Sunday, September 30, 2012

Living Proof

Today I can actually imagine things getting better. Although I am not there yet I can picture a life without the eating disorder. I can imagine living authentically, happily and every day to the fullest. I can imagine actually being at peace with food and even more so with myself. I don't have a solid plan or time frame when I think this may happen but it no longer seems impossible. I know that my pain isn't in vain and that some day I will be triumphant in this battle.I will survive and I will thrive. I will eventually use my story and my experience to help others.

Over the last week I have done some serious soul searching. It hasn't been easy or anywhere near perfect. I have stumbled and fallen but have continuously gotten back up. It's been uncomfortable, painful and confusing. I know it's just the beginning. I know the road ahead is going to be full of a lot of hard work and even more tears but I truly believe that I can do this. Even if its temporary, at this very moment I believe in myself and right now that is good enough for me.

A lot of this optimism comes from within, it's in my personality to be positive and enthusiastic, but I know that I would have never gotten to this place if it wasn't for the amazing love and support that has been shown to me. Although it has been here all along, in this past week the encouragement that I have received has been phenomenal. Saying thank you wouldn't even begin to do the gratitude that I feel justice.

I believe that recovering from an eating disorder and learning to accept and love myself completely is going to be the hardest thing that I will ever have to do. In fact, I witness this every single day. Some days I truly can't imagine things getting any harder. But even in my moments of doubt, which there are plenty, I wouldn't trade this for anything. Although I can't see the finish line, each day I am reminded of why I keep going. I am not a victim, I am a survivor. A fighter. A conqueror. I will overcome this. And trust me when I say that if I can, so can you.



Saturday, September 29, 2012

Voice of Truth

This morning when I woke up I kept waiting to be overcome with dread. I was waiting for the omg-I-can't-believe-I-thought-it-was-a-good-idea-to-post-my-bathroom-binge-expirence-for-the-entire-world-to-read. I was waiting for the fear of judgement and the moment when I convinced myself that everyone thought I was truly crazy, awful, horrible, unlovable, a failure ( feel free to insert any other bad adjective here).  I was prepared to be overcome with shame and not want to face the world. But it didn't happen. I didn't regret it, feel that it was a horrible idea or even really think twice about what other people might have thought. I didn't care.

As I re-read my own post I had mixed emotions. Part of me saw someone who was in a lot of pain and I felt for that person. The other part of me was wowed; amazed by the courageousness of sharing such vulnerability and hope. Then a thought ran across my mind. I wasn't worried about other peoples judgement/hate/negative comments because I knew that they couldn't be any worse than the stuff that I tell myself every day. This thought caused me to stop for a second and I felt pain and sadness well up in my chest.

Fast forward to lunch. I sat at the table with a sandwich in front of me, completely full of rage. Inside my head the eating disorder was screaming at me for being hungry, needing to eat, actually wanting to follow my meal plan. With clenched fists and a lot of tension, I ate the sandwich, one bite at a time but the anger just kept building. Just an hour earlier I had stepped on a scale and saw a higher number than I had previously and this was just fueling the fire.All of the anger was directed internally and I just wanted to punish myself. At that moment I just wanted to do something self destructive.

But I didn't.

A very tiny part of me didn't want to hurt myself. A very small part of me wanted to give myself a hug. To remind myself that all of the things that I was currently being told were lies and it really was going to be ok. This voice was so quiet, yet so powerful and reassuring. It felt like the truth.

For the next few minutes John and I searched for any glass in the house that we didn't care about. (yay to the fact that we recycle) We drove out to an empty parking lot and one by one I threw glass objects at the ground.(don't worry, we picked it up) I wasn't angry at myself. With each thing that I threw I got angry at the eating disorder. I got pissed about all of the false beliefs that I have internalized over the years and all of the pain it has caused. I didn't blame myself. I wasn't ashamed or full of guilt. I wasn't even angry for all of the times I have given into the eating disorder. I was angry for all of the time I have spent believing that I am not good enough, unlovable, unworthy and a failure. That my weight makes me a horrible person. That I will never overcome this. I wasn't mad at me, I was mad for me.

This was one of the most cathartic and eye opening experiences of my life. It was me fighting for myself, instead of against myself. It was freeing and amazing. I came home feeling empowered; like that maybe there could be an end to my pain and suffering and I could finally unchain myself from the eating disorder and other self destructive stuff.

I am an empathetic, loving, compassionate person with a huge heart. I am good at listening and taking care of others and I pride myself on being giving and helpful. For the first time in my entire life I feel like I used these positive qualities for myself and it didn't feel wrong. For the longest time I have been trying to "hate myself healthy". I have believed that maybe if I just hate myself enough I will be able to overcome all of this, but instead have fallen deeper into depression, self hatred and anorexia. External factors are no longer holding me back, years of internalized beliefs and negativity are. The eating disorder is fueled by shame, secrets and self hatred. Continuously allowing this to all fester in my head is holding me back. Although it's hard to overcome something that has had years to build momentum, I now know another voice exists.A voice of truth. My voice. And I will not allow it to be silenced anymore.





Friday, September 28, 2012

Shame

Tuesday night I found myself sitting on the rug in my bathroom scarfing down any food that I could get my hands on. Previously, in between doing dishes I was opening the cabinets and searching for all of the forbidden foods that I don't normally allow myself to eat. I wanted everything and at that moment didn't want a single thing to stop me. I was hungry, starving actually after days/months/years of restricting yet I was so full of shame this felt like my only option.The fact that in that moment I needed help and more food was too much for me to handle. I was so hungry yet angry about the fact that I was hungry, that eating in secret seemed like the answer. I didn't want anyone to know that I was hungry or eating (two things that equal being needy, selfish and too much in my mind), so there I sat huddled on the bathroom floor in tears, eating all that I could, while John sat in the other room. After this I immediately went to bed. I had to. I was so full of self hate and paralyzed by shame and fear. I wanted to forget and pretend like the entire thing didn't happen.

The next day I decided that the solution to last nights "problem" was to go back to restricting my food intake and just keep the entire thing to myself. Even thinking about it brought up so much shame, that I couldn't imagine sharing it with anyone, even my nutritionist. Around noon I took my lunch break at work. I didn't plan on eating. I repeated over and over again "I don't need food", a very well known thought in my head, yet I couldn't hold back how I was feeling. I couldn't hold back the tears; the sadness that I felt for denying myself what I truly needed, the pain from all of the self hatred and the shame from all of the secrets. For a brief moment, in between a lot of negativity and eating disorder thoughts, I decided that I couldn't continue to live like this. I realized that my life was being destroyed and consumed by shame. It wasn't just around food, it was around everything. I felt ashamed for needing things, for wanting others to like/love me, for having an eating disorder, for struggling to take care of myself, for needing to ask for help, for being good at my job, for my personality, for having likes and desires, for being too much etc.Although incredibly painful and hard to swallow, this thought forced me to pick up my phone and call John, who was also on his lunch break. Through a lot of tears I told him what had happened the night before and asked if he could talk to me while I attempted to eat lunch. It was difficult but at the same time relieving.

Tonight I am writing this post and sharing this painful story in attempt to eliminate some of the shame. Although it was quite an eye opening experience, I have easily fallen back into the same patterns over the past few days. After restricting and not following my meal plan for a few days I was overwhelmed by hunger yet again. Although I followed my meal plan today, tonight I had the same urge to eat anything and everything, in secret. The entire night I have had the eating disorder screaming in my ear telling me that I am needy, selfish and too much for needing/wanting more food and being hungry and a failure because I can't even eat like a normal person. I have had many moments where I want to give in and not in a healthy way, yet tonight I refuse to allow shame to win.

Even though I can realize that a lot of my beliefs are illogical and even wrong, I can't instantly ignore or erase the things that I have been telling myself for years. I can't just "snap out of" using eating disorder behaviors to cope. My hunger and fullness signals are still very messed up and I have no concept of "normal" eating. I have no clue how much food my body actually needs and most of the time I am too scared to even begin to experiment to figure that out. I am constantly consumed by shame and anxiety for needing things and even more so for asking for help. I don't know how to separate my feelings and problems from my relationship with food. On most days I feel like I am stumbling around in the dark yet I am learning to use my treatment team, John and friends for guidance. I don't have all or many of the answers yet I refuse to give up. I have read stories and know personally people who have recovered from eating disorders. Although I can't even begin to imagine it, especially for myself, I continue to hang on to the possibility. Shame will NOT win.

Friday, September 14, 2012

"It's not about the food"

"It's not about the food." I can't even begin to tell you how much I have heard this phrase in the last year. Yes, eating disorder recovery involves changing your relationship with food. It involves eating and letting go of whatever way you use food to cope in your life. Without adequate nutrition you cannot recover from an eating disorder, no matter how much other work you do. But your behaviors, feelings, actions, beliefs and reactions around food usually mirror something much larger and this is what I mean when I say, "it's not about the food."

I have an intense fear of eating too much and of being full. This fear combined with all of my years of under-eating has completely thrown my body signals as well as my perception out of whack. While some people actually struggle with eating too much, physically stuffing themselves to being uncomfortably full, this isn't the case for me. Throughout the last year there have been many times that I have complained of being way too full and eating too much. I have laid curled up in fetal position on the couch practically withering in pain and uncomfortableness. Although it may sound overly dramatic, in the moment it's how I feel. I've gone into my nutritionists office complaining that "it's just too much food", "that there is no possibly way I can eat another bite". Each time she has responded with the question "What's too much? because it's not the food."

Last night John and I ate dinner. I followed my meal plan and ate what I needed to eat. Although it was a bigger dinner then the night before it wasn't a large amount of food. About an hour after we finished eating I was consumed by omg-too-much-food-I-am-way-too-full feelings. It wasn't completely mental as I felt hyper aware of my body and my stomach actually hurt some. Being the amazing, supportive guy that he is, John comforted me and reminded me that I didn't eat too much and that these feelings will pass. Instead of distracting myself, which is my usual way to deal with this, I sat through the discomfort and tried to tap into what I was feeling under this. For the next 20minutes I shared with John my fears and frustrations from the day. Out came my fear of being noticed and seen by others and of being too much and too big in this world. I don't want to go into details for privacy purposes, but it was some pretty deep and intense stuff. Sharing with him didn't make the feelings and fears go away but I was now able to breathe. Instead of feeling overwhelmed I felt ok. The fullness that I felt was 100% completely gone. Less than an hour before I couldn't imagine ever having room to eat another bite and now just after I was already starting to think about my before bed snack.

I was shocked. Although on a logical level I can realize that most of the time I am not eating too much, it's hard to truly believe something when you haven't experienced it yourself. Last night I saw first hand that it really isn't about the food and that my feelings of "too much" are much deeper than the amount of food I am eating. Although this realization didn't cause the fears and beliefs to diminish and I know the struggle will still be there, I feel a little more confident that once I begin to heal some of the underlying issues and work through the shame and false beliefs, I will be able to fix and change my relationship with food.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reasons for Recovery

Yesterday I ate lunch at the mall food court in between my therapy appointment and work. I sat near an area that is designed for kids; there are big tables for adults near small tables for children. As I ate lunch I couldn't help but enjoy the company of a group of 3 small children sitting near by. As they sat enjoying their Chick Fila, I felt a sense of peace and calmness that I am not used to feeling, especially when food is involved. Their simplicity, innocence and joy was contagious, as was their ability to feed themselves. With ketchup and bbq sauce all over their hands, mouths and table, they happily sat and ate, untouched by external cues or rules. Besides the fact that I just love being around children, this was truly inspiring to me. For that moment everything felt ok.

Later at work I was surrounded by coworkers, board games and more pizza and bread sticks then you can ever imagine possible. I happened to be lucky enough to be apart of the team that won the summer challenge at work and was rewarded with a party. For two hours, we enjoyed laughter, food, games and just enjoying each others company. While I had a great time and was truly myself, I didn't allow myself to partake in any of the food and felt a sense of sadness. Although I love the work that I do, my coworkers are a big part of what makes work so enjoyable. The friendships that I have built since starting this job are irreplaceable and add to the joy of coming into work every day.

I know that recovery is a process and isn't linear; some days it's a few steps forward, others one or two back. Through each meal or uncomfortable situation I remind myself of why I continue to push forward. On some days this isn't as obvious to me and I use my support system to help remind me. In the moment when I am struggling greatly and feel super uncomfortable and just want relief right then, I easily forget the big picture. Below is my reminder; my list of why I want to recover. This list is obviously personal to me, although I would encourage anyone who is struggling with something to make their own.

Reasons for Recovery/Why I want to Recover

1. To some day be a mom- have a kid, be able to nurture, care for and show love to a child that is mine

2. To have a long, happy, healthy relationship with John- to grow old together and be able to live happily by each others side

3. To be able to give back to the world- wholeheartedly give time, energy and love to those in need

4. To be a role model- practice what I preach, truly live authentically to my morals and values

5. To share my story and passion with the world- connect with others completely

6. To be able to work with children in whatever capacity necessary at the time- fill my heart with their joy and innocence as well as provide them with whatever they need

7. To be healthy- physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally

8. To be fully present and experience life and everything that is has to offer- to be able to live in gratitude and truly enjoy the good and accept the bad

9. To be social- able to have fun and enjoy the company of others

10. To make peace with food and my body- to nourish myself completely and accept everything about my body, flaws and all

11. To be able to truly express myself and share my gifts and experience the world- through my writing, this blog and even communication


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Trust the Process

Although I have unlimited understanding, compassion and patience for others I struggle with those qualities when it comes to myself. I get frustrated in myself, especially my recovery when I have a hard day, when I find myself in a place I've been before or when it seems I am moving forward at snails pace. My perfectionism and high expectations for myself leave me defeated. I don't want to still struggle with anorexia and I am sick of hating myself as well as continuing to feel the pain from my past and allowing it to affect my future. No matter how insightful I may be or how much knowledge I gain about recovery, sometimes I feel completely spent and hopeless, like I will never reach the "other side". Although I respect that I didn't develop an eating disorder over night and that a lot of my wounds are still fresh, I long to let go and move on with my life. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and today while reading I came across the passage below. It was exactly what I needed to give myself the space and kindness to accept where I am at today. In order to become who we wish to be, we have to accept and understand who we already are.

"Recovery is a healing and spiritual process. It's also a journey, not a destination. We travel from a path of self-neglect into self-responsibility, self-care and self-love. Like other journeys, it's one of moving forward, taking detours, backtracking, getting lost, finding the way again, and occasionally stopping to rest. Unlike other journeys, we can't travel it by forcing the next foot forward. It's a gentle journey, traveled by discipline, and by accepting and celebrating where we are in that journey today. Where we are today is where we're meant to be. It's where we need to be to get where we're going tomorrow. And that place we're going tomorrow will be better than any we've been before." 

~Melody Beattie in the book "Beyond Codependency"

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Power of Uncomfortable

If I had to describe this last week in one word I would easily describe it as uncomfortable. There have been numerous times throughout each day where I have wanted to completely crawl out of my skin, instantly disappear from my current location or a combination of both. It's been brutal and has felt awful. Uncomfortable really is the best way to describe it.

Following a new meal plan and eating more food each day has felt excruciating. With each bite I have felt extremely uncomfortable, like it isn't humanly possible to eat anything else. Only to then be reminded that a few hours later I am going to have to do it all over again. Being vulnerable with those around me; sharing my deepest struggles to John and in therapy as well as writing this blog is uncomfortable. Each time I hit "post" I am faced with uncomfortable feelings about putting my life on display. In both therapy and my nutrition appointments this week, I stepped out of my comfort zone and talked about some of my most recent fears and concerns, and during those times I wished I was Harry Potter and could instantly make myself disappear from the room. Yesterday at work I talked to my boss about changing my schedule and had to face the uncomfortableness of asking for what I needed and the possibility that she may be disappointed in me. I also went grocery shopping yesterday by myself and had a mini panic attack when I looked down in my cart and realized that I actually had a decent amount of food and even a few things that were more indulgent and things that I wanted.

Eating more, sharing more and asking for what I need brings up so many uncomfortable feelings for me and this week for the most part, I forced myself to sit through all of them. The shame, guilt, disappointment in myself, feelings of unworthiness, being too much, having needs and being seen as selfish. Instead of ignoring my needs and restricting my food and my life, I've felt the fear and done it anyways.

Being uncomfortable is painful and doesn't seem to be getting too much easier over time. However, it has had enormous benefits and these are why I continue to push through. Eating more and following my meal plan has allowed me to have energy. Even though it's only been a few days, I can feel and see the difference. The haze of starvation is beginning to lift and I am starting to feel better physically. Not to mention, I am a little more emotionally stable. Being honest and vulnerable with my treatment team has allowed them to help me more. Sharing all that I do and opening my life on my blog has not only taken away some of my shame, but given others the permission to do the same. It's allowed me to connect more deeply to others.To help others while being authentic and genuine. The messages that I have received from people who read my blog make the uncomfortable feelings worth it. Asking my boss to change my schedule felt empowering. Although difficult, it felt good to be able to look back and think "wow, I stood up for myself and none of my fears came true."

I have a very high pain tolerance. I have spent years starving myself; feeling so bad that I wished I could die right there but continuing to do it anyways. I have been in many difficult situations and have faced a lot of adversity in my 25 years of life. My ability to "suck it up" and carry on when things become difficult is no doubt why I am still alive. I am no stranger to uncomfortable. But this kind of uncomfortable is different. In my eyes this is way worse then starvation, cancer treatment and mental abuse. This kind of uncomfortable is raw, overwhelming and cuts deeply into every part of me. This kind of uncomfortable forces me to take a look at the things that I have been avoiding for years and the feelings that are at the core of so many of my issues. This kind of uncomfortable is truly awful but where the healing begins.

Pets- the cure to feeling uncomfortable

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Self-care

After I write a post that is incredibly vulnerable and really puts myself out there I always go into hermit mode for a few days. At first there is in the initial "what-the-heck-was-I-thinking-and-why-in-the-world-did-I-ever-think-that-was-a-good-idea?" moment. This is usually followed by a lot of panic and self-doubt and omg can I erase it off the internet and out of everyone's mind right now? After a few days of seeing that the world is still turning and people are still speaking to me, I begin to calm down some. Following this I get a bit of writers block. It really isn't that I don't have anything to say but I feel like I have nothing good to say. That anything that I can come up with just isn't going to live up to my previous post or be worth reading.

To be quite honest, this time around it's been a little different. All of this did occur, pretty much exactly in the order described, except there has been more to it. With working two jobs my free time is very limited. Most of it is either spent running errands, doing chores or sleeping. The whole concept of taking care of myself is still pretty foreign to me. I still struggle greatly with meeting my basic human needs like eating enough and getting adequate rest. Recovery is still incredibly difficult and I am still working on finding the balance between myself and others. Most days it seems like I take more steps backwards then forwards.

A week or so ago my therapist told me that we can't truly be present to others if we are ignoring ourselves and although we may not see it, we are not the only ones that suffer when our self care is lacking. At the time I left her office completely angry and pretty much believed that she was completely wrong. That same day I made a huge mistake at work. A mistake that wouldn't have happened if my mind was present to what I was doing, instead of a million other places. I was devastated and embarrassed. For a few days I believed that I just needed to try harder. That I needed to say screw recovery and myself and pour more energy into everything else; my job, relationships etc. I decided that I just needed to give more and focus more on others and things would get better.

On Saturday I completely lost it. I turned into a crying hysterical mess and couldn't ignore my needs any longer. I was so emotionally done that I called a coworker and asked him if he could work for me a few hours so I could come in later. At that point it really wasn't an option of taking a break anymore. I laid on the couch for a few hours switching in between crying, talking to John and staring at the ceiling. When I did go into work I was completely unfocused. A parent even asked me if I was ok because I looked exhausted, which isn't something that is good when you are driving children around the mall and in charge of their safety. It was then that I realized that everything that my therapist said was correct and something had to change.

I needed to start taking care of myself and it couldn't wait.

After this realization I didn't do anything too crazy and I can't say that I made huge changes or that it isn't still difficult, yet I did do a few things. First off, I rearranged my work schedule so I had time to see my therapist this week. It involved asking my boss to change my schedule last minute and sitting with the disappointment that I felt in myself for doing that. Secondly, I spent a few hours on Sunday coloring in a coloring book and drinking a Mike's hard lemonade. This broke a bunch of food rules as well as my struggle with allowing myself to take breaks. Not to mention I haven't had an alcoholic beverage in about a year and a half. Instead of "wasting" time on the internet reading other blogs and blogging myself as a distraction, which I am sometimes guilty of doing, I sat with myself and my feelings. I talked to people in real time. I caught up with a friend that I hadn't talked to in a while and shared some of my recent struggles with her, as well as listened to what is currently going on in her life. I spent some quality time with John, which has been seriously lacking recently, even though we live together. I got incredibly honest with myself and realized that I was heading in the same direction that I have headed many times, burnout.

My eating still needs a lot of work and my emotions are still all over the map. I have been faced with a lot of shame and guilt in the past few days for taking these steps for myself. It still feels wrong. Although I am still exahusted and have a long way to go, I have noticed small differences. On Monday I felt a little more rejuvenated for a long day of work at the train. I wake up in the morning with more optimism and less dread. Today I took a nap and I didn't beat myself up about it. All of this is progress. Most of the time I feel like recovery has to be big and bold and only huge moments count and are worth mentioning, but I am slowly starting to realize that it really is more about the small things adding up over time. It doesn't matter how slow you are going, as long as you don't stop.

A friend shared this on facebook a week or so ago and I have been dying to find a way to tie it into a post. This one is pretty perfect! :)