Monday, April 30, 2012

A taste of freedom

This kind of goes with my last post from earlier and kind of doesn’t. Today I had some extra free time and the desire to write, so this is what you get. 

When a friend talks about skipping a meal, I no longer get jealous or want to do the same. When I hear people complaining about how they need to lose weight for bikini season, I don’t feel obligated to join in. When my roommate goes for a run at 10pm, I don’t envy her or wish that it was me. When I see a person who is underweight or skinny, I don’t feel the need to compare our bodies or wish to be like them. When I hear a person behind me in the grocery store discussing how “bad” she is being for buying X, I want to give her a hug and explain to her that it’s just food and she has nothing to feel bad about. When I come across nutritional information, I have no desire to read it. When I eat a little more than intended or things that used to be forbidden, I don’t feel the need to compensate. When I walk in/leave Publix, I have no desire to step on the scale. When I slip and have a hard day, asking for help doesn’t seem like a foreign concept. When I make a mistake, I don’t feel the need to punish myself or make myself feel worse. When invited out to dinner, I don’t feel the need to make excuses or avoid going. When asked to do something that was unplanned, I don’t immediately turn it down. When John says it’s time to stop playing softball, I don’t feel the need to continue or feel guilty for quitting. When I sleep in later than normal or take an extra nap, I don’t feel lazy or judge myself. When I am sick or don’t feel well, I don’t have a problem with taking a break or some time off. When I am faced with diet talk and body bashing/shaming, I don’t feel the need to defend myself or my recovery, but instead change the subject. When people make comments about my eating, size or body, I don’t feel the need to listen or internalize any of it. When people don’t agree with my stance or opinion, I don’t feel that I need to change or justify it. When people don’t like what I have to say or write, I don’t feel the need to agonize about it or apologize for it. When someone does something that isn’t ok or treats me in a way that I don’t want to be treated, I don’t feel the need to put up with it nor spend a single minute believing that I deserve it. When someone tries to tell me how to live my life or give me unsolicited advice, I don’t feel bad sticking up for myself and even ignoring it. When looking in the mirror, I don’t always hate what I see. 

All of these things are minor miracles. These are the things that show me how far I have come and the person that I am becoming. These are the things that I measure my progress by. These are the things that give me hope and make me feel normal. These are the things that I couldn’t and wouldn’t have said 9 months ago or even 2 months ago at that. These are the things that I will remind myself of when I am having an off day or a rough time. These are the things that are important and give me peace of mind. These are the things that I am proud to share. These are my triumphs in recovery. These are my accomplishments and they are pretty freaking awesome if you ask me. 

After writing this post, part of me feels like I need a huge disclaimer. Like this post makes me seem a lot further in recovery then I actually am, especially given last week’s slips. But I truly believe everything that I wrote above, including believing in myself and my recovery and also that this isn’t black and white. It isn’t all or nothing. There are more options then deep in the eating disorder and the “perfect” recovery. There is an in between and this is what it looks like for me. 

Oh how the tides have turned

Over the last few days it’s been really evident to me how far I have come in this recovery journey and not because everything has been going smoothly. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I NEVER turn to eating disorder behaviors or that most of the thoughts are gone, because that would be a big lie, but I have noticed a big change. 

Last week I had a few rough days; days that I could have easily pretended that never happened. I could have kept my mouth shut, told no one and filed them in the “keep-to-myself/did-not-happen” folder. And it was tempting at first. Then it wasn’t. The longer I tried to keep them a secret, the more they defined me and the worst I felt. And sure enough, they kept happening. So I spoke up, let go of the shame and started talking. After that not only was it a lot easier to end the cycle and get back on track but I felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. (Too bad it wasn’t my thighs or my butt, but that’s a different story)Keeping secrets really isn’t my thing, especially ones that are only hurting me. 

After a few rough days, it was really hard to keep them from continuing. A big part of the problem for me is getting trapped in patterns. I like routine and once I do something 1 day or 4, on the 5th day I want to do it again. It becomes habit and like I have to do it, even when it’s something harmful or not productive to me or my recovery. And this is exactly how I get sucked back in every time. So the 5th day rolls around and I am unsure of what to do. The urges, thoughts and feelings are there as is the repetition from the day before and the promise lie of comfort. So instead of continuing the cycle I call John up and ask him to go to lunch with me. (Ok, I guess I should be honest here and give him most of the credit. He invited me to lunch and I said no. Then he reminded me a few hours later that the offer was still there and probably a good idea, so I obliged. He knows me pretty well.) After, instead of engaging in any other eating disorder behaviors I spent 3 hours getting my craft on. * For details look at picture posted below* Just a little disclaimer: crafting isn’t really my thing and happens once in a blue moon, so hold the judgments. It is also insanely hard to do anything related to crafting when you have a kitten who tries to eat everything, including paper, plastic scissors and tape. I promise that I feed him. 

Cue a few days later, as in last night and I found myself in a rough spot. I was overwhelmed and anxious about the future; wedding planning, law school, house hunting, job searching etc and the eating disorder was whispering sweet nothings into my ear. And let me tell you, they sounded fantastic. There is nothing that I enjoy more than an escape from reality when it feels like the walls are caving in, especially with a false hope of weight loss. When things are going well in my life, recovery seems awesome but when anxiety and fear get the best of me, the ED and I are complete bffs.  I considered the offer for a little while and it was extra tempting because I knew that I could get away with it. I knew this could have been another one of those times when I could do whatever and no one would have to know, except for me of course. (The guilt is usually what gets me to speak up) And then I remembered how I felt the other night, the consequences of last week and how the relief would only be temporary. My wedding wouldn’t instantly get planned, John and I wouldn’t magically find a house and jobs wouldn’t just fall into my lap. Real life would still exist; I would just have to deal with it feeling even more miserable.  So then I did the best and only thing that I could think of doing, I called John and asked if I could come over to his place and hang out. I told him that I was having a rough night and that I really didn’t want it to end like nights earlier in the week and the best way that I could think of to avoid that was getting out of my apartment and not being alone. It took a lot of courage and strength to call and ask for help instead of engaging in behaviors and it didn’t even feel very good. No warm fuzzies, but instead uncomfortable feelings to sit with and process. I felt needy and ridiculous for not being able to handle it alone and for using my fiancĂ© as a distraction to not engage in self-destructive behaviors. Although, we both always enjoy the time that we spend together, no matter what the reason and this was no different.

Today I am proud of myself for everything that I have mentioned above. To a normal person, these may not seems like big feats, but for me they are a big deal. Months or even a few weeks ago I kept behaviors to myself until way after the fact to avoid the shame and disappointment that I felt for giving in. This never once benefited me. I never reached out to people in the moment, when I was feeling super vulnerable and about to give in. While sharing these setbacks after the fact is helpful, as I can figure out ways to avoid them next time, it’s even more helpful to avoid them in the first place. Although my slips are not as frequent as they used to be, I normally just let them happen. After all, it’s easier that way. It’s an excuse to try one more time and while distracting myself isn’t easy, it’s where the true progress lies.  I still get caught in the cycle of shame for wanting to give into the eating disorder. Knowing the consequences and my previous experiences, most of the time I feel like I should know better. But whether I should or shouldn’t doesn’t matter. Some days I can handle everything on my own and other days I need all of the help that I can get. I am starting to realize that reaching out and asking for help doesn’t make me needy but it makes me smart. It doesn’t matter what it takes to keep me from engaging in self-destructive behaviors, as long as they are avoided. It doesn’t matter how and when I get to the finish line as long as I eventually get there. 

It’s easy to get discouraged with all of the ups and downs of recovery. I continuously long for the day when eating disorder behaviors and thoughts are non-existent for me. And I know that day will come eventually. Since I blog about my life and my recovery, I feel added pressure. I want to be uplifting and positive all of the time, but that would be fake and unrealistic and has never gotten me anywhere before except further down the eating disorder denial hole of hell. Today I am glad that I am able to recognize my progress and see a difference. I consider the last week a test of my strength and perseverance. I am glad that I am using my resources and the amazing support system that I have on my side. I am proud that I am able to share my set backs without judgment and hopefully paint a clear picture of recovery from an eating disorder. It’s not always positive and it’s nowhere near perfect and that is the beauty of it all. 

 Sorry for the horrible picture quality!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Letting Go

For the past few months I have been living in this middle ground area; one foot firmly planted in recovery and the other hanging on for dear life to the eating disorder. Minus the slips here and there, I haven’t completely crawled my way back to the disorder but I haven’t been ready to really let go either.  I have been convinced that this is a good place to be at; after all it’s a pretty high functioning place. I can pretty much lead the life that I want to lead with minimal drawbacks. My body is no longer in danger nor is my health and I am not quite as obsessive as I used to be. I can step out of my comfort zone when necessary, try new foods, be flexible and even pat myself on the back every now and again. I don’t count calories or completely freak out when I eat something that was once forbidden and can exercise without going overboard. I even ate fast food yesterday for the first time in almost a year and it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I had anticipated. The number on the scale is becoming just a number and my goal to change it has faded. I’ve even found myself complimenting my body on occasion and truly appreciating it for all that it does. 

Yet, I don’t want to completely close the door. I don’t want to loosen the grip that the eating disorder has on my one foot and fully let go and my only explanation for this is fear. 

My eating disorder has been a buffer; a fall back option when things get hard. And even though I trust my ability to handle life and everything that is throws at me, it’s really hard to let go of that security blanket. For me, recovery has largely been about letting go; letting go of the behaviors, beliefs, patterns and traps that I have held on to for so many years, including a lot of the false information I have fed myself or taken from others. It’s also meant letting go of the impossible expectations that I set for myself and learning to worry less about what others think about me. My recovery has been so much more then learning how to eat right, take care of myself and listen to my body. And it’s those “extras” that keep me hanging on to the disorder. 

What if people don’t like the person that I am becoming? What if I am no longer able to connect to old friends or people that I used to be close to? What if I am no longer as dependable, motivated or driven? How will others react when I don’t always put them before myself or tell them no? What about when I am no longer the super competitive athlete that everyone admired and looked up to? What about when I truly love and accept my body and have to let go of being thin or perfect? What about when I fail, cry, make a mistake and can’t just brush it off as easily as I used to? Or when I am not the strong one holding it together for everyone else and comforting everyone in times of distress? What if I can’t be the person that I used to be or live up to all of the labels that I have adopted for years? Or when I have to face the emotions and feelings that I have been numbing out for years? What happens when things get overwhelming and I have to deal with them head on? 

All of these questions are the fears that keep me stuck. They are the reason that I just can’t close the door. They are the reasons that I have fallen into the eating disorder grips over and over again. And as you can see, they have nothing to do with food. 

This middle ground area is nice and comforting. It’s almost like the best of both worlds. I can enjoy some of the freedoms that recovery brings but also still go back if necessary. I can have my cake and eat it too and that is why it’s so appealing.

Yet, deep down inside I know that this place is only temporary. I know that in order to truly recover from my eating disorder and live a full life, I have to let go. I have to uproot my foot and close the door. I have to believe in myself 100% and not worry so much about the fears listed above. I have to let go of the past and everything related to it. 

Nine months ago I didn’t think I would ever be able to eat normally again. I didn’t think I would still be alive. I didn’t think recovery would ever be possible for me and I didn’t think I would have come as far as I have. I had different fears, questions and things holding me back and I didn’t think I would ever overcome them. And I have. 

One day I will be able to look back and say the same about all of this. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Compassion- In real life

"You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens. " ~Louise L. Hay

I have talked a lot on this blog about having compassion for ourselves and my usual lack of it for myself. For a long time it’s been one of the missing pieces in my recovery, even more so in my life. It’s also been one of the hardest things to learn to adopt. It’s all about mindfulness and practice and I am working on it.

But the past few days have been different. It’s been easier. I have found myself being gentler and more understanding towards myself. Instead of criticizing, I have been questioning in a non-judgmental way. Instead of feeling shame, I have been accepting and really just owning my feelings, emotions, behaviors and even struggles. No apologies or justifications necessary. And it’s made a huge difference. Not only in my mood, but in how I feel about myself and my recovery. I feel this sense of relief and freedom and it’s pretty darn amazing. To me, this is what having compassion for yourself means in practice and real life.

I recently started exercising again. Although I am really hesitant to use the word “exercise” because it usually ends badly for me. So I will re-write that and say that I have been more active recently. Last week I got back in the pool for the first time in 8 months and it was quite a humbling experience. Before getting in the pool I was super nervous and anxious. I even hung out in the locker room for about 20 minutes debating whether swimming was the best idea.

I was worried. Worried about what those around me would think since I was pretty out of shape and hadn’t been in a pool in months. Worried about how I looked in my swim suit, since the last time that I was in one I weighed a good 20lbs less and was super tan. Worried that the people around me would all be so much better/faster/more in shape than me and think that I was a joke and question why I even bothered coming. Worried that I would let myself down and not be able to live up to the “swimmer” label that I have held on to for years. (Letting go of labels that I have adopted over the years has been a huge struggle for me and has been one of the biggest things holding me back from completely letting go.)

And then I got in the pool. And a few days later I went back. And a few days after that I went back again. And on the third day, all of those worries were gone.** And It wasn’t because I was magically the swimmer that I used to be or because I had lost weight or even because I was in better shape, because none of those are true, but instead because I let go of all of those insecurities. I let go of the shame that I was feeling and those expectations that I had for myself. I let go of the fear and doubts that were holding me back. I let go of all of the comparing that I had been doing and the narcissistic assumption that anyone swimming around me would even notice my abilities or really care. I let it all go and with that I was able to truly enjoy myself and continue to go back.

One thing that this experience taught me is that you can’t let go of something until you accept it for what it is.  No more pretending or avoiding. I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t feel any of those things or have any of those doubts. I couldn’t pretend that I wasn’t angry or frustrated with myself either. I couldn’t pretend that my fears and feelings didn’t exist. I couldn’t just tell myself to ignore it or suck it up. If I did, I would have ended up in the same self-hatred cycle that I have been in many times before and I probably would have never gotten in the water or gone back again. In order to be able to move past this experience, I had to allow myself to accept and understand all of the above. I had to own it, embrace it and be ok with it.

And then let it go.

And I did. And believe it or not, it wasn’t as awful as I had pictured. I wasn’t greeted by butterflies or warm fuzzy feelings, but I felt relieved and authentic. It felt amazing and freeing all at the same time; like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders and I could finally breathe. I not only felt better about myself in the water while swimming, but I felt like I finally understood how helpful necessary being compassionate towards yourself is.

So that brings me to tonight. Tonight something interesting happened; something confusing yet also pretty amazing and for once something that I am not one bit ashamed to share. John and I went to dinner, just like we do on most nights. He wanted Bento and I wanted soup from Panera. (I have been fighting a sore throat for the last few days) We decided that we would get both and then just eat together at one of the places. After some debate I decided to just get something from Bento because I figured it would be more filling then soup and it would be easier. I was hungry and I didn’t want to turn dinner into a fiasco.

Shortly after arriving home from dinner I found myself really hungry. I had eaten most of my meal from Bento so I was confused. In the past I would have completely ignored this and even made myself feel bad about it. (Because we have so much control over our bodies hunger right?) But I decided to let go of my past rules and beliefs (read as ED nonsense) and allow myself to honor my body/hunger and eat something. No questions, explanations or justifications necessary. I was hungry; therefore I was going to eat. A lot of the time I feel the need to justify my eating to myself and those around me, as if I actually need reasons other then being hungry to eat.

Earlier today I made some pretty amazing oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, so those were options. My roommate bought cupcakes from Publix that she had been talking about all day and had offered to me on many occasions, so those where there as well. I also recently bought strawberry preserves that I had been thinking about making into a delicious pbj sandwich for a few days now. They all sounded pretty amazing. I couldn’t decide.

So I didn’t. I had some of it all and ended up eating way more than I probably needed. I can honestly say that I enjoyed all of it, although could have probably had the same satisfaction with a little less.(I think my body would have liked a little less as well) After eating I felt a lot fuller then I am used to and a little uncomfortable.(A little background: One of my biggest struggles throughout my eating disorder and even times in my life when I have been eating semi-normally is the fear of overeating and the fear of being full. Even as far as I have come in recovery, I am still super hesitant about allowing myself to eat enough to feel the fullness that most people feel often and most of the time I barely eat enough, never anything close to overeating.) I started to panic a little. And then I stopped. Before the level of shame and guilt could overcome me I stopped. I didn’t question what I had done or make myself feel bad about it. I didn’t start to make promises about how I would restrict tomorrow to compensate or how I would never allow myself another cookie/cupcake again. I didn’t freak out and send an email of panic to my nutrition therapist or play the shame game. In fact, I didn’t feel bad about it at all. Instead I took a deep breath and let it go.

I was full. Maybe I overate. Maybe my body didn’t need both the cookies and the cupcakes. Maybe it did. Maybe my body is still making up for the restriction of the past few weeks or the extra activity that I have been doing. Maybe the food just tasted that amazing that it was worth stepping out of my comfort zone for. Maybe this was necessary or maybe it wasn't. 

The point of the matter is, in both of these cases I reacted with compassion. And because of that I was able to let go and move on much sooner and learn about myself in the process. I didn't waste time dwelling on my mistakes or beating myself up for my feeling and this is a pretty new thing for me. Having compassion for myself is still a work in progress, but both of these examples are proof that it's possible.

**Funny side note: As soon as I wrote on the third day, I really wanted to write “he rose again”. Thank you Catholic upbringing.


If you have the time, I would really encourage you to watch this video. It's pretty inspiring and will make you smile! : )

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The small things-why I choose recovery

You know what the best part of recovery is? Being able to smile, laugh and enjoy the little things.

I know that I talked about writing a comprehensive post about what I have gained in recovery and I will eventually do that. But tonight I want to discuss the small things; the things that made this weekend so wonderful and have really helped me recover from the recent slip that I had.

-Going to Gator softball games and being able to be 100% present. Cheering and even heckling the other team some. (Or yelling at John for doing so)

- Playing with/watching Tigger be the adorable playful kitten that he is. (Even when he gets high off of catnip and goes insane at 5 am and tries to eat my arm/hand/hair and everything else in my room.) 

- Genuinely laughing with (and at) John. 

- Testing out my new softball bat; being able to run/catch/throw/bat because I have the energy to do so and because I WANT to. (By the way, I totally missed my calling) 

- Smiling (self explanatory) 

-Getting Frosty’s because it’s super hot out and I live next door to Wendy’s. 

-Swimming; Having the energy and desire to get back in the pool after 8 months.

- Appreciating my body, for everything mentioned above.

The list above isn’t very big and all of these things could also easily be done with the eating disorder. But there is a big difference. The exercise wasn’t done compulsively, to lose weight or because I felt like I should, but instead for enjoyment. The activities were spontaneous and weren’t a part of my normal rigid routine. And the food was just food, not a struggle or big deal. And the smile/laughter was real. With the eating disorder I lose the ability to be present and feel anything, including good things.

This list above is significant for me because it shows that I am out living my life. A life that I cannot have with the eating disorder. And it’s weekends like these that remind me why I choose recovery. 

I came across this song and YouTube video on Friday and I really think it fits perfectly with my life right now and everything in it. I also love me some good lyrics. (And Bruno Mars) Enjoy! 

"I will break these chains that bind me, happiness will find me
leave the past behind me, today my life begins,
a whole new world is waiting It's mine for the taking,
I know I can make it, today my life begins"