Saturday Morning Writing

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.

hanging in there?

God, it’s been a rough few weeks.
I don’t know where to begin.
I’m just on the roller coaster of emotions, and I can only blame it on stress.
I’m working so much, too much, I know that, and this overachiever lifestyle is only harming me.
I’m helping way too many other people…and not helping myself.
It’s really ridiculous.

I miss this blog–it was my baby for so long. I don’t know why I am abandoning it.
I have lots of my clients talking back to their illnesses, using the same strategy I used to do, but I’m not doing the work to myself.
I’m telling them to be kind, while I continue to beat myself down.

This is not healthy.

Three weeks ago, my old therapist called me and asked if I wanted a full-time therapist position at a residential facility eating disorder unit.
Not even kidding. This came out of nowhere.
I haven’t really heard from her since- apparently, it is in the developmental stages, and I’m scared to even get my hopes up because it’s really up in the air, but talk about a dream come true. I’ve been scrapping three part-time therapy jobs, barely making livable wages, working 60ish hours a week. A full-time position would be a dream right now. And working with ED clients? That’s why I went into this field in the first place!

But, I’m also struggling in my own eating disorder life, and that’s because I’ve been stressed as fuck. I’ve been bingeing, craving junk food, not exercising as much as I’d like to, and not sleeping as much as I need. I feel fat, and fat isn’t a feeling, but whenever I “feel” that, it means I’m feeling really insecure, incompetent, and unsettled in my own skin.

But, in my own shallow words, I FEEL FAT.
And there is nothing more triggering in recovery or in quasi-recovery than the threat of being fat.

I’m not fat, but I am not taking care of myself. There’s a difference.
I need to start.
Otherwise, I’ll be burnt out before I know it.

Just needed to get this off my chest. Had a horrible binge earlier. Feeling the post-food coma of laziness, guilt, despair, and anger…it’s nothing I haven’t felt before, but it’s painful nonetheless.

Hope all is wel with my lovely readers. Shout and say hi! I miss this community.

easier to blame the disorder

Again, I haven’t been blogging much, but I plan to write in here everyday this week, only because…accountability? It’s cathartic? It’s my own free self-therapy.

The past twelve hours have been hard.

I want to blame food, because that’s easy. I want to blame my body, because that’s easier. I want to blame the eating disorder, because that’s the easiest. And I always want to blame cookies, because why should those exist? How pretty and neat it is to wrap up all my fucking problems and feelings into this one category- this medical diagnosis. How controlling and concrete and nice that all looks.

I’ve struggled for about ten years. I’ve been weaving in and out of whatever this labyrinth called recovery is for about two or three of them. I’m so high-functioning that it’s ridiculous. I’m so good at hiding and lying and secrets that it’s only now starting to worry me. This disorder is SO GOOD at being this secretive lover, fleeting in and out of my life whenever it desires.

I’m still half-assing recovery. I’m afraid I’ve lost meaning of it. I’m afraid that I’m no longer afraid of slipping into old behaviors. The old defenses keep cropping: denial (I’m fine and nothing is wrong; there is nothing I need to be worrying about), intellectualization (I’m just being HEALTHY! Everyone can eat certain things in moderation!), rationalization (It’ll all be over tomorrow; I’ll start again tomorrow), and of course, the best one: minimization (I’m being melodramatic over nothing. People are much worse off than I am. I’m not even “sick enough”).

There will always be food. There will always be my body. But there doesn’t always have to be an eating disorder.

I have to keep preserving. I want to. I really, really, really want to keep onto the path of healing. I have to take care of myself. I’m taking really good care of everyone else. I’m holding the woes and worries of my clients. I’m doing killer therapy. But none of that matters if I’m in shambles.

None of that matters if I don’t choose active recovery.

To be continued…

the hard days.

The hard days hurt.

They feel like square one.

They look like a wrecked battlefield. 

They taste like defeat.

The hard days make me doubt myself, make me loathe myself.

I wish they could go away forever.

And yet,

I feed into those hard days.

Pun definitely intended.

I let them define me.

I let them overrule me.

I let them get the best of me,

I choose to focus on the eating disorder,

Rather than focus on the emotions of life

I choose to focus on the food,

And how little or how much I can have of it,

Because it provides escape.

Because it’s the cheapest, easiest, fastest comfort I know.

And comfort-

Why am I still chasing comfort?

When the disorder is anything but? 

When the disorder is chaos and pain and absolute horror?

Why chase comfort

In a voice that only offers sugarcoated deceit? 

Why seek solace

In the hands of your greatest enemy? 

 

 

I wish there was a CURE button. I wish there was a black-and-white recovery solution. I wish I could stop the obsession forever. I can’t. I don’t know if I ever will. But I’m trying. I just hope it’s enough. 

We’re all anonymous somewhere

Dear Bee,

This past weekend, my boyfriend needed to attend a variety of Twelve Steps meeting for an assignment, so naturally, I went with him. We went to AA and NA. We tried to go to an OA meeting, but when we arrived at the location, nobody was there.

I forget how wonderful it can be to sit in those rooms, to hear the stories, the pain, the struggle of people all experiencing the same highs and lows. Drug of choice doesn’t matter. Crack, tequila, sugar…they’re all potent and they can easily spiral any of us out of control. The strength and love in those rooms is incredible. Now, I remember why I liked Twelve Steps. The camaraderie and fellowship saved me in many ways. Your voice lives in every addict. Your voice lives in every single person who knows what it is like to be compulsive and addictive and secretive and ashamed. 

I’ve contemplated going back. Contemplated. Just to see. It’s been almost a year. How has the time flown so quickly? Recovery is back in full force, at the forefront of my work again. It needs to be that way for awhile. No more half-assing it. No more finding the loopholes and thinking I can somehow outsmart the disorder. I can’t. I’ve tried. Thousands of times. It’s failed. Just as many times. 

Day in and day out. That’s the process. Tedious, but worth it. Painstaking at times, but still worth it. Always, always worth it. I wouldn’t trade the experiences I have had in recovery for the “control” I felt in sickness, for the “escape” I found in sickness. I wouldn’t be able to love deeply and experience the riches of the world. The Twelve Steps reminded me that this weekend.

I was reminded how much SWEETER life is without you. 

Nothing tastes better than my recovery. 

It’s so easy to lose sight of that, especially when I’m in the thick of it, especially when your voice becomes so strong that it drowns out all the logic and reason. It’s easy for me to feel powerless next to you. And because maybe, in some ways, I am powerless to the throes of mental illness. But, I am not powerless to the fight of recovery.

Your voice is different from my own. It’s more shrill, more desperate, more deceptive. Your voice is not mine. You follow me, whisper in my ear, scream in my face…you always know just where to find me, just when to coax and comfort me into listening to you.

But your voice is not my voice. And my recovery will never be yours. 

candid morning thoughts

Dear Bee, 

I’m sitting next to an empty jar of Nutella. This was eaten in two separate sittings- half last week, half at two in the morning today. This was never a binge food before (surprisingly, because it’s basically the “perfect” binge food- I know that sounds so sick). Let me decompress. 

I have been stressed. This semester has been kicking my ass. I see clients three to four days per week in the mornings and afternoons and attend class three nights a week. I am also in the midst of studying for a huge comprehensive exam that will determine whether or not I graduate. No pressure. I usually don’t have trouble sleeping, but lately, I’ve been wide awake and anxious at one, two, three in the morning…even though I am exhausted, I am struggling to let go and fall asleep.

But not all has been bad. In fact, I would argue that most has been very, very, very good. I was offered an exciting new opportunity to work with a new group of clients and my supervisor praised me for doing a good job yesterday; things are super with the boyfriend; my relationship with my family is better than has been in years. However, I am noticing that I am somewhat in a bind. Several of my friends reach out to me, saying “let’s do something this weekend” or “I miss you.” I wish I could feel appreciative; instead, this just piles on stress. My time feels so stretched for the next few months; I am becoming THAT FLAKY PERSON unwilling to make tangible commitments and always keeps the option of canceling available…and I don’t like that I am doing that. I want to spend time with my friends. I also know that I need to remain focused for the next few months, at least until this huge test is out of my way. 

Last night, one of my friends said, “Oh my god, you always eat so healthy!” in response to the salad I was chowing down for dinner. This was awkward. She knows my eating disorder history; she SAW my very public NEDA support Facebook post; she is a training therapist! Then, she had to continue on with opening her bag of chips and offering one to one of my other friends. She turned to me and said, “I would offer you some, but you probably wouldn’t want these.” 

Really. 

I don’t restrict much at all in front of anyone. And yes, I do eat “healthy” by American societal terms, I suppose, but who has the right to judge me for that? Why are we so goddamn critical of how others eat (I am not immune to this, either)? She acted as if I were committing some asinine crime by eating vegetables over chips. 

Well, I got the last laugh because I was the one who polished off half a jar of Nutella and three brownies in bed, at 2am, six hours ago. Just because I couldn’t sleep. Just because I had tried everything else. I didn’t even feel triggered—I was just bored, really. Has it gotten to this point? Sigh. 

But, I’m going to try something new…I’m not going to label what I did as a binge. It was an oversized midnight snack and it was the best I could do at the time. People do this. I’m letting it go. I’m going to live in the gray area today. 90% of the time, the pattern is: either I eat perfectly or good enough or I binge and have an all access pass until midnight to keep on eating. 

Today will be different.
Today, I do not have that all-access pass. I will eat normally. I will turn the experience into an opportunity.

No restriction. No bingeing. 

That is my self-care promise to myself today…and now to all of you. Keep you guys posted.

fuck this man.

I’m tired of people dying. I’m tired of food. I’m fucking tired of eating and UNSURPRISINGLY eating is all I want to fucking do. Numb out the pain. Jump into the only form of suffering I’m actually comfortable with. Hello, old friend. Nice to be reacquainted with you.

We’re really enjoying those daytime moments of “balance,” aren’t we? The ones full of mindfulness and drinking water and yoga and holistic therapy. Only to be ravaged by a insatiable drive to eat, eat, eat once the nighttime demons kick in.

I hate you.

I need to go back to therapy. Or a support group. Something. I’ve tried everything. But what good is any of it if I’m not actually moving forward? Fuck. I want to be recovered. I don’t want to do the work, but, on the other hand, I know the only way to get over something is to push through it. 

I’m such a good therapist. I love my clients. I love what I do. They are incapable of disappointing me. I thought I would become better at extending love to myself by now. I’ve been practicing, I’ve been trying my best. What if it’s not enough?

Even this blog is becoming black-and-white as I oscillate between “GO RECOVERY! HAPPY-HAPPY-JOY-JOY” posts to the dreary and somber helpless tales such as this one. Welcome to the complexity of an eating disorder, a special place in hell where no matter how much I believe I have a coherent understanding of recovery, a new page turns a new wave tries to knock me down. The slips hurt. More than ever. Each one plunges me deeper and deeper.

 I can’t stop eating. I’m filling voids that cannot be filled with food. I’m numbing emotions that cannot be cured with food. I’m healing problems that cannot be healed with food. The pattern ensues. I blame my willpower, although that is not the problem. I go back and forth between victimizing myself and beating myself. I hate who I am when I am like this. And yet, I keep slipping.

But, to conclude,

My second biggest fear is fear and loss.

The first, i’m realizing, is knowing that I have no control over said fear and loss…

 

Myths Your Eating Disorder Tells You

You can get rid of me any time. I promise. This is just a phase. Just a diet. Tomorrow, you can start fresh. Tomorrow, you won’t be tempted or triggered by me anymore. I promise, you can eliminate me anytime you like. Why would I want to hurt you? I’m here to help. 

In fact, why don’t you look at like this? You need me. Without me, how would you have any sense of control? You wouldn’t. You would be completely overwhelmed by your own emotions and own existence. You should be thanking me for saving you! I am protecting you from the chaotic abyss that is the dark and scary unknown. I am rescuing you from external pain

And your body needs me. Without me, it would be even worse than it already is…if you could imagine that to be possible. It, too, would be uncontrollable. Large and grotesque and unlovable and undesirable…and, that, of course, is why you need me. To motivate you. To lift you up when you’re down. To get you the body that will finally give you the happiness and pride you seek. Your body needs my voice in order to keep it humbled, guilty, and structured. Your body needs me, because it cannot be trusted to make its own decisions. Imagine how terrible its choices would be! Your body is fighting against you! Remember, I am on your side.

Because other people will try to feed you lies and tell you I’m dangerous and destructive, you need to be secretive about me. Otherwise, they will just overreact and panic. They will treat you like a bad person; they will tell you that you are pathetic and weak. I’ll never hurt you like they will. Besides, they can never understand. They don’t understand what it’s like to feel comforted and secure…they don’t understand how important it is to have a good body and a sense of control. They’re clearly missing out.

Again, you can get rid of me anytime. This will be the last binge. This will be the last purge. Let’s just make it a good one, since it’s going to be your last, right? Better leave off with a bang! Wouldn’t want to second-guess your decision, right? Then, I promise, I’m done! I’ll leave! I would never want to hurt you. 

i mean, you’re not going to get to that goal weight, but I’ll leave. I get that you want your health and sanity and happiness back. Just know that you’re not going to be skinny. And therefore, you’re not going to be happy. Or healthy. Or lovable. So, the choice is yours, but I just want to warn you. We set our for a specific mission, remember? Do we want all that hard work to go unaccounted? Remember all those missed meals and passed snacks? Remember when I helped you resist those treats even when you were yelling at me, telling me how much you wanted them? That took effort! I had to do some powerful persuasion, and you clearly cannot appreciate my efforts. I’m glad you want to go back to the miserable way you were before me.

You’ve come such a far way. And now, now, you want to leave me? HA! How are you going to handle anything without me? You need me now! I’m in your mind, your body, and your soul. I’m your closest friend, as I’ve distanced you from everyone else. I’m a parasite, and you’re my host. We both need each other to survive now. We breathe the same air. You can’t just get rid of me so easily. You can’t just say goodbye, as if what we had meant nothing. Because, without me, you are nothing. 

I give you meaning. I give you purpose. And a negative identity sure beats no identity. 

 

“coming out” with your eating disorder

This post is in response to a question one of my lovely readers had regarding “how to come out” about your eating disorder, specifically with terms of seeking help.

I’m sure most of you already know this:

A. Most people do not view an eating disorder as a complex and serious mental illness

B. Many people who do perceive it that way may not realize how complicated “recovery” looks like.

C. Many people still cling onto the ideas that, in order to have an eating disorder, one must emaciated and skeletal.

D. Many people are misinformed about addictions and mental illness in general.

So, you’ve decided it’s time to seek some help. You’re going to bite the bullet and start therapy, attend support groups, or work some kind of recovery program. That’s already insanely risky and terrifying at the same time. Good for you for being brave! Magic happens at the end of your comfort zone! You’ve admitted to having some kind of problem, and what’s better is that you are contemplating ways towards healing. What an incredible first step you are taking.

Here’s how it went for me: Nobody knew I had an eating disorder, except the people I chose to tell. Nobody knew I was in “recovery,” except the people I chose to tell. I remained relatively secretive. It was easier that way. After all, I knew the eating disorder stereotypes, myths, and ignorance. Besides, my own shame prevented me from wanting to talk about it AT ALL. The reader who asked me this question is considering attending OA meetings for her first time. I started going a year ago and went rather diligently for six months before deciding the program was not suitable for me. At first, I didn’t tell a soul other than my therapist. I was ashamed to be there and humiliated that I needed support from an organization as horribly-named as Overeaters Anonymous. I hated it, to be honest, but I planted my butt in the seat. Rarely talked or contributed much. Came in on time, left exactly on time. Read some of the literature. Finally found a sponsor after a few months. Did three of the steps. Eventually, I started telling some people that I was going to a “support group for eating disorders.” That was all I disclosed, because it was all I felt comfortable saying. I didn’t beat myself up. For some of us, including myself, it’s not always easy or even accepted to talk about mental health in certain circles of loved ones. I knew some people would judge or ridicule me, so I avoided telling them.

Once you share that you have or had an eating disorder, the dynamic invariably changes. In other words, proceed with caution. The other person may not know how to react. He or she may entirely dismiss your experience or entirely overreact to it. This is normal. However, hard as it may seem right now, THEIR REACTION is ultimately NOT YOUR PROBLEM. Your problem is taking care of yourself, and that’s what you need to focus on. Thus, it’s critical that you choose to tell the people who will AID you in taking care of yourself, rather than telling the people who will HINDER you.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to have a safe space to essentially vent. It’s morphed into a creative outlet chock-full of experience and insight and learned lessons. I didn’t have anyone to “tell” at first. I had a therapist, but I kept her at a distance. I had parents, but they didn’t really understand, and they assumed that by going to therapy, I was getting better…they never brought up recovery or my eating disorder whatsoever. I held it all within. Eventually, through recovery, however, something amazing happened. I started seeing my friends differently: rather than as people I needed to take care of, I realized I could ALSO lean on them. In fact, through recovery, I learned how to be honest about my eating disorder to people I had known for years (people who had NO idea!) I finally felt empowered to do that. My current boyfriend knew from day one, and that’s something I NEVER thought I could share at the beginning of an intimate relationship.

It takes time. That process cannot be rushed.

So, what’s my “advice?”

Be organic. Tell the people who need to know, if anyone does need to know. Rather than forcing yourself to disclose about one of your deepest struggles, look at it as a discussion these people must EARN. Look at it as if anyone would be HONORED to hear your story. And, if you are in a support group or therapy, I urge you to TALK ABOUT IT in that safe space. Express how difficult it is for you tell people. Express the fears, concerns, ignorance you may face. You will find that you are not alone, and you will also learn what has worked for others in similar situations. You don’t owe your recovery to anyone but yourself. You’re doing this for YOU. If people ask where you are going, you can be as vague or as specific as you feel comfortable. Like I said, for a long time, I didn’t tell anyone I was going to meetings. I did tell people I was going to therapy (only because everyone knew I was training to be a therapist, so it was acceptable), but I absolutely understand that stigmatization exists. With time, I started growing more comfortable. Once I felt I had more recovery under my belt, I felt more inspired and even WANTED to talk about my eating disorder. In fact, last year, I even posted a Facebook status in honor of NEDA week for the world to see, something I never would have done in the past.

Today, essentially all the important people in my life know.

You don’t have to go into extensive detail if you do not feel ready. You can tell people you’re doing this because you struggle from time to time, because you’re seeking support, because you just need a place to talk…because, ultimately, each and every one us needs that. Please remember that your recovery is on your terms.

Ask yourself: What can I do now to strengthen my recovery today?

If the answer is to tell someone you may have been “hiding” it from, then you know what to do.

Be patient with yourself. Trust the process. And, as the Big Book would say, it’s CRITICAL to just live life on life’s terms.

When I gave the Eating Disorder a VOICE

Dear Bee,

About one year ago, I externalized the eating disordered voice into a name. Bee. I had heard girls refer to their eating disordered voices into Ana and Mia, and I decided to go with Bee to embody my ongoing issue with binge eating. Maybe writing letters to you could give me some clarity, or so I assumed. In all honesty, I was desperate for something to work.

Today, I helped a client do this with his ongoing depression and sexual disorder. We externalized his symptoms, gave them a name, and I showed him how to distinguish his “depressed” voice from his identity. He is not his disorders. He is not a sum of his symptoms. He is a whole person suffering from a mental illness- he did not choose to have this. He deserves healing. 

You have been by my side for several years. You were my crutch, my confidante, and we have absolutely had our fair share of ups and downs. For years, I felt controlled by your powerful dictation. I could not separate your voice from my own. I just thought you were me.  It was something i couldn’t fix. I was broken. I expected you to just “go away” on your own.

In a sense, I WAS my eating disorder. I was nothing without it. Today, I can distinguish your voice from mine. I can recognize the distorted thoughts a mile away. Whether I choose to listen to your voice is a different matter. I used to think recovery meant that somehow your voice would just disappear. Recovery meant that you would completely leave me. I now understand that is not rational. At least not yet. You were my closest, most intimate friend for so long. It is entirely unrealistic to never hear from you again. You knock on the door many times. Usually, I don’t answer. Sometimes, I say hello. Other times, I let you inside. My choices are never random. There is a reason for each action I make. Recovery means listening to you knock and feeling empowered enough to know that I don’t need to let you in. Recovery also means understanding that even if I let you in, you do not have to STAY in.  I can kick you out at any given time. This is my house. This is my body. It is me, not YOU, taking care of myself. 

 Overcoming you has been the absolute hardest struggle of my life. Imagine how sick a person has to be to be convinced that he or she must induce self-harm in order to feel relief. Imagine how terrifying it is to believe there is no choice over my behaviors, compulsions, or routine. Imagine how encompassing it is to be a slave to numbers, calculations, and sizes. It is excruciating. It is consuming. The eating disorder absolutely becomes YOU until you decide it is only a PART of you. That has to be the individual’s choice. You will do everything you can to convince me that I need you in order to survive and flourish in this chaotic world.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself that I CHOOSE. Occasionally, I lose sight of that. We all do. You know exactly how to convince me that I am powerless or out of control. You know exactly how to make me not only “need” you, but also, how to “want” you. But, in all honesty, what kind of person WANTS to hate him or herself? What kind of person wants to add suffering on top of the mountain of pain that already exists in this journey of life? What kind of person wants to be a slave to compulsion?

I sure know I never wanted it.

That was all you, girlfriend. 

Keep on knocking. Eventually, your hand will get tired.