successfully lived with chronic disease is your ability to keep soldiering through.  The bitter pill is that it is always just a little there, or a great deal there, but the unpleasant taste remains, in your mouth, in your routines, in your soul, and that is the fight we are engaged in for the long haul.  We must not become overwhelmed by the exhaustion of it and the fear of the possible next grave crisis.” ~Alida Brill, patient

This does not contradict my earlier post.  She does not say she has to keep soldiering on by herself.  She has surrounded herself with friends and professionals to help her at any moment, any day.

What resonates for me a lot is the day-in-day-out nature of chronic illness, more than the grave crises.  But at no point does she say that the chronic illness dictates how you life your life.

My life is still just that: MY life.

 

April 9, 2011 Posted by | coping, health, heart, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments