the cliche of the rock bottom

Unlike the throes of addiction and many other mental illnesses, we will rarely find a definitive answer for what constitutes rock bottom in eating disorders. There are the extreme cases, of course, with hospitalization and medical emergencies, but these do not account for the millions of sufferers silently mutilating their lives.

I don’t have a definitive rock bottom, but I wish I did. It sure would make for a beautiful, neat little story for my cliched memoir one day, wouldn’t it? I can jut picture it now. Chapter 6: THE MOMENT I REALIZED I NEEDED TO CHANGE. A moment of total clarity, a sudden, black-and-white realization that said, OH I NEED TO CHANGE! It probably has to do with getting some kind of scary news from a doctor or someone telling me that they were worried. I mean, that’s what we read about, right? That’s what we hear from so many people. My story isn’t quite so neat, and there is no definitive beginning, middle, or end. In fact, I don’t even know if I have the “climax” (rock bottom) and a resolution. My story is all over the place. I would bet MOST of yours are, too.

I’ve had lows, yes, but they’ve been scattered, and none of them have felt particularly worse than the others. The lying and deceitful ones stand out. Denying that I had stolen food. Lying that I had already eaten. Telling people I felt “great” and had “no triggers” and was “coping well” when it was entirely untrue. The physical pain ones stand out, too. A two-day, free-for-all binge spree which led to severe food poisoning, and (in hindsight) probably dangerous levels of dehydration due to such bad diarrhea and vomiting. The sugar-induced headaches. Pain in the back of my throat. Terrible stomach cramps. Feelings of heaviness. Feeling like I was going to pass out.

But my rock bottoms weren’t illegal nor were they necessarily destructive to society. And nobody really even had to know. Unlike most addictions, I will never be treated as a criminal. Because I don’t have to resort to theft, violence, or prostitution to get my drug of choice. Food is fucking everywhere. Simple as that. And it’s pretty fucking cheap, accessible, and rampant. And best of all: it’s perfectly legal and absolutely essential to live. Talk about a fun thing to abuse, right?

I didn’t have to be scared of jail or hitting someone with my car. I didn’t have to be scared to be stamped with fines or a criminal record. I didn’t have to worry about my physical safety. I just had to worry about my goddamn body and the nonstop chatter in my head.

The cold truth is that if we keep waiting for rock bottom, we keep flirting with death. We can always go deeper. We can always surprise ourselves. As humans, we are incredibly adaptive creatures, sometimes to a fault. Eventually, the “bad feeling,” no matter how terrible it was, wears off…and we will try again. We test boundaries. We push. We think nah, it won’t be so bad this time…I got this…I know my limits. We feed ourselves line after line of bullshit because our diseases will say and do anything to keep us committed to their school of thought.

There is a reason eating disorders are progressive. There is a reason you can’t stop no matter how thin you get, you can’t stop eating no matter how full you feel, you can’t stop obsessing no matter how many times you convince yourself you have control. The science of the disorder may have been built on logic, but the mechanisms of its wiring is entirely irrational and entirely destructive.

I have suffered with an eating disorder on-and-off for about ten years. I have flirted with recovery about half that time. Sometimes, I doubt I ever had a problem. Other times, it feels like nobody has ever had it worse than me. This is not unusual thinking: this is the etiology of any mental illness. It’s conniving and tricky. It’s entirely crazy and entirely reasonable at the very same time.

And yet, there may not be some milestone rock bottom. There may not be a lightbulb moment for change. God may not smite you, in the middle of the road, telling you that you have to pick recovery. In fact, forget God. Nobody may ever tell you to pick recovery. You may never feel like it’s reached that point of life-or-death. You may never be homeless or abandoned by everyone who loved you…you may not even reach that state of pure emaciation you so desperately hoped. You will never be as skinny as you want to be, and your life will never be as perfect as it should. And yet, the disorder will keep promising you the easy ticket to avoiding feelings, shortcutting pain, and mimicking control. You will keep going, numbly and bluntly, because it may never reach that point where you realize that you are choosing the chase of losing weight at the expense of losing everything else.

Emotionally, you are dying. You are avoiding life. You are numbing yourself, self-sabatgoing, self-medicating, doing whatever it takes to avoid the real feelings around you. You may slip through the cracks for months, years, decades without anyone really knowing. You may fool them all. Good for you! Then WHAT?

I was fooling everyone, EVERYONE, but what did that lead me with? A destroyed self-esteem, relationships full of toxicity, insurmountable shame, utter anxiety and depression, and a race on the never-ending hamster wheel towards perfectionism. I may have been fooling the world with my academic success and circle of friends and planted smile, but the more important question remains: why was I taking care of THE FUCKING WORLD instead of myself? 

The WORLD won’t be there when you are driving from restaurant to restaurant at night HOPING that none of the employees will recognize you from a few nights before. The WORLD won’t be there when you don’t get the perfect job, boyfriend, or happiness even if the supposedly perfect body arrives. The WORLD won’t be there when you’re crouched over your toilet seat, finger in your throat, tears stinging your eyes, in that fog of fear, guilt, and total humiliation. The WORLD won’t be there because you’ve probably done such a damn good job at shutting the world out.

You are screaming for help and you are pushing help away.

You are dying because you think it will give you a greater chance at living.

You are sure you have reached your limit, that this is your last time, that you will never do this again because it will never be worse than it feels right now, and then you will fucking turn around and do it again…three times worse.

You’re already on the tightrope. You’re already standing on the quicksand. There will always be more opportunities to fall. Stop glamorizing the rock bottom…because if and when you finally achieve it, the WORLD will finally know thanks to the tombstone with your name.

tides of December.

It’s been a month since I wrote last, and as usual, much has happened in the past month.

I have another part-time job. This makes three. My boyfriend got the dream full-time job. We have this thing called stability, and that’s weird, because I’m still transitioning from the academic world to the working grind.

I see a lot of clients everyday. It feels like an assembly line of therapy at times, and I’m too new in this field to think that way. But it scares me. Being unable to divvy my full attention to each individual simply because I have so many. Of course, I am still underpaid and overworked. And, of course, mental health is completely underfunded and underrepresented in nearly all sectors of healthcare.

But, I digress.

I know what I do is important, and I know what I do is meaningful. In addition to my children and adolescents, I’m now working with some really difficult clientele right now. The majority of them suffer from chronic pain or traumatic injury. The depression and anxiety is skyrocketed for nearly everyone I see.

I think hopelessness is the hardest symptom of all, and I think that only because I know what it’s like to experience that feeling myself. I know what it’s like to hate hearing anyone else tell you it can be any other way. Because, in your mind, it can only be hopeless. Because, to accept anything other than hopelessness means risking accepting a change you may not like. Hopelessness, in a paradoxical way, feels safer. It is a cushion of certainty, a guarantee that prevents us from the fear of crashing of burning.

The holiday season always arises mixed emotions for me. I am closer to my parents now that I have moved out of their home. Time with them is cherished and appreciated, rather than met with annoyance and angst. Yet, I tend to struggle with body image around this time of year, only because holidays center on food and food and more food.

And, I can use all the positive affirmations and visualizations and deep breathing I want, but there is still the five-hundred pound gorilla in the room that is masquerading as sprinkled cupcakes, and when my attention is on that, it’s hard to focus on anything else.

As I’ve said so many times before, it’s safer to focus on the craziness of the eating disorder rather than the craziness of the unpredictable day-to-day existence we live in. The eating disorder makes sense and it’s in my control. Nothing else is. Nothing else is. Nothing else is.

Nothing is in my control.
Nothing is in your control, either.
And, depending on perspective, that can be petrifying or liberating.

the days are passing.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. About three weeks. Crazy that it used to be everyday. I haven’t thought about this blog much. But it always feels good to start writing.

I’m living with my boyfriend now. I’m still quasi-unpacking and moving and getting rid of a lifetime of stuff. I’m working a lot. It’s a weird adjustment- not being at home, and I miss my parents, even though they’re only about twenty minutes away. But I also love falling asleep and waking up to my favorite person everyday. It’s been fun- making a budget, figuring out what goes where, calling each other to see who is picking up groceries, etc. It’s the grown-up world, and it’s a world I belong in. I can’t believe after being in school since kindergarten, I’m now completely graduated. I’m completely done with academia unless I decide to continue pursuing even higher education…which I don’t have a current desire to do.

Now that I am working with a school-based agency, my clients are all children and adolescents. It’s a lot of play and art therapy, and I’m constantly reminded how blissful my own childhood was in comparison to the horrors I hear everyday. Adolescents are still my favorite. Especially my girls. I think I’m talented at working with kids. I can relate to them on a very fundamental, humanistic level. I also love the notion of childhood and what it embodies.

I haven’t been bingeing or restricting, but I’ve definitely experienced some struggles. I suppose I thought I wouldn’t be triggered whatsoever once I left home. That, of course, is a myth. Sure, there isn’t all that tempting food around, because we just don’t buy it, but that’s not to say I don’t have the urge to eat an entire package of store-bought cookies in the middle of the night. And that’s not to say I haven’t felt fat or ugly or out-of-control. I’ve felt all of those, and I’ve felt them often. But I’ve also felt the other range of raw emotions: I’ve felt sadness and happiness and fear and guilt and curiosity and embarrassment and excitement.

Day-to-day recovery is so hard, and sometimes it feels like it will always be this nagging weakness of mine, this tantalizing dance on the borderline of health and sickness. It’s not that black-and-white, of course, but in the throes of triggers, it certainly feels that way. Throwing in the towel is so easy, and I can’t lose sight of how easy it is to quit. Recovery will never be the easier choice, but it will always be the better choice. As most things in life are.

I just have to remind myself to breathe when it gets difficult. To forgive. To be patient. To talk about it to people who care. I’m not crazy and I’m not weird and I’m certainly not a monster, despite the negative messages pounding inside my head.

We all suffer with the distortions and the lies and the underlying fears that we aren’t good enough. It manifests in different ways, and for me, it was an eating disorder, but that doesn’t mean I’m not good enough. I absolutely am. The irrationality inside my head does not embody the truth. There is no truth. I am a human, and I am in this universe, and so I just am perfect. It’s kind of a radical acceptance. It’s the philosophy I really believe in.

Life is moving, as it does, and more changes are coming ahead this week. Big job interview lined up for my boyfriend this week and a potential move could happen. And I’m in the process of applying for more full-time work myself. I have no idea what to expect. But the excitement of the unknown propels me.

There is no perfect body.

I can pick a subjective flaw in every human body, and yet, I carry this distorted ideal that it is possible to achieve physical perfection.

There is no perfect body.

And even if I did achieve perfection- like in some metaphysical sense, in some kind of alternative universe where we could agree upon a universal definition of perfection, I WOULD STILL WANT TO CHANGE/IMPROVE/FIX SOMETHING. Because that’s how we are hardwired. Acceptance is twelve times harder than changing (statistic I just made up). And contentment is twenty times harder than fighting.

If I had a perfect body, I’d find a reason to make it more perfect. We can’t sit at the top for very long without getting bored, angry, or depressed. We can’t sit with success for very long without itching for more.

Everyone knows we live in a society that basically blasts us with mixed messages. On one hand, the message that thinner is better has been drilled into my head almost with the same permanence and absolution as 2 x 2 = 4. On the other hand, we’re living in this new-age, high-peak fitness era, where women are also supposed to be sculpted, toned, and muscled into sleek goddesses. Somehow, we are supposed to be able to do it all.

But there still needs to be an ass (WHY ARE THERE SO MANY FUCKING SONGS ABOUT BUTTS THESE DAYS), and there still needs to be boobs.

And no matter what, there’s gonna be some fat. Or some cellulite or stretch marks or imperfections or anything. Because that’s HUMANITY.

Do I think I’m somehow immune to this? Do I think that my body will somehow look entirely different if it weighted 5, 10, 15 pounds less? Would everything be beautiful and rainbows and sunshine and shitting unicorns?

Um no. That’s called a delusion.

A body is a body is a body. I never saw more beauty in bodies at a nude beach over the summer. Easily the youngest person there (by maybe 40 years?), there was everything hanging out for all the world to see. And nobody gave two fucks. They flaunted, they lived, they were comfortable with themselves.

I was too. I’m comfortable with my naked body. I always have been. Which is sometimes why the eating disorder thing is confusing to me…shouldn’t I hate to be naked around others? Shouldn’t I want to hide and shield my body in layers? Neither have ever applied to me.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always known that my body was beautiful…that deep down, even those days when I thought I was too fat or too this or too (insert derogatory adjective here), it was all just the inner reel spinning inside my head.

writing to write

Dear Bee,

Writing because I made a commitment, and just like working out, I always feel better after I just do it.

Days after rough days are harder than the actual rough days. I’ve said that before. It’s like the body has to recover, but even more, the screaming dialogue and running commentary in my mind also has to recover. During the “rough day,” I’m numb to the world, just totally in the disorder, knowing that I need to “enjoy it” because tomorrow, it’s “back to business.” This is terrible logic, but it is logic that everyone with an eating disorder probably understands. The binges, the restrictions, the behaviors, those aren’t the worst part. Not even close. Those are the highs.

It’s the coming down that hurts.

Today wasn’t that bad though. Yoga always helps. So does good music and love and afternoon naps and coffee. Life is getting busy again. I’m probably moving into my boyfriend’s apartment within the next few weeks (although I basically live there now). So many changes and emotions. I’m doing the best I can.

Kindness to myself is key.

That’s all for today.

poor body image days

Dear Bee,

I don’t like the way my body looks today.
In fact, I’m having one of the worst body images I’ve had in awhile.

I just think I look enormous. And, yes, okay, that’s distorted, and yes, okay, that’s not necessarily the objective truth. But my feelings are real. So even though fat isn’t a feeling, insecurity and shame both are. I feel uncomfortable in my skin.

All day, I’ve been comparing to everyone. In my class this morning, at the gym, at my work training…especially legs and arms. I feel like mine look too muscular now. In this moment, my “strength” disgusts me. It makes me feel unattractive. My legs- are they too toned? My arms- are they too bulky? I want the tinier, fragile body. I want lightness and weightlessness. I want to be airy ad free.

This is so annoying. This is so distorted. 

Let me tell a little story:
Professor (who was away for a few months) commenting to a colleague I cannot stand: “Wow, X, you look like you’ve lost a ton of weight since I last saw you.
Colleague: Shrugs. Says nothing. 
Professor: Was that intentional?
Colleague: No.

This whole exchange stunned me. For one, this was a clinical psychologist, a respectable professor and pioneer in her field. How ignorant! To ask a student if she’s lost weight? To even make a comment about someone’s body? She’s one of the main professors who TRAINED us on addiction and eating disorders. God. This disgusts me. The ignorance pertaining to eating disorders, even among our supposed experts, terrifies me.

And, for the record, NO, this colleague hadn’t lost weight. She’s always had THAT perfect body. She’s always been thin…but curvy in the right places. She hasn’t lost weight…she’s just ALWAYS looked gorgeous (probably one of the reasons I can’t stand her, but that’s my own issue). 

I guess I was jealous. I want more people to say that to me. And they do. Sometimes. I get a lot of compliments on my body. But it’s a lose-lose, really, because I can manipulate supposed praise into skepticism, into the, do they really think that about me? train of thinking. 

I need to accept my body. Because if I don’t, I will never love it, no matter how it changes. Most days, I love it. Most days, I feel good. 

Today isn’t one of those days. They happen. What to do with it? Ride it out. And that’s hard. Because I want to eat my feelings away…or starve them and punish myself. 

But I’m not going to. Because recovery is more important. Because a recovered mind is more important than any body shape.

Happened to stumble upon this thing.

  • What ‘eating disorder behaviors have you been able to overcome so far? I no longer feel a need to incessantly COUNT things (calories, minutes exercising, pounds, grams of protein, carbs, pounds, etc.) I make every conscious effort to avoid skipping meals. I do not frequently binge or restrict anymore. I avoid compulsive exercise.
  • How did you overcome some of your eating behaviors? Stopping all the counting and calculations took time and acceptance. For about six months, I did not weigh myself. I weigh myself every now and then, but that number does not determine how I eat for the day. Even though I look at nutrition facts, I do not mentally calculate how much I am eating a day and make food choices depending on some arbitrary number. Quitting the overeating and binge behavior was the hardest, as I consistently want to rebel agains my own self. Bingeing was a coping mechanism for stress, and, at times, I still resort to it. With exercise, I learned how to accept that my body was NOT going to dramatically change due to a missed workout.
  • What is a part of your body that you have come to love since embarking on recovery? Strangely enough, my hips and hipbones. I have a narrow waist and wider hips. Childrearing hips, I once heard. Either way, I love them now. I know I do not have a straight flat-as-a-board body, and I can honestly say that it’s okay. 
  • What does recovery mean to you? It means learning how to ADD passion and SUBTRACT compulsion. The rest just falls into place.
  • Why have you chosen to recover? For my mental health, physical health, because I deserve it, for love, happiness, freedom, and joy. 
  • What has recovery given you so far? Same as above. 
  • When you were in the depths of your eating disorder, what were some of the irrational/false beliefs you had? How are these different now? I believed that I was “good” or “bad” depending on what I ate/exercised. I believed that a certain body weight could bring me a certain emotion or certain outcome, such as love or happiness. I believed that I lacked willpower and just needed to have more control over myself. Now, I know that I am not a good or bad person…I am just me. My appearance doesn’t sustain an emotion, at least not a genuine one. Eating disorders are not about willpower or control. They are about learning how to relinquish both. Oh, and I thought I just had a problem with food. Turns out, I had a problem with LIFE.
  • What have you learned to appreciate since starting recovery? Intimacy, existentialism, spirituality, bubble baths and showers, yoga, good music, eating out with friends
  • Can you remember when you started to think about recovery? What were your thoughts? Are these any different now? Yes. “This will be done quickly, and soon, I will be fixed.” Are these thoughts any different now? You bet. There is nothing quick and no magic fix to this. It’s day-in, day-out. Progress is not linear, but it emerges in some way, shape, or form. 
  • 10 What makes life worth living? The constant element of surprise that is life, love and everything that comes with it, the prospect of marriage and children, traveling the world, sunshine and summer, the beach, exploring nature, the people who make my life worthwhile
  • 11 What things have you learned about yourself since starting recovery? I can be very hard on myself. I struggle with compulsive behavior outside of food. I never formed a proper relationship with myself, even though I always deserved it. Self-care is not selfish. I can LET GO of the things that no longer serve me or feel good. Food is not the enemy; exercise is not punishment. Love doesn’t conquer all, but it MAKES you want to conquer all. 
  • 12 What things did you used to deny yourself during your eating disorder? How do you feel when you allow yourself them now? New clothes, simply because I always thought I was going to lose more weight. Now, I don’t give a fuck. I also treat myself to pedicures and massages (when I was working, anyway…now not so much). I thought self-care was optional, and so I opted out of it. Not anymore. I treat myself to long walks in nature and good conversation with people I love. I LOVE that I allow myself these things. It feels great. 
  • 13. Who can you rely on for support? My family, boyfriend, therapist, former sponsor, classmates, and everyone on here 🙂
  • 14 What has been a positive stand out moment for you so far in recovery? I loved being a speaker and candidly talking for 20 minutes about my eating disorder at an OA meeting in June. I also loved writing a letter of forgiveness to myself in April. So freeing. 
  • 15 Have you had any ‘A-H-A’ moments? Absolutely.
  • 16 What keeps you going day to day? My love for life. 
  • 17 What is a food you missed during your disorder that you enjoy now? Lattes, pizza, slurpees, pancakes, egg yolks, cheese, cereal…
  • 18 What is a hobby you missed during your disorder that you enjoy now? Nothing really comes to mind. 
  • 19 What did you eating disorder take away from you? For the most part, it stole my confidence and intuition. These are two elements I continually fight to take back. 
  • 20 Have you experienced any relapse? How did you overcome it or how are you working through it? Yes. I overcome it by refusing to quit. I know I can always relapse; I am not immune to it.  
  • 21 Are you able to exercise for enjoyment? If not, how are you working towards this? If yes, what do you enjoy? Yes. I enjoy moving my body. I do not consider this exercise, but rather nourishment for the soul. I like taking long walks with people I love. I LOVE hiking. I like dancing with my friends. I like roller-skating and swimming and going to the gym with my boyfriend. I love a good run every now and then. I enjoy playing sports. I like it all.
  • 22 How were your relationships with others tested by your eating disorder? Are they better now? They were completely strained, and I didn’t realize how bad of shape they were in until embarking on recovery. Things were tense and hostile between my family members and me. I lived on edge, constantly irritable and anxious. Friendships were often superficial, as I found it difficult to be vulnerable or reach out when I needed to vent or talk to someone. Everything always needed to look picture-perfect. Things have improved significantly. 
  • 23 How was your relationship to yourself tested by your eating disorder? Is it better now? I was at war with myself, to say the least. I wanted to change everything, from the way I looked to the way I acted to the person I was dating to the job I had. I just wasn’t happy, and I didn’t ALLOW myself to be happy, because I didn’t think I was worth it. My relationship with myself has improved tenfolds. 
  • 24 Do you believe that you are beautiful? Do you believe that one day, you will believe you are beautiful? I’m beautiful, inside and out. I truly believe it now. 
  • 25 What are things you can do now you are recovering/recovered that you couldn’t do during your eating disorder? Eat at restaurants without freaking out, enjoy clothes shopping, eat spontaneously without preplanned times or foods 
  • 26 Were you ever diagnosed with an eating disorder? How did this effect your recovery, either yes or no. Yes. It gave me a label for my abnormalities and encouraged me to seek help. 
  • 27 Have you identified triggers? How do you avoid them or manage them? Yes. I often do CBT work and consider my thoughts and feelings. I try to identify the distorted thought and challenge it. If that doesn’t work, I simply leave the scene or distract myself. I will write about it. Sometimes, I reach out to someone. And sometimes, I give in to the trigger. It just depends. 
  • 28 How have you rewarded yourself throughout recovery? If you haven’t, how can you? I reward myself with frequent self-care, positive affirmations, and enjoyable activities. I LISTEN to what my body is telling me. 
  • 29 What is a current short term goal you are aiming for in your recovery? I want to be able to just continue doing what I am doing. I like where I am right now. 
  • 30 What does being ‘recovered’ mean to you? Do you think this goal is realistic? Yes. I believe “recovered” refers to the absence of eating disordered pathology. I do believe one can “recover.” That doesn’t mean one isn’t immune to never having a distorted thought or temptation, but one can manage it quickly, effectively, and remedy the situation. They are not preoccupied with food or weight. They can live full lives despite what they consumed for dinner. 
  • 31 Have you been able to take any positives from your experience of having an eating disorder? Yes. Absolutely. 
  • 32 What parts of recovery are you truly proud of? I am proud that I sought therapy on my own at a young age. I am proud that I attended support group meetings. I am proud that I was able to tell people in my life what was going on. I am proud that I started this blog to reach out to others. 
  • 33 Have you been able to eat a ‘fear food’? What was it? How did it feel? Yes. All my fear foods at some point or another. Some of them are still iffy for me, but other foods I can eat without necessarily feeling triggered. For example: pizza, ice cream, cereal. I still struggle with some trigger foods, such as Nutella, Poptarts, and packaged cookies. 
  • 34 What do you like about yourself now that you are in recovery? I like my quirky sense of humor, intelligence, creativity, and perseverance. 
  • 35 When do you feel most attractive? Why? Is it a place, time or outfit? Naked. Or chilling my bra and underwear with my boyfriend. I always feel gorgeous around him. I also like wearing sundresses because they are adorable. 
  • 36 What health problems are you now doing better with since embarking on recovery? I no longer have as many stomachaches, bloating, or gas issues. Decreased acid reflex, less cold all the time (but barely, I’m still cold), improved iron levels, lowered body fat.
  • 37 Do you have more confidence in yourself now? YES
  • 38 How did your eating disorder recovery change the way you think about things now? I no longer see the world in rigid black-and-white. I am comfortable with the fifty shades of gray. I realize NOBODY is perfect, and it’s OKAY if I screw up every now and then. I realize TALKING can be just as healing as anything. 
  • 39 Were you ever in denial of your eating disorder? How did you overcome this? Yes. I consistently compared myself to others, and once I learned more about eating disorders, I struggled to believe mine was ever BAD enough to warrant help. Especially when I alternated between restriction and bingeing without the purging by means of vomiting. I felt like I didn’t fit in with the obese binge eaters or the underweight anorectics or the tormented bulimics. Since my weight was in the normal range, I felt invisible. 
  • 40 If you could have started recovery earlier, would you? In hindsight, no. I wouldn’t have been ready for it. I needed to straighten out other things first. 
  • 41 Did you isolate yourself during your eating disorder? How has this changed now? If it hasn’t how do you hope it will? Occasionally. I would avoid going out with friends when I felt triggered or had just engaged in eating disorder behaviors. Or, I’d show up but run on auto-pilot, in that I was there, but wasn’t really THERE. Now, I am much more present. 
  • 42 How did your eating disorder behaviors make you feel about yourself? How do you feel about yourself in comparison now? Or how do you hope you will feel? I felt like an absolute freak and I loathed myself. I thought I was broken. I now realize I was never a freak, and I have never been broken. Everyone has something.
  • 43 What was something that made you realize an eating disorder was unhealthy for you? It didn’t really register until I began therapy. 
  • 44 Did anyone reach out to you during your eating disorder? How did you respond? How do you feel about that now? Not really. I kept it very secretive and under wraps. When people asked me anything related to food or exercise, I quickly shut them out. 
  • 45 What was your body’s purpose during your eating disorder? What is your body’s purpose now or what do you hope its purpose to be? My body was constantly under renovation, in the sense that I was always engaged in some kind of project to “make it better.” It was for aesthetic purposes. Now, my body is my temple. I nourish and love it. My body is not meant to be abused or harmed. 
  • 46 What was success during your eating disorder? What is success in recovery? Success was being able to eat as little as possible. Success was being able to “eat clean.” Success was avoiding binges. Success was seeing a lowered number on the scale. Success was intense soreness the day after a workout. Success in recovery is managing a trigger, identifying the emotions, and finding a healthy way to cope. Success is learning how to live in moderation and APPRECIATE food and exercise for what they are. Success is loving my body for exactly as it is. 
  • 47 Did you ever view ‘thinspo’ during your eating disorder? How do you feel about that now? Not really, no. I wasn’t very involved in the eating disorder community. I actually became more involved in my recovery to increase my support system. 
  • 48 Did anyone ever encourage your weight loss? What would you say to them now if you could? Yes. Of course, they did. I wouldn’t say anything to them now. We live in a society that encourages losing weight and thrives on scrutinizing appearance. It wouldn’t have matter what I said. 
  • 49 Do you plan to symbolise what you have been through in anyway? I do every single day as a therapist, and I plan to work with this population one day. My life today symbolizes that my battles were with it. 
  • 50 If you could give advice to someone contemplating recovery, what would it be? Know that you deserve  recovery. And read WHY CHOOSE RECOVERY at the top of this blog. All those reasons<3 

Food and Mortality

Dear Bee,

I want to sit here and complain how much yesterday sucked food-wise. How in my head I felt. How I just wanted to eat all the foods and how annoyed I felt that I didn’t have that opportunity. How I ate candy by the handful, joked about my persistent sweet tooth to cover up my urges, and centered my entire afternoon by the prospective food I could eat. How I went to the grocery store with my boyfriend and imagined all the foods I could binge on. Not just eat, but complete. I fantasized about desserts the way a lover fantasizes about a rendezvous. I could complain that I weighed myself multiple times yesterday and this morning and never felt satisfied with the number I saw. I could complain that I looked in the mirror and only saw a fat, lazy mess reflecting back at me. I could complain how yesterday, food meant more to me than love and spending quality time with the person who means the world to me. I hate to admit that to the world, but it’s the truth. Rather than stay the night at his place, I almost went home. Just because I felt so triggered. Just because I wanted to keep eating. Be alone. Be isolated. If I already fucked up, I wanted to keep fucking up. 

This is a beautiful Geneen Roth quote that I read the other day: Compulsive eating is a way we distance ourselves from the way things are when they are not how we want them to be. I tell them that ending the obsession with food is all about the capacity to stay in the present moment. TO not leave themselves  I tell them that they don’t have to make a choice between losing weight and doing this. Weight loss is the easy part; anytime you truly listen to your hunger and fullness, you lose weight. But I also tell them compulsive eating is basically a refusal to be fully alive. No matter what we weigh, those of us who are compulsive eaters have anorexia of the soul. We refuse to take in what sustains us. We live lives of deprivation. And when we can’t stand it any longer, we binge. The way we are able to accomplish of of this is by the simple act of bolting, of leaving ourselves hundreds of times a day.

I always recommend her books. She is a truly inspirational writer and public speaker on eating disorders. 

I guess the idea of being fully alive is a scary one. My boyfriend and I were talking about this yesterday. There is just so much pressure to carpe diem, to seize the day, to YOLO, that we become caught in this vicious cycle of comparing ourselves to others and feeling like we can never stack up. We face such a need to LIVE, and I mean FULLY, TRULY RELISH IN LIFE, but at the same time, we exist in a society that is constantly reminding us to consider our future while reflect on our past. This is a tricky dance. 

We took a long walk yesterday evening and talked about our childhoods. I noted that maybe we struggle so much in adolescence not because we struggle to enter adulthood, but because we have to grieve exiting childhood. Our whole lives shape us, in a sense, to become adults and have responsibility, but we are never taught how to prepare leaving our youths. Is it any wonder that many mental illnesses stem during puberty, during adolescence, in that awkward transition time between not having any autonomy to suddenly being forced to make an identity? 

I have never met a child born with a compulsive or addictive mindset. No child is born with an eating disorder. This is learned behavior. Even with a genetic predisposition, a toddler is not simply going to starve him or herself or think to overeat beyond the point of satiation. A young child is not going to suddenly down a bottle of vodka for the sheer pleasure of it. The very thought is unnatural. Why do we suddenly feel this incessant need to escape? Drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, food, work: it’s all the same. Passion is doing something because we want to do it, and compulsion is doing something because we have to do it.

But what are we running from? Ourselves? Reality? Responsibility? The complexities of life? 

The opposite act of escaping must be embracing. Accepting. Just like children do before the world taints them, before their own minds turn against them. Can the compulsive mindset really be erased? Or is it something we must constantly manage and monitor? Is it possible to live a life without wanting to run away from it? It has to be. It absolutely has to be.


Life does not ever slow down, and we cannot freeze, alter, or go back in time. The world is constantly fluid, in motion, and evolving. I will never be younger than I am at this very second, and that is a very grounding thought. A terrifying one, too. I visited my grandmother earlier this morning, who has been plagued by her own set of mental illnesses and is currently residing in hospice care, and realized that at one point, she was my age. She was a vital woman with a sharp mind and an active body. Now, she is confined to a hospital bed with decaying health. Again, life does not slow down. We will age; time will always catch up to us; one day, we will turn around and realize our youths and our adulthoods are practically behind us.

The only constant every human shares is birth and death. What lies in between is up to us. 

Yesterday was a rough day, and I didn’t do my best at recovery. But it was in my past, and I have chosen to let it go. I am a human being, and I make mistakes. I punished myself for it already; I can choose to reward myself today. 

Life is a beautiful blessing and no day is inherently ours. Whether we seize it or let it pass on by, the awareness that we are one day closer to our imminent death, does seem to make the ride worthwhile. 

Change is a product of acceptance.


Dear Bee,

I reread this quote at least three times while going through my assigned reading for a trauma and grief class. It absolutely amazes me. Rogers, first of all, is a brilliant genius in the realm of psychotherapy. His person-centered model of therapy has truly changed the way therapists interact with their clients. Second of all, just let this quote soak in.

Radical acceptance is something I frequently talk about on this blog, simply because the concept has helped me IMMENSELY. Before recovery (and many times during recovery), I have RESISTED myself, my urges, and my behaviors. I would look at myself and see only the things I needed to change, remove, or hide. The idea of accepting myself? No, that was unfathomable. I always thought I was traveling on the fast-moving train towards bettering myself, when, in reality, I was trekking on some unachievable mission to reach the point of utter perfection, because I assumed that place was the same meeting ground as the point of utter happiness. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the greatest version of yourself. There is, however, something deeply distorted when you do not believe you have any baseline of greatness to start with.

Change is hard. Incredibly hard. Even when we think we want it or know we need it more than anything. The initial steps may be easy, but once the novelty wears thin, we often regress right back to our homeostatic states. Why do we seek change? Because we feel stagnant or insecure. Because we know we deserve better. Because we want to improve some area in our life. Rarely does change come naturally or passively. Change is a product of our environment and our actions, our decisions and our influences. We must trust ourselves in order to change ourselves. We must stay by our own sides. If not, we engage in war with ourselves. We will resist, fight, and try and stop the changing, even if it’s good for us, even if it’s what we think we want or need. We have to be tolerant of the mismatched emotions and accept distress…at least temporarily. We have to become comfortable with living beyond the comfort zone. Comfort with discomfort. Because all change, lasting change, requires a period of discomfort.

In April, I wrote a letter to myself where I forgave myself for every single thing I had ever done ( I did not post the actual letter here. It is folded and next to my bed. I occasionally read it when I need a pick-me-up, when I need to hear my own self tell me how far I’ve come and how wonderful of a person I am. I just find it amazing that I could claim I had no regrets, and yet, I held so many grudges against myself. That letter was eight pages long. I forgave myself for my insecurities, for relationships, for my eating disorder, for my fears and vulnerabilities, for everything I had ever been ashamed or embarrassed about. It was highly therapeutic, and I recommend it for anyone.

I still have to consciously decide to accept myself. All of myself. Because I’m not just parts of a personality. I’m not just the “good things” or the traits that shine on paper or ingredients to a recipe. I’m a whole person: a flawed perfectly imperfect human. I am easily distracted, klutzy, occasionally shy, and unbelievably sarcastic. I don’t own the nicest clothes, my car is always a littered mess of papers, books, and trash, and I cannot draw a straight line or circle to save my life. I still count on my fingers for basic math and recite the alphabet in my head when I need to place things in order. I will never win a beauty pageant nor be mistaken for a model. But I love the life I have been given, and I accept all the adversities and pain that have come and will come with it.

I accept that I am in recovery for an eating disorder. I accept that I don’t always like recovery and don’t always want to work recovery. I accept that I have carried years of shame and self-loathing. I accept that I have eaten entire pizzas and boxes of pop-tarts and bags of cookies and cartons of ice cream and cried over them. I accept that I have stolen food, eaten secretly in dark cars and bathrooms, and lied about eating. I accept that I have exercised to the point of nausea and muscle deterioration. I accept that I have worked out at two in the morning in the middle of the dark…just because I “needed to.” I accept that I have canceled plans because my eating disorder was too strong at that moment. I accept that I have chain-chewed packs of gum to avoid eating and binge-drank coffee or tea to excessively urinate (and therefore, weigh less). I accept that I have chosen intoxication of alcohol over intoxication of food. I accept that I have zoned out during entire conversations because I was too preoccupied with thinking about eating. I accept that, in high school, I was secretly excited the first time I lost my period, because I thought it meant I was finally on the track to anorexia. I accept that I hated what I looked like, what I weighed, and what I thought of myself for years.

I accept that I still have these urges, even though I do not like them. I even accept that I still occasionally use these behaviors, even though I do not like them.

Acceptance is not synonymous with enjoyment. Acceptance is synonymous with forgiveness, with saying, it’s okay, with saying, I’m human, and I am enough UNCONDITIONALLY. Imagine how much easier change can be when you are supporting, rather than completely fighting, yourself.

Grateful for my willingness

Dear Bee,

I feel grateful for every minute spent in recovery. Recovery makes life not only worth living, but also worth so much more. It makes it fulfilling; it makes it meaningful; it makes it something overwhelmingly beautiful and glorious.

I have never been content with the ordinary, and I have never been someone who can be pigeonholed into one category or stereotype. I can finally say that I like it that way. When I was younger, at times, I occasionally felt like an outsider. I wanted to be “normal.” I was pensive, yet thrill-seeking. Social, yet introverted. Academic, yet athletic. I had a million different interests, and most of them were obscure compared to my friends. There were so many times I wished to be that typical quiet and constrained girl-next-door. So many times I resented being smart, inquisitive, analytical, or even kind. So many times I wished to be anyone but myself. 

I embrace who I am today. All the flaws, from my incredible stubbornness to my god-awful singing voice to my inability to do nearly anything deemed feminine (sew, bake, knit, etc.). All the quirks, from my obsession with all things Disney to the strange way I eat oatmeal to my undying love for 90’s boy band music. All my talents, from writing to photography to making FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC homemade pizza. 

I am a good person. A worthy person. A person who makes a difference in so many people’s lives. I have so much to receive, and I have even more to give. 

There is so much pressure to label eating disorder recovery. So many people who insist there is only “right” way. News flash. There isn’t a right way to do anything. Recovery is different for everyone, because LIFE is different for everyone, because dreams and desires are different for everyone, because strengths and weaknesses are different for everyone. 

I am grateful for my willingness to take any length for my recovery. Grateful for my open mind. Grateful for my receptiveness to advice and guidance. Grateful for the learning, the growth, and, yes, even the setbacks and hardships. In fact, I am probably most grateful for those rough moments, because they remind me exactly why recovery is worth it. They remind me that life is unbalanced, often uncontrollable, and imperfect when I feel otherwise convinced that is my utmost responsibility to balance, control, and maintain a perfect existence. 

Today, I am just one of millions in recovery. Whether we know each other or not, we are a common, united force, a group of champions, a league of individuals who one day stood up and decided they were WORTH the gifts of self-love and self-acceptance. Who decided they deserved more than the inwards punishment and hatred. Who decided they were no longer going to tolerate abuse from their greatest and most prevailing enemy: themselves. Who decided well-being was more important than the body, the food, or the control. Who decided, that no matter how hard it was or how long it took, it was all worth it.

How honored I am to be among such incredible people.