Friday, March 30, 2012

My Truth

I want to make something 100% clear. I have no desire to go back to the “old me”; someone who was deep into the eating disorder, following the same patters and beliefs that kept me trapped for years. I was able to write the things that I've missed about my eating disorder, the person that I was ( even more so the person that I saw myself as) and my doubts about recovery/the person that I have become because I am somewhat removed from that hell/person/life. In my last post I talked about the things that I missed and even glorified the eating disorder some. I was focused on the ways that it helped me cope with life, people and some rough situations, but my experiences, the world and even my memories don’t exist in a vacuum. The eating disorder and the life that I used to live almost killed me and I am not na├»ve enough to believe otherwise. What I was doing and the way I used to live wasn’t healthy and wasn’t all fun in games. (Was any of it fun and games?) I was miserable and that is putting it mildly.

So why the follow up post?

I believe that there are two sides to every story and I also believe that it’s important to share both sides. Not only do I feel a little obligated to share this with my readers, but I feel even more obligated to share this with myself. So when I am stuck, admiring the old life that I had and remembering the glorified parts, I also remember the crappy parts and the reasons why I have no desire to go back. Also, to show myself and others that although there has been a lot of loss involved in this process, the things that I have gained are incomparable. My recovery doubts are there, as is the longing for the person that I used to be and the desire to take the easy road, but it stops right there. I can say for sure (And I mean this 100%), that even all of the praise and admiration in the world as well as the positive attributes that I remember, aren’t anywhere enough to get me to really want to go back or even to consider it. I also touched a lot on my perfectionism and unfortunately/fortunately this is a large apart of my personality and will most likely always be there. The key for me is to learn to harvest is for the better, instead of getting stuck in patterns/traps that are unhealthy and a waste of time. It means using my drive and hardworking nature to good and using my stubbornness to help me instead of against me. And even more so to stop seeking approval from others or relying on others for my worth. (this one is still largely a work in progress)It also means using my vulnerability and fear as inspiration, to show others (and myself) that it's not only ok to have doubts/insecurities/problems, but it's part of being human and courageous to share them.

So what are the downfalls of the eating disorder and my old life? And even more importantly what have I gained from recovery?

In this post I plan on spending a small amount of time on the downfalls. And then I will write a follow up post next time or some time in the future about what I have gained. The “what I have gained part” could actually be a book within itself and is why I am doing it in two parts. (I know that I can be super long winded)

With the eating disorder I lost weight, along with my sense of self, the ability to make rational decisions, the ability to feed myself properly, feel comfortable in my own skin, enjoy and participate in a social life, be present in anything, sleep, concentrate/focus on anything for extended periods of time, function properly, have fun, enjoy life etc. My body wasn’t functioning correctly at all; I was cold all of the time, dizzy, suffered from bad headaches that constantly turned into migraines, fatigue, stomach issues and that is just to name a few. Walking up stairs or even to the bus took insane amounts of energy and courage. The engineering hill on campus felt like I was climbing the biggest mountain ever and was my own personal hell. I was numb to all emotions, including the good ones like happiness, joy, excitement and even love. I didn’t have the energy to really care about anything. I was judgmental, snappy, short with people and not very fun to be around. I took everything way too seriously and lost the sense of humor and occasional spontaneity that I have. I was insanely busy, but wasn’t very productive or efficient despite what I thought/showed.

I lost friends because they were sick of watching me hurt myself, make excuses for my behaviors and turn down social invitations. I stopped getting invited to hang out because my obsessions weren’t the best company. I received a lot of attention but it was mostly negative and in the form of concern, worry and anger. I lost credibility and trust, because I could lie my way out of anything if I felt overwhelmed or like my secrets were in danger. (And lying is one of my biggest pet peeves)  I lost respect, from those around me and even more so from myself. I lost myself and all of the core things that I valued.

Writing these last two paragraphs was super hard for me. It’s really upsetting to think that I spent so many years stuck in a cycle that eventually caused this much destruction and loss. But I hope that it gives you a clear picture of where I stand and why I don’t want to go back. It would be foolish and untrue if I didn’t share doubts like yesterday’s post and made it seem like recovery is easy and always the path that I want to take. But I am also glad that I was able to write this follow up post and tell both sides of the story and my perspective.

I think it’s important to recognize what got me here in the first place. The eating disorder and even my old habits/patterns/beliefs/coping mechanisms/ way of life had a function at one point. With all of the horrible things that I mentioned above, there had to have been some positive or something that it was helping me with. And there was. One thing that has been pertinent and very helpful in my recovery has been learning to have compassion for myself, even  in times when it’s really hard to do so. And also to bring these struggles to light in order to overcome them, not to judge myself or beat myself up for things that I could have done differently. Just as I think it’s important to show both sides, the eating disorder vs recovery, I think it’s important to allow myself to feel the sense of loss and have days when I feel doubt and want to remember the positive things.(like yesterday’s post) This doesn’t show weakness or that I want to go back to that life at all. To me this shows strength and quite the opposite. Now I am able to see both sides, realize the pros, remember the cons and actively choose the path that I want to seek. Now I am the one in control of my life and I think my ability to see both sides of the story is clear proof of this. It I was given the option, I wouldn't trade my old life for anything and this is what truly matters.

Stay tuned for a post about the things that I have gained.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Free Write- Vulnerability

I am going to start off with a little warning that this post may be a little scattered and all over the place. I have had a bunch of things pop into my mind today that I have really wanted to write about, some related and some not so much. So I have decided that I am going to try something different. (something way out of my normal comfort level) Instead of writing about one specific topic, I am going to try more of a free writing with less purpose in structure. I am also going to go out on a limb here and do something completely crazy. I am not going to edit this post at all. I am not going to go back and re-read it before I post it, check for spelling and grammar mistakes (so there will probably be 5 times as many as there usually are) or anything like that. I am just going to write whatever comes to mind and then post it. 

So why this sudden change or adventure to try something new different? I thrive off of routine and perfection. I try really hard to do the best at everything that I do. I try really hard to minimize mistakes and never fail. The problem with this is that it’s really unrealistic and not even healthy. Nobody likes to mess up. It’s in human nature to want to be good at things and be praised for them. I think we as humans all have this quality, just too varying degrees. 

Perfectionism is the biggest time waster. I used to write emails to people that would take me forever. Sometimes even hours because I would either save it as a draft to go back and read it one more time or even go as far as to send them to someone else to proof read. And I am not just talking about professional emails, I did this for emails that I would send to the sorority when I was VP of Social and other positions and these people were some of my closet friends. When I first started writing my blog I would spend over an hour on each entry and it wasn’t because I didn’t have ideas or couldn’t write, it was because I would scrutinize every time to make sure it was worded the best way that I could think of and lacked as many errors as possible. (Given my horrible English/grammar skills, there were still plenty of mistakes that I would catch later) 

I used to pride myself on being “good” at the eating disorder. It was such a high to be able to resist food even when I was starving. Even more so when I was able to exercise longer and harder than most people, even when my body was begging me to stop. What made this all even better is the praise that I received from it, the comment about my amazing self control when I chose a salad over a hot dog or the comment about the discipline that I must have to be able to run through the rain or swim before a 14 hour work day. My perfectionism and desire to succeed lived off of those compliments, unfortunately so did my eating disorder.

Lately I have been in this really weird place mentally. I miss the “old me”. I miss the control that I used to feel by being able to deny myself food. I miss the discipline and power I used to feel by being able to push my body to extreme physically, through exercise, training and even over working. I miss losing weight and positive reinforcement that I gained from that. I miss being able to go long hours without sleep and still be able to get everything that I needed to done. Part of me even misses pulling all nighters in order to get my microP board or whatever electrical engineering lab I was taking that summer, to work. I miss numbing out all emotions in order to try and be productive. I miss being that rock that never crumbled, cried or showed any kind of hurt. I miss just showing the positive side of my life, never being vulnerable and putting myself out there. And this list could continue. 

There are a lot of things that I miss and a lot of things that I have lost since starting this whole recovery thing. And lately it’s been really easy to focus on those things. And it’s been even easier to forget about the things that I have gained and even more so the things that the eating disorder and this identity took from me.
Last night I said to John, “Why did I ever think it was a good idea to start a blog?” Being the great supportive guy that he is, he said “Because it was a good idea”. Lately I have been having my doubts. I have had many moments where I wish that I hadn’t showcased this part of my life and put all of my secrets/fears/insecurities/problems so out in the open. I have wished that I could erase the entire thing, including erasing the memories of the people who have read it. (Wouldn’t that be cool?) And this really goes back to my perfectionism and how people see me and is obviously still a work in progress. Unfortunately fortunately once you put something on the internet it is there forever.  While I could go back and take down everything that I have already written and posted, I can’t change the fact that people have read it. 

And now I am rambling, because I am really bad when I lack structure. Nothing ramps up the self-doubt like trying to do something completely different, knowing that it’s going to be published for everyone to see without serious edits and deletes. 

I think what this entire post is trying to get at (and this is a big guess) is that nothing is ever perfect and that’s ok. Recovery doesn’t always seem like the path that I want to take. Sometimes I still spend hours doing things because I want them to be perfect or because of the fear of failure. I still care largely what people think about me and want to be perceived in a good light. Sometimes I miss the eating disorder and the security that it brought my life. I am not always the strong, inspirational, confident person that I try to show people. Sometimes vulnerability and shame eat me alive. And even some times I want to go back to my “pre-recovery” life. 

I don’t always know the right thing to say or write. Sometimes I don’t even know how to take care of myself or make whatever decision that I need to at the time. I am not always the most understanding girlfriend or even the best friend. I don’t even always listen to what my treatment team tells me and sometimes I am a pain in the butt to work with. Some days I think I am on top of the world and sure of everything and other days I want to curl up in a ball and hide out from life for a while.  

I used to be scared to not only feel all of this confusion, but to voice it as well. But now I realize it’s what makes me human. And as a member of t he human race, I will make mistakes, fail and regret things.  My recovery isn’t perfect, just as I am not perfect. And if you made it this far into this post, then I want to thank you for being a part of this journey with me. And I really hope that this post gives you some insight about the power of connection and being genuine. 

I will finish this post with a quote that I am probably going to have to tattoo on my forehead after posting this.

"Vulnerability is not weakness....vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage" - Dr. Brene Brown

Just for the record, I didn’t think I would actually be able to do this, as in free write an entire post and then actually post it without going back and re-reading, editing and fixing the entire thing. I thought I would make that claim and then have to go back and edit it a bunch because it would end up false. But I am here to tell you that I did it.(And the world didn’t end) So please bear with any grammar/spelling mistake and just the fact that it’s all over the place. And I challenge you to use this post as a lesson to forgive yourself, cut other people some slack (including yourself) and remember that we are all human and beautifully flawed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Power of Beliefs

Today started out like one of those days where it just seemed easier/better to crawl back into bed and start over. I didn’t sleep very well last night and I thought that I had to get up extra early for an appointment. It turns out the joke was on me, because the appointment was an hour later then I thought, so I got up super early for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON and then had to wait around because of it. *cue instant frustration* 

I complained to a few people about how I was having an off day and how things were continuing to follow that pattern.  Out of nowhere I had what I consider a “light bulb” moment. I realized that maybe I was having a bad day because I BELIEVED that I was going to have a bad day. When my alarm went off this morning and I groaned and got out of bed, I was already convinced that the day was going to suck and this was way before I ended up an hour early to my appointment or I temporarily lost my Gator ID. (Neither of which are THAT bad) 

After this realization I decided that I was going to try a little experiment, instead of continuing to believe that my day was going to continue to suck, I told myself” today is going to be a good day”. I decided that maybe if I changed my belief, my actions and the things around me would follow. After all, maybe it is really all about perspective?

Although my day hasn’t really changed either way, it hasn’t really been exceptionally bad or good; this really got me thinking about the things that we choose to believe and how those beliefs affect us. 

For the longest time I have believed a lot of negative things about myself; that I am not good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, successful enough, hardworking enough. Just take any good attribute and put enough in front of it and my doubts soar. Although I have made mistakes and have had negative things thrown my way, I have very little, if any, evidence that these things are true. Yet, I have believed them for as long as I remember.  

We are constantly being fed information; from colleagues, family, friends, the media etc. Every time we open our eyes (I was going to say step out of our door but you don’t even need to do that anymore thanks to televisions and computers) tons of information, opinions and ideas are being thrown our way. Some of this is good and a lot of it is total BS and unless we live under a rock (which would bring challenges of its own); we are probably never going to be able to escape it. However the good news is, we get to pick and choose what we believe. 

Everywhere I turn someone is telling me about the latest diet, about how being thin can get you anything you want in life, about how great over exercising is, how fat is bad, how we need to conform and listen to those around us, how we should not stand out but instead fit in, how we should do our job, run our lives and still look fabulous in the process. There are how-to guides for everything these days and ideals for everything as well. I think everyone would agree that there is a certain image of how people are supposed to live, parent, eat, work, date etc. I, and am sure others can relate, have heard this garbage for so many years, that not only have I bought into it but I have believed it to the core of my being. For the past few years, I didn’t even need anyone telling me any of this nonsense because it was so engrained in my belief system that it wasn’t necessary. I drank the Kool-Aid a long time ago and was even handing out free samples.

So now what?

Just like I have the power to alter my beliefs about the status of my day, I also have the power to change my beliefs about myself. I can continue to believe the lies that I have told myself (and sometimes heard from other people) for years and in all honesty a lot of the time I still do. But I also can choose to believe differently. And today I am going to give it a try. Instead of believing that I am not good/thin/smart/hardworking/pretty etc. enough, I am going to tell myself that I am just the right amount of all of those things. Instead of believing that giving into eating disorder behaviors is going to make me feel better and my life easier, I am going to believe that I am fully capable of handling life and all its uncertainties on my own. And most importantly, instead of hoping/thinking that all of these beliefs are going to change overnight and with this little exercise, I am going to believe that with hard work, compassion and patience they will change over time. After all, I didn’t form these beliefs overnight. 

What do you believe about yourself and how does it affect who you are and how you live your life? Because I hate going at things alone, I challenge you to think about your beliefs and where they come from. Are they actually true or helping you in any way? Do they come from outside sources or are they things that you tell yourself? Do you want to believe differently? If so, then do it. You are the only one stopping yourself.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Be Proud

My last few posts have shown a lot of doubt. I have touched a lot on my frustrations and this sense of “stuckness” that I have been feeling. And the more that I think about it, the more I realize that I really haven’t been giving myself enough credit. I find it much easier to count my slips and be super hard on myself about how far I have to go before I reach full recovery, as opposed to acknowledging the progress that I have made. It’s even easier to remember the bad moments and all of the times I have used eating disorder behaviors to cope. In fact, it’s like a running tally in my head that is always there..oh you restricted at that meal, stepped on the scale another time, didn’t honor your hunger or let that person walk all over you etc. I never seem to pass up an opportunity to berate myself. 

So tonight I am going to step out of my comfort zone and try something different. Instead of reminding myself of all of negative, I am going to take some time to share the positive things that I have done and just the little changes that I have noticed in myself that are aimed in the right direction. 
  •   I don’t hate my body every day. Today John and I played “softball” (as in catch with a baseball and gloves, ignore the fact that we did absolutely nothing related to softball) and I couldn’t help but notice how strong I am. Instead of being angry that my body is super muscular, I was happy about this. I have always been super athletic and although my hard work and persistence is largely to thank for that, so is my body type; thank you muscular thighs and strong arms. I may not be a natural softball player, but I can hold my own thanks to my water polo arm. (Although, I am still baffled by the idea that you don’t catch and throw with the same hand. Transferring the ball takes too much time.)
  • My body has been telling me exactly what it wants to eat lately and I have been listening, instead of ignoring. This morning John and I went to Panera for breakfast (my suggestion) and I tried something that I had never had before because it sounded good. Not only was that a big thing, but we decided to go there because my normal boring breakfast of Life cereal just wasn’t what I wanted. Like I have said in previous posts, I have been eating the same thing every day for breakfast whether I wanted to or not, and today that just wasn’t happening. (Side note for anyone struggling with breaking any kind of habit or routine: Rest assured, I wasn’t struck by lightning and the world didn’t end. And a little plug for Panera: Everyone should try their ham/cheese/egg breakfast sandwich and there super awesome orange juice!)
  •  I have cancer and because of new medicines/complications my body is very needy. Duh, is probably what you are thinking?  This statement probably isn’t news to you, but it was to me. For the past few weeks I have been angry at myself/body that I have needed more sleep/food and less activity and that I haven’t had my usual never ending amounts of energy. When complaining to my oncologist about this last week he responded, “You do know that you have cancer right?”*Cue very loud sigh and acknowledgement* So that is why I am here?...just kidding.  So for the past few days I have let go of the anger and have allowed myself the extra rest/nutrients that my body needs to heal. I have not only allowed myself to sleep adequate amounts at night, but I have become an avid napper again and am mostly ok with this.
  •   I told someone “NO”. Yep, you heard me correctly. I used that dreaded two letter word when I didn’t want to do something because I didn’t think that I should be the one to do it. I stood my ground and didn’t back down, even when the person laid on a long speech about how I was the best candidate and why I should do it. And the even better part, the guilt lasted less than a minute.
  • Most importantly, I have largely let go of looking to others for approval. Not only have I stopped seeking outside opinions/advice at every chance given, but I have stopped giving credence to it. Yes I am engaged and no we haven’t set wedding plans/dates yet and I really don’t care what your suggestions are or what you think about it. I also haven’t completely decided my plans for the future and don’t feel the need to explain or justify my lack of decisions to anyone. I will listen to what you have to say, but I no longer feel bad about not having answers or following your advice. I will be the boss of myself, thank you very much!
These are just the first five examples that came to mind, although I am sure there are more. Like I said, I am really bad at focusing on the positive things when it comes to me.( Look at that, I couldn’t go an entire post without pointing out something that I am bad at…hmph)

After re-reading above I had a quick moment of doubt. Of,  Do-you-really-think-that-these-simple-things-are-accomoplishments-or-things-to-be-proud-of?  To which I responded, Why yes, yes I do. I am proud of myself for everything that I have mentioned above and I won’t let anyone convince me otherwise, even myself.

Recovering from anything is hard work. It’s easy to focus on all of the times we’ve messed up and the mistakes that we have made. But I believe that it’s important to remember the positive/good things and take some time to pat ourselves on the back every now and then. Everyone has off days and times that they slip in recovery and more so in life, but by dwelling on those times we are giving them more power over us. I refuse to give the eating disorder another moment or opportunity to shine, so today I will smile and be proud of my accomplishments and I encourage everyone to do the same.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

*Insert good title here*

I am a quick fix, fast learner kind of person. When faced with some kind of task or problem I like to work quickly and efficiently until the task is done or a solution is reached. And I usually don't like to stop until this is the case. Recovery doesn't work like that and this realization has recently left me discouraged and really wanting a break. The problem is, there really isn't too much room for breaks in eating disorder recovery. Or more so they aren't helpful or productive.(And you all know how I feel about being productive) So I continue to trudge forward.

To be quite honest, lately the recovery path has been a lot of work. That combined with recently getting into law school, a recurrence of cancer, being offered something close to my dream job and getting engaged(yes you read correctly, John proposed on Saturday and I said yes!), on top of all of the normal things that life throws at you and I have been super overwhelmed. Writing, my blog and even my self-care has semi taken a back seat.

So this is where I am at and why things have been a little quiet on my blog lately. The old me would apologize a bunch of times and write some crazy statement like "I promise to try harder or do better" but that doesn't seem necessary. So instead I will leave you with this fun little picture. It doesn't matter how slow you are moving, as long as you continue to move forward. And when things settle down and I have a little more time and energy, I will go back to writing cool insightful posts that actually have substance.


Friday, March 16, 2012

What Recovery Looks Like Part II

I am not flexible in any sense of the word. I cannot bend down and accurately touch my toes and have never really been able to. I blame the fact that I have short arms, but that isn’t the point. Flexibility is really lacking in my life and goes far beyond the physical definition and the eating disorder thrives off of this. 

Lately I have found myself in this really weird place, kind of like a middle ground per say. A gray area for lack of a better term. You see, I have been in treatment for an eating disorder for close to 8 months now and if you ask anyone around me they would tell you that I have come a hell of a long way and I agree 150%. Not only have my behaviors changed greatly but my mentality and outlook on life and myself has as well.(See previous post of me eating some really yummy red velvet birthday cake or read any of my other blog posts for instant proof)  For the most part I am no longer actively “choosing” not to eat and a lot of the old eating disorder beliefs that I once clung to are long gone. I eat fairly regularly, sleep more than I would like, grocery shop when necessary, eat out occasionally, stand up for myself, share/talk about feelings and even have a pretty active social life. None of which were possible when I was deep into the disorder.

All is well in the recovery world until one thing happens: CHANGE. And it’s not just the big changes either.

For the past three weeks I have had the EXACT same thing for breakfast and lunch. (Thank you Publix for having Life cereal buy-one-get-one-free and a constant sale of some kind of deli lunch meat. ) And that isn’t necessarily a catastrophe. I mean after all I am eating and as the saying goes if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But what happens when those things aren’t available? Say someone else invites me out to lunch or I am over at John’s for breakfast or maybe even Publix runs out of Life cereal? *Cue instant panic* 

As ridiculous as it may sound, I am instantly thrown out of my comfort zone and all recovery bets are off. In those moments ED beliefs die hard. Foods gain back their morality (as in labels like “good/healthy” and “bad/unhealthy”) and all of the nonsense that I have spent the last 8 months fighting against, comes rushing back.  Anything that my nutritionist tells me sounds like BS and eating no longer seems like an option. All of the forward momentum that I have going comes to a halt and I am stuck. 

And being stuck is this gray area that I am talking about. I have spent a lot of time in therapy working through a lot of different things, along with working with a nutritionist to dispel a lot of my eating disorder beliefs and body image issues. I have read many self-help books on eating disorders and have found comfort and inspiration in many blogging communities. I have reached out to those who are recovered and asked for advice. I have even become an advocate for ending the stigma and shame around eating disorders and just changing the conversation about them in general. I have blogged about the changes in my perspective, my recovery experience and how far I’ve come. People have even come to me for inspiration, motivation and insight. I have drunk a lot of the knowledge Kool-Aid. I am far from lacking in tools or information and yet I am still stuck and OMG-IS-IT-FRUSTURATING. 

Up until now my eating and recovery has been very mechanical. Being the efficient person that I am, I have had a prescribed plan that I have followed to a tee. I have seen the members of my treatment team regularly, followed some kind of structured food plan and have done everything that seemed to follow the quickest path to freedom and recovery. I have sat/cried/yelled through a lot of uncomfortable moments and worked through a lot of pain. I have and continue to put in the blood, sweat and tears. The problem is, life doesn’t come with a manual and neither does recovery. Although people can share their experiences, there isn’t a how-to-guide or a timeline of when things get better/change. Recovering is a process, and not even a linear one, much to my dismay. 

So what does that mean?

Hell if I know. Lately I have just been pissed off, feel like I have been led astray. When does it really get better? When does it get easier? When do I actually practice what I preach 100% of the time? When does the eating disorder ALWAYS sound like a bad thing? When will restricting no longer seem like an option? When will I enjoy EVERY food and no longer be tormented by food rules? When will I reach that zen like freedom that those who have recovered seem to share? When will I love my body or even accept it for what it is? When will my fear of gaining weight go away? When will I be able to honestly spew out all of that amazing self-love that some of my fellow bloggers do so freely? When will I believe in myself and have that amazing confidence that everyone else seems to see in me? When will the rational/logical side of my brain with all of the information that I know, completely override the irrational eating disorder self-destructive side?

Unfortunately, I don’t know the answers to any of these questions and I have a funny sense that no one can tell me them either, that this is another one of those crappy things that  I just need to “sit with” and “work through” and all of that other therapy jargon I have heard so frequently. And ugh I am sick of that. 

So yeah, this blog post is really odd. I started writing about flexibility and planned to talk about how learning to be flexible is a big hurdle in my recovery but instead wrote a mini rant about my current stuckness in recovery. Maybe they are related? Maybe not? Maybe my current headache and exhaustion (even after sleeping a lot) is causing my focus and frustration to be a little off? Maybe my recent denial of I-am-not-actively-restricting-my-intake-but-am-not-always-eating-enough is playing a role? Maybe I am just angry? Or most likely it’s a combination of all of the above.  Either way, if you stuck it out and were able to follow through this entire post, then you deserve a gold star in my book. If not, no harm no foul, we can still be friends. 

Instead of completely deleting this post which is what I would normally do or trying to really change it and make it more structured and less messy, I am going to post it exactly how it is. If nothing else, it shows that I am human and also shows both sides of recovery. Even though a lot of my posts are insightful and positive, I still have my doubts and my struggles and I think this post makes that clear. So just like the title of yesterday’s post, this is what recovery looks like Part II.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What Recovery Looks like

Enjoying a piece of cake on your birthday....

And possibly going back for seconds because your boyfriend is a wonderful baker!:)

Edit- And a cute dog with crazy eyes creeping in the background! 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Eating Disorders as Illnesses, Not Choices

This post is something that I have wanted to write for a really long time, but I really needed time to do some research and even sit with my own opinions on the issue. I also needed to let go of my previous very stubborn beliefs and admit to myself that I had been wrong and well that is never easy to do. 

Eating disorders are not choices, they are illnesses. That statement is easy enough to type and I have spewed it out on my blog before and other places, but I never really thought about what I was saying and definitely didn’t believe it. Before seeking treatment and early in my recovery, I thought that I was CHOOSING to just make really horrible decisions. I figured that since I was the one actively not eating, exercising too much and not taking care of myself, that I was the problem, or more so that my choices were the problem. After all, I had all of the power in the world to just do things differently. 

And this is true in a sense; we are all in charge of our own actions and behaviors. But my “choices” were really symptoms of the eating disorder. I sat down over and over again with food in front of me and internally yelled at myself to “just eat the damn food” or “are you fucking kidding me? Just make the right choice”. And time after time I failed and left even more discouraged and upset. I had a very strong fear of going grocery shopping. It may sound irrational, but I would get so anxious and shaky that I couldn’t set foot in a grocery store without crying or having a full blown panic attack. 

Do you think I chose that? Do you really think at 24 years old I wanted to be as scared of something as simple as going into the grocery store? 

Like I said above, eating disorders are not choices, they are illnesses. Would you tell someone with cancer to stop choosing to be sick? Or how about tell the tumors to stop growing or cancer cells to stop multiplying? Or even better, would you yell at them for throwing up after the first round of chemotherapy? 

God I hope not. 

We, as those suffering from eating disorders and those that aren’t, including the medical community, need to really learn a lesson from this. As well meaning as the intentions may be, yelling at someone or becoming frustrated because they are “choosing” not to eat or engage in other eating disorder behaviors isn’t going to fix the problem. In fact, if they are anything like me, it is going to make it worse. For the longest time I felt like a complete idiot for the times that I restricted again or for how “pathetic” it was that I couldn’t even buy food for myself. I would spend countless hours every night before bed berating and yelling at myself to “just do it”. And the cycle just continued. 

So how can you help?

If you suffer from an eating disorder, stop believing that you are inherently flawed and are just really bad at making choices. Step up to the plate and seek help and support, but from the right kind of people. If you are a family member or a friend of someone with an eating disorder, stop the shaming and blaming, we as sufferers do it to ourselves enough on our own.  Help support your loved ones by being there to listen to them, make them laugh through a meal and remind them that they are not alone in this. As far as the medical community goes, do your research. Stop treating those with eating disorders like misbehaved kids, but instead with the kindness and compassion that you would treat patients with other illnesses.  Take the time to listen to WHY someone is struggling with the destructive behaviors and learn how to help them get passed it, without making them feel bad. Shaming, evoking fear and blaming don’t work. Nor do punishments or rewards.

Something that I would like to make clear is that having an eating disorder doesn’t make me powerless, or does having cancer. Every day I CHOOSE to stay in recovery, just like I choose to take my meds and go to the doctor regularly to have blood work/scans done.  I choose to continue seeing a therapist, working with a nutritionist and doing my damned best to follow the advice they are giving me. Every morning I make a decision whether I want to actively fight against the illnesses that I have or not, but the element of choice stops there. 

I did not choose to have an eating disorder or cancer. And neither did you. Choose to get better, by following whatever the best protocol for your illness is. But don’t continue to subscribe to the idea that illnesses are choices, especially eating disorders. 

Here is a video that I watched a few weeks ago that I think goes perfectly with this post:

I know this post is a very sensitive topic. If you don’t agree, then that is ok. But please be respectful of the fact that this is my blog and this is about my journey. I have spent most of my life believing that eating disorders are choices and unfortunately old beliefs die hard. But through research and my personal experience I have seen otherwise. For me recovery has largely been about letting go of old beliefs and patterns of thoughts that have kept me trapped for years and that are just wrong, and I really think that this is one of them.