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…

 

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lose yourself in the stars.

Dear Bee,

I write to you over coffee on a chilly and quiet Monday morning. We had a good weekend; you were around, but I didn’t engage. 

On Saturday, I was surrounded by family. Another relative I am close to is dying. She is old, and it is expected. That doesn’t make it easier to grieve; it just makes it easier to rationalize. I can embrace sadness now, but that doesn’t mean I like to feel sad. I just accept it for what it is. I was able to hold her hand, kiss her, tell her I love her. We don’t always get that chance in life; we don’t always get to say our goodbyes. I have gained more from her life than I will lose from her death. That is the most important thing.

Boyfriend and I went to the beach that night, lied on a blanket, and looked up at the stars, the sound of the sea calming my unnerving mind. We talked about life, as we usually do, and death, as we have lately started to do. Looking up at the stars has always been grounding for me. Even though I live under the smog-coated Southern California skies, it was a clear night. I felt small. In this world, nothing matters. I believe in dialectics, however. If nothing matters, then everything matters.

Yesterday, we hiked. We are going to start doing this more often. It’s probably my favorite hobby, and he’s gotten into it as well. We brought his dog, and enjoyed nature, laughter, and conversation. If life is a roller coaster, love sure makes the ride worthwhile.

I’m stressed about money. And school. And loved ones dying. Not particularly in that order. I’m grateful, though. Grateful that I get to savor this cup of coffee in solitude. Grateful for writing, because it always feels good. Grateful for the two clients I get to see today and the group I get to lead tonight. Grateful that I get to practice doing what I love every single day. Grateful for love- always grateful for love. I am grateful for recovery, even if it’s been shaky. 

In times of stress, recovery is the last thing I want to focus on. Instead, I’d rather lose myself in the predictable throes of a disorder- in the tiredness compulsion of exercise, in the mindless act of overeating, in the number-crunching act of calculating calories and frequent weigh-ins, in the obsession of the ingredients in my next meal and the one after that and the one after that. The disorder will always be the easy guilty pleasure and the tempting lover. The disorder will always be familiar, and, in a distorted sense, safe. I know I can return to it anytime, and so, I have to consciously choose not to. 

Told this to a client the other day: self-actualization may not be the correct term. It really should be called self-actualizing, because it’s a verb. It’s a constant action; it’s in movement. Self-actualizing is the consistent process of healing the present as a result of accepting the past and embracing the future. Can we look at it as a journey, rather than an endpoint? 

When it ebbs and flows

Dear Bee,

Life ebbs and flows and everyone struggles, and that’s important for us all to keep in mind. I have another relative dying, and it’s hard. God, it’s hard. She’s old, very old, and has lived a full and vibrant life, but that doesn’t make the impeding permanency of nonexistence any easier. I am continuously finding myself questioning life and its meaning and the process of aging and the fragility of time, and it either way, I realize, it doesn’t matter how I think or what I do with that knowledge. Life can and still will happen. The moments still happen. The experiences still occur.

My first day of my last full semester starts tomorrow. Graduate school has flown. Everything in my life has changed. For the better. That is absolutely undeniable. But, it is still a complex ride, an up-and-down process full of uncertainty. 

I went away Weds-Fri to visit with my boyfriend’s parents about two hours away from where we live. It was a much-needed getaway, a spur-of-the-moment decision. They love me. Absolutely adore me. And it’s nice to be so appreciated. I usually do well meeting with parents, but they take it above and beyond. What a comforting feeling. And my boyfriend- I love him so much. That goes without saying. I was feeling really anxious on Wednesday after seeing clients (I felt I had a horrible session with one of them, I also felt very triggered to binge), and I could process this with him on the car ride there. I haven’t given into any disordered thoughts since then- well, maybe once, when I slightly overrate on a dinner meal out with his family. But, whatever. Water under the bridge.

I wish i could enjoy life without constantly obsessing over food, but I just have to accept where I am in my stages of recovery. Healing is slow. But it’s always better to take the long, scenic route than risk a dangerous shortcut. I realize that. I guess I just still grapple with what true recovery looks like. The definition I like is that I can eat whatever I want guilt-free without under or overdoing it. I want to say I I can be able to accept my body at any size, but at this stage, that isn’t true. I like the weight I am now. I don’t want to weigh more. I tend to eat a variety of foods, but I know it’s important to get proper nutrition, so I tend to stick with healthier fare. Some of that may be disordered; some may be genuine concern for my well-being. The lines are not as black-and-white as they seem. It’s hard knowing if my motives come from my eating disorder or from my general knowledge (ex: it’s good for you to workout, it’s good for you to eat salads, it’s good for you to do this, do that, etc.). I guess it becomes disordered when it starts impairing the other parts of functioning, such as relationships, work, and school, which I can safely say it has in the past. Today, not so much. Today, my relationships are excellent and work and school are both going well. 

It’s always a process. I’m always a student. I never want to stop learning, for then I stop growing. 

the rainbow of emotions

Dear Bee,

I’m so sick of the holiday food. There. I said it. I’m so tired of junk food being EVERYWHERE. At my work, in my house, at the parties. It’s way too triggering right now. I don’t want to blame neutral ingredients, but it would be much easier to focus on my emotions without continuously feeling overwhelmed by the distractions of tempting chocolates, cookies, brownies, etc. I alternate between wanting to avoid everything altogether and fantasizing about extreme gluttony. 

To recap the past few days,

My loved relative is still dying. I’ve cried many times. I’ve pondered the meaning of life many more times. 

My ex-boyfriend is now engaged. This bothers me for many reasons. One, being that I felt so much emotional agony after I broke up with him, terrified that he would kill himself because he supposedly could not live without me. Two, he had proposed to me. Twice. And said I was the only person he could ever love. Three, I just don’t like to see him happy. Selfish, sure, but it’s the truth. Four, according to my highly judgmental opinion, he is immature and thus way too young/financially insecure/LAZY and ambitious to actually get married. 

My dad had a birthday. Things have been good with the family. The grieving process does that to people. 

My boyfriend has been off-the-charts incredible. SERIOUSLY. What kind of boyfriend is willing to help me process how and why I feel upset that my ex-boyfriend is getting married…while also completely validating my frustration. Love of my life, I swear. He’s my favorite person in the world. 

My clients are going through deep shit. What IS it about the holidays? There’s been self-harm, suicidal ideation, possible eating disorder behaviors, major depressive episodes, binge drinking, family fights… all I can say is that I’m happy I’m here for them. I’m learning so much every session. 

I did my first mandated child abuse & elder abuse report. These are really scary…

I’m going to Florida for a week with boyfriend. We leave Christmas Day. I’m BEYOND excited. 

I’ve been alternating between overeating and restricting. Too. Much. Sugar. Why does it have to taste so damn good?!?!?!

I’ve binged one and a half times. I stopped myself mid-binge this evening. I actually put food back. I know I’m supposed to be proud of myself, but I’m irritated that I was numbing my feelings in the first place. The first binge was atrocious. Really. It was just disgusting. I feel like such a savage animal attacking food like that.

Oh, and I’ve felt fat. And yes, I know fat isn’t a feeling. 

And most of all, I feel guilty because someone I love, someone who is close to me, is literally on her last final days…and I’m obsessing about the amount of candy bars I can cram into my mouth without anybody noticing that they are gone. I’m worried about someone getting married, someone who I can’t stand. 

I’m just grateful I can cry and express. I’m grateful for my support reaching out to me. I’m grateful that my life is colorful and vibrant. 

You, Bee, are a security blanket. I turn to you when my world becomes cold and frightening. Instead, I need to trust that my own body can handle the changes in temperature. Because no matter how much you may “protect” me, you also shield me. And this little bird wants to fly free. 

 

putting in perspective

Dear Bee,

The past few days have been a whirlwind. One of my relatives is dying. It happened very suddenly; she’s old, she’s been sick for awhile, but it’s still the looming cloud of death, and that’s a tough pill for any living soul to swallow. Nothing puts life in perspective quite like death. I’ve been very emotional. Yesterday, fortunately, I was able to see her, tell her I love her, kiss her goodbye. I could hold it together while I was in the room with her; it was in my car that I broke down. Tears are good. Emotions are the windows to our hearts. I would rather flesh out the state of love and feel this kind of pain than build walls and stay isolated. Humans are meant for companionship; it is in our genetic biology.

I’ve been reaching out for support, and the response has been overwhelming. Before, I had the tendency to withhold in order to shoulder everyone else’s pain. Now, I actually feel allowed to admit when I am sad. It’s okay not to be okay.

This past week has been an instrumental one. The conference I attended really refined that I’m doing exactly what i’m meant to be doing (therapy), and that there is still so much in store for me regarding what I can achieve and how I can help people. It’s an exciting field, and it’s growing and expanding. I’m entering the workforce, it seems, at just the right time. 

I’ve also been really getting into meditation. One of the presenters, a world-famous neuroscientist and mindfulness therapist, who developed the wheel of consciousness (Daniel J. Siegel– Google this BOSS of a man), did a live demonstration that allowed me to actually, actually meditate for the first time in my life. I couldn’t even breathe uninterrupted for a minute without becoming restless and agitated before doing this activity. My boyfriend and I have been meditating once or twice a day now, and it’s been absolutely profound in enabling me to get in touch with my senses and appreciate the uniqueness of each passing moment. Now I get why mindfulness is such a thing. Once it clicks, it’s insanely euphoric.

Life is insanely unpredictable. With an eating disorder, I realized, I was trying to somehow control that unpredictability. I was trying to keep the world safe and tightly-sealed in my own container, absent of fear, anger, sadness, and insecurity. I didn’t want to be present: it was much too easier to focus and obsess on the future, while dwelling and ruminating on the mistakes shaping my past. I didn’t appreciate small things; I didn’t even really appreciate people. I sure as hell didn’t appreciate myself.

What has recovery given me?

Appreciation. Appreciation for love in all forms, appreciation for what I get to do every single day, appreciation for the rain that’s currently dancing on my rooftop, appreciation for the teenagers who will be confiding in me in a few hours, appreciation for the feeling of this soft blanket over my skin, appreciation for the ability to type this out right now.

To starve worry, you must binge on gratitude.

 

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.