test. Test. test
This is my last letter to you. I wrote my first one almost four years ago. We were in a pit of darkness together, you and me. I am boggled by how our relationship has transformed.
In those years, I’ve collected dozens and dozens of letters in this blog, made public for the world to see. You have been on display; people have been exposed to the shitshow you used throw in my head, the sweet words you used to tell me, the lies and distortion that you weaved into my mind. This will be the last entry, because I realized that a healthy and appropriate goodbye to you (and to everyone who reads you) can be healing for all of us involved.
Four years ago, I was very, very sick and very, very scared.
Today, I’m healthy, and of course that’s a broad, overarching word, but it’s the accurate one to use here. I’m healthy mentally, spiritually, and physically. I’ve also redefined what healthy actually means. Fear still exists, but it’s appropriate fear, not distorted, eating disordered fear.
I’m working in the field I love, with the most amazing clients who have the most amazing stories, and I’m getting married in one month to the man of my dreams.
I am independent woman. I make my own choices.
I eat delicious food everyday. Most of it is scientifically nutritious, but not always. I exercise frequently. Some of it is for aesthetic benefits, but most of it is for the physical release of endorphins and the awesome feelings of being strong and challenged.
I don’t go to therapy. I don’t go to meetings. I don’t binge or purge or restrict. I haven’t in a very long time.
I hate to say this, but I sometimes forget I had a ravaging eating disorder.
And that just purely astounds me, because when I first starting writing to you, you were everything. You were my best friend, my lover, my therapist, my voice of reason. How could I ever forget about you? How did we go from there to here?
I don’t have a perfect answer, and I never will. Time was part of it. Therapy was part of it. Love was part of it. Maturity was another part of it. There have been infinite parts to the recovery journey, but I am proud to say: You don’t dominate my life anymore.
I’ve found better, and I’ve found different. It’s no longer me versus you. It’s no longer me versus an eating disorder. My life is not built around you; it has not been for quite some time. I couldn’t taste the freedom right away; it’s taken about a year. I think I was always too scared to believe of the “inevitable relapse,” the inevitable “back to normal,” which meant, of course, “back to you.”
You used to be in every meal, in every workout, in every dynamic with every person in every situation. You were so pervasive that I figured I was just stuck with you.
And now? You are kind of like the ex-boyfriend I used to write about. I think about him the way I think about you: with nostalgia, in a sense, but without the attachment, resentment, and emotional intensity that used to occupy my mind. There is remembrance, but most of all, there are reminders of my growth, progress, and transformations since then.
I don’t have to write you letters anymore. The time for our closure has come.
You’ve helped me. In a professional sense, you’ve helped become an incredibly gifted therapist. You’ve helped me help a lot of clients who have their own experiences with you, their own heartbreaks and sagas with compulsion and addiction. You aren’t the same as theirs- because no two stories are alike- but I see you everywhere.
You’ve helped me learn about myself and how I cope with stress. You helped me realize that I was driven towards impulsive shortcuts, towards making my emotions, towards cowering in shame. You helped me realize that living that way really got in the way with my own happiness and sanity.
I will always respect you, but I will no longer need you, for I am finally free.
I’m more comfortable being a therapist than I am being a client, and when I say that, I mean that it’s far easier for me to get to know someone than it is for someone to know me.
There are so many layers of myself hidden from the outside world. A combination of shame, embarrassment, and general shyness shield me.
I felt very aware of this phenomenon at a work holiday party last night. I’ve been in my new therapist position for a few weeks now. I love basically everything about it. My own office, my own caseload of clients, very little busywork/paperwork, awesome salary, and supportive team of coworkers. The treatment team is strong here, much stronger than at other settings I’ve worked at. Most everyone is working some sort of addiction recovery program.
And, yet, it’s interesting how easy it is to feel like the awkward and insecure seventh-grader at a high school party, though, and that’s very much how I felt last night. Like everyone else knows each other, like everyone else is so happy and together, like everyone else belongs. It’s almost worse because everyone is so nice! So warm and welcoming! And yet, the introversion emerges. The world has never been very kind to introverts. We are the quiet souls, the background watchers, the ones whom everyone else is trying to pep, talk, and rouse. Most people don’t know I’m introverted, but that’s because I’m excellent with small talk, and I’m very comfortable around people I know. In reality, I’m as shy as a mouse around people I “sorta, but don’t really, know.”
So much of this has to due with the fact that I’ve been with this organization for less than a month, and I need to give myself a break. I’m a kind and smart person, and nobody was sitting there thinking I was boring or weird, even if I was. Nobody could possibly care that much.
Eating has been good these days. Normal. Not as intuitive as I guess it can be, but it’s normal. Not overeating or undereating. Exercise is normal. I’m getting stronger, and it feels good. I’m spending more time on my hair and makeup and getting ready in the morning, and that also makes me feel good.
I meant to write more, but I have a bunch to do now. To be updated later.
My fiance was rear-ended on his way to work in Los Angeles yesterday. I’ve been shaken up because car accidents and loved ones getting hurt and/or dying are two existential fears that I’ve always had. I’ve been in plenty of accidents- never my fault- which makes it hard for me to trust the road and the other drivers out there.
Thankfully, everyone is okay and the car sustained just a few paint scratches. Nevertheless, this shit is terrifying. The fact that anything can happen at any given moment- it’s insane.
I’ve been trying to be kinder to myself over the past few days. Eating mindfully and intuitively- as best I can anyway- not weighing myself, wearing clothes that make me feel beautiful.
Reflection has been important and listening to myself has been a challenge. I forget how regimented I am into routine, into eating certain foods with certain proportions at certain times. It’s scary to let go of that. I haven’t plunged into it, but I’m sticking my feet in the water, feeling out the temperature.
I’ve had to look at the fear of getting fat. Because if we’re being honest, that’s the underlying scare. Because I have rooted so many messages about being fat- failure, grotesque, unlovable- because I live in a society that is harsh and demeaning towards fat, because I know that I carry privilege with the weight I have, and I can’t imagine anything different.
I am ashamed of this fear because it seems shallow and petty. In a world full of strife and destruction, weight is so external and so trivial–and yet, it’s a point of obsession and fixation for so many of us. It’s the thing we can control; it’s malleable, in our hands, in our power. And with anxiety, we all want something to control.
Weight is just a shell, though- it doesn’t define who you are as a person, and we cannot use it as a barometer for happiness, success, or love. This is a work in a progress for me. I still judge weight. I still feel superior when I am small, just as I feel inferior when someone is smaller than me.
I can grow, though, and I will continue to fight on.
I spent a long time talking about my eating disorder with my fiancé last night. It was real and raw and scary, but I felt so much better afterwards. I always do.
I admitted things I didn’t even realize I was hiding. Like the fact that I’ve been weighing myself every single day. Like the fact that I’ve been labeling food as “good” or “bad,” and the bad list continues to grow.
I haven’t been hiding these things from him; they have just been so unconscious to me, such embodiments of old behavior that I hadn’t even realized they embodied symptoms of sickness.
I’m committed to working recovery again. It’s been so sloppy over the past two years, and I forgive myself for that. I’ve been cocky and fake- I’ve been preaching recovery like it’s a miracle, and, at the same time, I’m measuring my progress via a number on the scale and the amount of mental calories I’ve consumed that day. My “behaviors” may be less frequent than they ever were, but we know the distorted mind speaks volumes, and, for me, the obsessive thoughts far outweigh the compulsive acts.
With that said, it’s time to go back to the basics. For me, that means writing- really writing about me. Not about my work, not about the external things in my life, but the real stuff. The stuff that scares me, the stuff that keeps me stuck and ashamed. It also means talking- for now, my safe person is my fiancé, and I have vowed to be open with him, as terrifying as it can be. It also means utilizing my actual coping skills: this means self-care in the form of hot showers, yoga, stretching just to feel good, nice walks, doing my nails and makeup, playing with the dog, reading a good book, scrapbooking, being in nature. It means introducing food back into my life- in a way that’s not diet-centered, macro-centered, calculated and rigid.
I’ve never been in a mental place where I can have ice cream in the freezer. Without obsessing, fantasizing, or bingeing on it. I’d like to get to that place.
Yesterday, I ate grilled cheese and left some on the plate and went home and enjoyed my night. Who knows what today will bring? I’m not going to pre-plan it. I’m not going to place expectations and rules on it. This is new terrain, but I’m committed. I believe in myself, I believe in the universe taking care of me, and goddamn, I believe in recovery.
Tonight marks the beginning of my intuitive eating, radical acceptance journey. I must try something different. It scares me. I won’t lie- I like the structure and order and control, but I won’t let fear stop me. My way of living was also done out of fear, and it’s only giving me a half-assed recovery.
Tonight, I ate a grilled cheese sandwich because I wanted one. I felt guilty for spending the money. $7.29 for a sandwich! I felt guilty that I didn’t wait for _______ to eat with me.
And yet, I allowed myself to enjoy the food, warm and gooey, comforting, what I needed.
I left some on the plate- the crusts, mostly, after I felt full.
I guess it scares me because I’ve never really done it. I’ve pretended to have done it, but I’m only kidding myself. There were always food rules and regulations- good foods and bad foods- limitations and restrictions. I’ve never been in a position where I could just go to a restaurant and order whatever I wanted, without qualms or hesitation, and enjoy it. I’ve never been in a position where I can wander down the grocery store aisles and purchase whatever snacks or foods I want, knowing that it won’t be risky, knowing that it won’t send me into a binge tailspin either.
In fact, I still have a lot of fear foods. I still have a lot of food I’ll rarely eat unless I’m bingeing and/or in some kind of controlled environment. There are many foods I won’t have in the house. There are many foods I’ve given a self-fulfilling prophecy to- the “I can’t just have one- I’ll eat the whole thing till it’s done” mantra.
So, this is scary. This is scary because, of course, what if I lose control? What if I gain a bunch of weight? What if I eat junk food all day long? What if I waste a bunch of money just to satisfy a selfish craving? What if I’m just acting privileged and entitled, and what if, I still don’t actually get better?
So, I know intuitive eating is actually the relinquishing of control, and I know I won’t gain weight, and I know I’ll be listening to my body, and I know this is the natural way to do things. That’s why I’m challenging myself to this. At least until the New Year, and so that’s 21 days. Because in the past, it’s only been a day or a week, and that isn’t really long enough to monitor progress. I’ve thrown my hands up in the air, terrified by all the options, and have retreated to the safe routine that I know.
But I need to trust my body to be in the driver’s seat. Because when it’s not, my eating disorder is. And my body is basically in the trunk of the car, locked inside, getting whipped around, without much of a direction as to where it’s headed.
I will document it all on here, only because it’s safe, and because I type so much faster than I write.
I really don’t know what to expect of it. I intend lots of mixed emotions- some relief and liberation coupled with anxiety and fear. I intend ups and downs. I intend mistakes, but I promise, I swear to myself, that I will keep at it. I need to do something different. I deserve to do something different.
I think the very fact that it scares me so much shows how much distortion I still hold onto- distortion about my body changing, distortion about good foods and bad foods, distortion about control. These need to be dismantled, challenged. They aren’t helpful. They are sick, I know that. And yet, sick can be comforting. At least it has been for me.
Here’s to distortion, though. Here’s to more change.
Ah, Thanksgiving Eve.
There are always a million of pro-recovery, pro-love, pro-gratitude posts swarming around this time of year. These tend to include steadfast tips for enjoying the holidays, as if a 10-itemed list can accurately identify and provide you with all the answers to keep your eating disorder at bay at a time where your biggest vice- food- is what the entire day is all about.
I’m not knocking those lists. I’m not even knocking that advice. I dole it out to my clients on the regular. But here’s what we’re missing.
Yes, there’s family, and family is so important. Yes, there’s gratitude, and that’s even more important. We know this. I don’t have to tell you it.
While I appreciate the efforts to focus on what the holidays are really about, I find it dangerous and concerning to push down the reality of the food component, as if gratitude and connection with our loved ones will alleviate us from the stressors that come with our eating disorders.
Here’s the thing. Food is always going to be here to stay. Food is social glue. Food is there multiple times a day, in every setting, and is necessary for, you know, living. And I can rattle on and on about how we can’t change situations, how we just need to accept that fact, how we can’t let it defeat us. And while all that is true, we also cannot deny that Thanksgiving and the holidays alike can be kryptonite.
I love my family. I fucking love gratitude. And for about ten years, I hated holidays surrounding food. I still struggle with them. My point is, they are not mutually exclusive. Any holiday around food, no matter how actively I practice recovery, brings up some anxieties, desires to engage in old behaviors whether it be overeating or undereating, and general discomfort. I spent many dinners judging the plates of others, keeping score of how “good” I was doing until I inevitably “fucked up” and swore myself I’d start over again tomorrow. I can remember my weight on most Thanksgiving mornings, and most of the Fridays after. I can remember which Thanksgivings became full-pie, midnight binges and which ones entailed daylong fasts until I “allowed” myself a few bites.
This year, I’m doing two Thanksgivings. This year, like every year, there will be a lot of food. Food that “feels” scary and unsafe. Food that I don’t eat everyday. Food that has the capacity to create anxieties and stressors that, even when I know are irrational, suck to have.
I consider myself in a high phase of recovery. I am relatively happy with my body, the way I eat, and how I take care of myself. It’s not perfect. Far from it, but part of the recovery is also accepting the imperfections. With that said, the fall-winter season is still difficult.
I’m not here to write lengthy advice today. You’ve probably seen all the cliched suggestions, anyway. There is no right advice for navigating tomorrow, except for the notion that it’s one day, and one day never has and never will define us and our recoveries.
My only advice for you all tomorrrow? Don’t guilt yourself if you can’t fully stay present with your friends, family, and gratitude. It’s not always that easy, and I’m applying that same forgiveness to myself. Just do your best, reflect afterwards, and know that you’re chugging along, doing what needs to be done. There are no real mistakes, only lessons along the way.
I GOT THE JOBBBBBBB! 😀
I ended up quitting the job last week because things were getting out of hand. Illegal, unethical, and dangerous things began happening. I’ve never left a job without backup, and it’s somewhat terrifying and somewhat exciting at the same time.
I’m interviewing with two eating disorder programs. I had two interviews with a PHP/IOP program last week and one interview with an IOP/OP program as well. I feel like I strongly connected with both interviewers, and the conversation flowed easily and naturally.
I don’t want to reveal any identifying information on here, but I’m really, really, really keeping my fingers crossed!
I’m in the waiting game now. I know it’s only a matter of time, but I’d be lying if i said I wasn’t anxious!!! I really struggle without having a tangible plan and I get so anxious about money, but at the same time, I don’t want to settle for a job that doesn’t suit me. Burnout worries me; I don’t want to be jaded in this field. Therapy is what I’m meant to do, and so I need to be in a healthy and comfortable work environment in order to do that.
In other exciting news, I found my wedding dress yesterday!!!! It was the first one I tried on, and I fell in love the same way I did with my now-fiance. I just knew! Ah, that sounds so cliched, but I tried on several others, and NOOOOOOOPE. I just wanted to go back.
The wedding planning is fun. I’m not very high-maintenance at all, and so the Bridezilla monster doesn’t come out. To me, it’s just a really awesome, special day, but it’s the marriage, the 50+ years (knock on wood!) that’s infinitely more important. I find it disturbing and worrisome that couples spend more time choosing wedding colors and tasting cake than, you know, preparing for actual marriage.
Things keep changing everyday, and I really do hope that one of these jobs works out. I already turned down a part-time position with another substance abuse facility, because I want to start working exclusively with the ED population!
It’s been my dream forever, but of course, this also will bring its own personal challenges (my recovery, countertransference/transference, disclosure vs. non-disclosure, etc.) Having worked in substance abuse for as long as I have, I’ve worked with so many colleagues who openly talk about their own struggles and addictions. I haven’t yet decided how (if at all) I will address my past with my clients. Because I’m young and because my recovery is ongoing (as I believe eating disorder work always is), I’m not sure if it would be appropriate or discouraging. Not sure if it makes for a weird boundary or makes for strong rapport because someone else has “been there.” Not even sure how it will affect my own confidence and strength in the recovery game. Not sure, not sure, not sure, but this is what supervision and my own therapy will be for.
It’ll obviously be a huge learning curve, but I’m ready for the challenge. I know my passion and knowledge and empathy will make me a strong fit for this kind of work. And even though I’m not 100% in my own recovery, I think that’s okay, too. I’m still a human. I’m still going to fuck up, mess up, eat too much and eat too little, hate my weight, and want to cry, but that doesn’t mean I’ll ever let this thing defeat me. It’ll always be an ongoing process, and I’ve accepted the journey. There are more easy days than hard days, and I hold onto those. There is more acceptance and love than resistance and hate. It’s never perfect. It can never be perfect. I just have to embrace what is.
I hope to teach my clients the same one day 🙂