This isn’t square one, baby.

Dear Bee,

When I reflect on what happened Monday, I realize that it was pretty much bound to happen. My triggering thoughts led to the inevitable action. This does not mean I was necessarily doomed, but it indicates I was not actively working as hard to change my thoughts and acknowledge my feelings as I could have.

It was a weird binge. You know how some kind of make sense and they’re so satisfying because you’re eating all the foods you’ve been depriving yourself of in one harried sitting? Nope, that wasn’t the case this time. Over the long span of the day, I ate basically a bag of fun-sized candy Snickers. Leftovers from Halloween. Overcompensation for all the candy I avoided over the past few weeks.  And some flavored mini rice cakes. Again, nothing great. And some Pop-tarts. Those always show up in binges. I can’t remember the last time I ate Pop-tarts just as part of a regular meal or snack. They taste like cardboard with a coat of cheap icing. With a binge, there is never enough. With a binge, taste doesn’t matter and neither do calories, texture, or stomach pain. With a binge, you are filling emptiness with food…and because one cannot satisfy a feeling with such nutrients, even being stuffed to the brink of explosion does not satisfy.

It was right after my therapy session, too. And we barely even touched on eating disorder related content. We focused more on other things happening in life, on my internship, family, friends. That kind of stuff. I left feeling pretty good. Then, BAM.

I would love to think these slips are completely random, but my ego knows better. There is always a reason, always some kind of underlying motivator that provokes me to engage in destructive behaviors. Otherwise, I would constantly do it. Or I would be able to stop completely. There is a reason I take a few steps back after seemingly taking so many steps forward.  

Of course, I woke up yesterday on a mission to restrict. I had gained two pounds of water weight, after all. I didn’t actively do it, although I wasn’t hungry at all much during the day. Forcing myself to eat was tough, especially when I wanted to get away with consuming as little as possible to “make up” for what I had “messed up.” This SCREAMS eating disorder logic. I’m well aware. That’s why I ate. Restricting just propagates the yearning desire to overeat. This is common sense. 

Today is my half birthday. I don’t think anyone else in the world celebrates these little six-month marks, but my family and I always have. And I love it. Just another significant milestone to remind me of how much I have done in this life and how much I have yet to achieve. Just another reminder of how much I’ve grown and developed into the person I always aspired to be.

I am damn proud of who I am, and there is nothing and nobody who can convince me otherwise. I have my back. It doesn’t matter how long I neglected myself. What matters is that now I know I DESERVE to take care of myself. I DESERVE to love myself. These affirmations are not easy, and it isn’t something I just automatically resonate with. I have to be reminded on a daily basis. I am used to being at war; I am used to being my own enemy; I am used to feeling like I am stuck on a battlefield. And you know what? It is EXHAUSTIVE and, at the end of the day, it is absolutely FUTILE. No matter how much you hate yourself, you’re stuck with yourself. So, sooner or later, you either need to accept or change, because the self-loathing just becomes  and it filters into every crack and crevice of your life, from your relationships to your hobbies to your personality. Self-loathing is an ugly outfit. 

So, I binged on Monday. It wasn’t fun. But, in great news, it was probably only the second or third time in about a month and a half. Am I back at the dreaded Square One? Not a chance. Square One means returning to denial. Square One means choosing to not only engage in destructive actions, but also choosing to BELIEVE distorted thoughts, rather than challenge them. Square One means losing hope and giving up on recovery. Square One means staying in sickness.

I am at Square 38493797. And yes, that is a random number. And no, I don’t care. I can be wherever I want to be. Because I know what direction I am headed. And it’s the furthest path from backwards

 

 

Advertisements

if your past is heavy, let your future be light.

Too often we get caught in this stuck image of who who we and what we have done rather than who we will be and what we will do.

Imagine if you were able to let go of any negative identity or preconceived notion about your past. Imagine if you could change yourself right now. Imagine if you had that choice.

You do have that choice. You have always had it.

What do you want for yourself? How can you get there? What do you have control over? What don’t you have control over?

Hesitations. Apprehension. Doubt snaking in. We’re afraid to start. Most of us are laced with perfectionism, and, as a result, we fear the risk of failure that presents itself when taking a new path. We stay stagnant. Comfortable with the discomfort. Trapped into routines. Slaves to ruts. Existing in old patterns that no longer serve us, and worse, harm us. We wish for a new future, a wish is merely a dream without a plan. 

If I focus on who I was, I see a compulsive, overachieving, extremely driven and dedicated person. I see the “perfect” golden child, the one who made everyone proud with her accomplishments and poise. I see the girl who tried her hardest to balance school, work, dating, and friendships, and, of course, tried to be “perfect” in all of those roles. I see exhaustion and fatigue. Anger and avoidance. She was drowning, but the only one who could save her was herself. Food meant everything to me. And when I say everything, I mean it. That control was more important than anything else in my life. I substituted food for love, as most of us do with eating disorders. I substituted control for spontaneity and discipline for forgiveness. I was hard on myself. I accepted nothing and always thought I could do better, be prettier, be more successful. In a sense, I wanted to be anyone but me. I was so wrapped in my own shame that I couldn’t distinguish vulnerability from weakness. And so, I kept my mouth shut, plastered a smile on my face, and learned how to take care of everyone else but myself. 

If I focus on what I did, I recognize that I maintained a double life. The “perfect one” and the eating-disordered one. The one where everyone thought I had it all, where I looked perfect on paper. Inside, I was crumbling. Food and control dictated everything. I measured my worth each day by what I weighed, what I eat, and how much I exercised. I was “good” or “bad,” a “success” or a “failure.” And with an eating disorder, you tend to stigmatize yourself far more as a failing, bad person than anything remotely positive. I binged. A lot. I felt great about myself when I could skip meals or push myself to the point of utmost fatigue. I became obsessed with watching the number on the scale fluctuate.

If I focus on who I will be, I see someone who is just as kind and compassionate to herself as she is to others. There is a fiery passion and constant zest for life. This is an individual who just feels free and weightless. When the world turns dark on her, she knows how to take care of herself and handle the situation. She can lean on others for support, but, at the end of the day, she is her own biggest fan and her own best friend. She knows when it is okay to feel in control, and when it is okay to surrender. She recognizes that perfectionism does not exist, shame is just poison, and, at any given moment, she has the power and the choice to do whatever she wants. She is not bound by any compulsion, habit, or pattern. She is only guided by her intuition and spirit, and occasionally, by the guidance of those she loves.

If I focus on what I will do, I see GREAT THINGS. I see myself giving and receiving tremendous love. I see a constant thirst for adventure and novelty and the willingness to do new things, jump on new opportunities, and seize the moment whenever I can. I see a career full of emotional and spiritual fulfillment for me as well as my clients. I see travel and lots of it. Marriage and children. Charity work. I see a constant lifetime of learning, growing, and expanding. Writing until I no longer can. Reading until I’ve read every book there is. Hiking trails and swimming in oceans. Capturing the world with my written word and a camera. I will do whatever I set my mind to, and my plan will be constantly modified, refined, and changed according to this flow of life.

If the past is weighing you down, only YOU have the ability to let go of the weight. Who else is going to do that for you? Who else is going to give you that permission? If you are defining yourself by your mistakes or flaws, only YOU have the power to show yourself in a different light.

It’s okay…

To eat breakfast naked just because it’s Wednesday. 

To get your nails done just because it’s Wednesday. 

To walk on the beach just because it’s Wednesday.

To spontaneously buy tickets to a cheap music festival just because it’s Wednesday. 

To lie on the couch and watch an old movie just because it’s Wednesday.

To grab your boyfriend, kiss him for as long as you can, and tell him how much you love him just because it’s Wednesday. 

To take a walk at 10pm just because it’s Wednesday. 

To eat a bag of dark chocolate-covered blueberries just because it’s Wednesday.

To love yourself just because it’s Wednesday.

Overall, it’s been a weird day in recovery, meaning I’ve thought about my eating disorder more than I have in awhile. I’m still not totally sure how to cope with that comment about my weight earlier. I didn’t feel hungry for most of the day, but then at night, I had weird munchies and just wanted carbs on carbs on carbs. I ate past fullness at one point. I wouldn’t consider it a binge…I just got snack-y. Normal people get snack-y. I know this. I just have to be comfortable with the gray area, which is where I am at. 

I want to look at this day as a reminder that, even though I have come such a long way, there will still be an ebb and flow to this process. Some days will simply be harder than others. And that’s okay. 

As I’ve said many times before, a hard day in recovery beats an easy day in sickness. 

Coping by bingeing.

Dear Bee,

So, I definitely just binged. Blah. I can barely even eat that much during a full-frenzied binge anymore. I get full so quickly. It doesn’t matter. I was shoveling food. I was craving that sugar high. I was eating beyond the point of satiation and then some. I feel uncomfortable. I feel big. I want to exercise. I want to go to the gym and just work out for hours. I want to lose myself in sweat, soreness, burned calories, and compulsion. I want to be with my disorder.

I won’t let myself sit with my eating disorder tonight. I refuse. No way.  

I mean, when I really want to dissect and analyze it, I’m in a completely triggered state of mind. The point is, this time, I acted on those urges. My therapist taught me H.A.L.T (hungry, angry, tired, lonely) theory from the beginning of our work together, and I definitely let my fatigue and anger ruminate into my eating. I also binged as a means of procrastination. I was working on a very difficult assignment for school…and just didn’t want to do it anymore. I’m stressed about this class and I have a huge paper and presentation due tomorrow. I just don’t feel any motivation to work on either of them anymore, but the perfectionist side in me is literally yelling to get work done. So, instead of facing my problem, I escaped the best way I knew how. And as mentioned in my previous post, I just made a major decision to change roommates. That took some great courage and it also requires me to examine looking at the unknown. This is all a trigger. As happy as I am in the relationship I’m in, that’s still an adjustment as well. I am getting used to vulnerability and expression. I am adjusting to sexuality and being naked around someone new. I also must accept that I now have someone who wholly and fully supports and loves me, even when I cannot always feel the same way about myself. Change is triggering. Food is temporarily a savior. Temporarily. I know now that recovery is my only answer and my only true answer. 

 I’m choosing to forgive myself. I’m choosing to love myself. I’m telling myself that I had an emotional day and that I coped with it by engaging in my eating disorder. That doesn’t define who I am and it doesn’t define what I will do in the future. I am still on the path of recovery. I am still whole. I am still worthy. I am still a giver and receiver of love and joy. Am I happy about the choice I made? No, I am not. But it is in the past. I’ve learned that what matters after the binge is just as important as what happens before and during. And right now I’m choosing acceptance. 

What’s been going on with me.

Dear Bee,

We sure shared a whirlwind of a week, didn’t we? Just like old times. Except, it wasn’t. It was far worse. When I talk about “old times,” I think about my “before recovery” phase, the years where I knew I had a problem, but I had no frame of reference concerning its severity or how complicated it could be to manage.

I reached the lowest point of my recovery this week. Maybe this is called relapse. A slip. Regression. Whatever. Labels carry little significance to me. I feel like as long as I’m trying, I’m in recovery. As long as I say I’m in recovery, I’m in it.

You dictated everything this past week. I let you into my little world and you destructed everything in your pathway. To manage our relationship, I lied to everyone. And the lies were insane. I lied to people who WANT to help me. I lied to myself. This is what you do to me. The lying is the hardest part. It is a blanket of shame, humiliation, and fear wrapped into one untrue statement. 

 I’ve been in emotional and physical agony. Looking back, the post I wrote about taking a leave of absence? I want to take holistic credit and say it was in the spirit of mental health. to be honest, it was more of just you pulling me deeper into our unbelievably warped relationship. It was you protecting me from the supposed disgust I believed my readers would experience at my accounts of such raw vulnerability. Eating disorders instill this idea that if others knew what we did to ourselves, they would become horrified. They would run from us. 

I’ve literally been wrecking my poor and beautiful body with food. I’m either starving or bingeing. And the binges have been appalling. Oh. My. God. There is no remorse. No stopping point. I was attacking food like I hadn’t eaten in years. Stealing food and not caring. Wasting money on food and not caring. Leaving crumbs and wrappers and not caring. Finishing entire boxes/bags/etc. and not caring. Food constantly on my mind. I felt like an addict just vying for my next fix. I wrote down all that I ate on one of the days and couldn’t even fathom it. Nobody would believe me. Like, how am I alive? I owe my body a thousand apologies. Oh, and on that note, I’ve hated my body this week. I’ve been REPULSED by how it looks. And it’s been incredibly uncomfortable and painful. I’m sorry, Body. You’ve been so good to me. So unconditionally forgiving. 

To cope with the physical pain and and anger at the prospects that I “must be gaining weight” due to my insane eating, I tried vomiting on three occasions. This makes me absolutely ashamed to admit. Am I actively trying to develop full-blown bulimia? I recall feeling like an utter failure for my inability to purge. I feel like I am offending anyone who actually suffers with bulimia. I can just picture them shaking their heads, remembering how they never believed something as innocent as their first purge could spiral into such a life-threatening, all-consuming disease of the mind, body, and soul.

Again, this is what you have done to me.

I am so grateful I could not purge. On my knees grateful. Bingeing is horrendous enough as it is. I have mostly rid myself of my rigid and compulsive exercise tendencies…I cannot imagine falling prey to another compensatory measure. But without compensation, the weight gain obsession creeps back into my mind. 

What a cycle. This is exhaustive. I am better than this. I am MORE than this. My life is BIGGER than any of this could EVER be. 

 

I have felt all of these this past week: anhedonia (loss of pleasure), fatigue and lack of energy, irritability, trouble concentrating, heart racing, and restlessness. I do not know if the anxiety and depressive symptoms are resulting from the active engagement in my eating disorder or vice versa. 

My therapist said, “Being here, in this pain, is a good opportunity for you.” My (typical smart-ass) response, “What? I feel like absolute shit. Tell me where this is good?”

She’s right, though, and it does not take a mental health professional to know this basic common sense. We all need these crossroads sometimes. Obstacles are incentives to test our strength, force us to look at alternative views, invoke change, and feel a sense of pride when we conquer them. Without challenges, we would not be alive. It is the fear that holds me back. 

There is nothing inherently going wrong in my life right now; in fact, everything is going “just right.” The lack of “something bad happening” makes my negative emotions that much harder to bear and accept. I feel like I need some kind of legitimate excuse to be feeling this deep state of pain and anguish. 

How many rock bottoms does it take? My sponsor told me that I need to stop believing recovery is some kind of magic pot-of-gold…recovery is what I’m already in. It will get easier and the coping will become more automatic and the behaviors will lessen or leave me entirely, but no, I won’t just wake up with everything in place. 

I am going to what it takes to get better. To feel balanced. To be in the place I want to be heading in the direction I want to go. That means relying on the support I have, listening to their advice and actually following it, acting “as if” to the best of my ability, and keeping sight of my values, goals, and morals. That means working recovery in the ways that worked for me. I am not hopeless nor broken. I am not a victim, but rather, a warrior.

After reaching a desperate low, I made an appointment for a psychiatric evaluation. That’s something I’m proud of myself for doing this week.

The bottom line is, I don’t deserve to suffer. Neither does anyone else.

And in the meantime, I am going to be patient with myself and take baby steps. As I write this, the doubt at that “simple, but not easy” sentiment is creeping in, but I have to push through that skepticism and fear. I cannot stay in this dark place. I will not stay in this dark place.

I am a beautiful child of this universe. And even though I KNOW the universe is an extraordinary place to live, I want to FEEL it, too. 

Processing the binge (as much as I don’t want to)

Dear Bee,

Here is my double-edged sword. Too many important people know about our relationship. And they want to know every little detail. They want to know how we interact, what you say to me, how I respond, and what we do when we spend time together. They are so interested. You’re threatened by their inquisitiveness and intrusiveness, and I understand. Together, we were mistrustful of guidance. Together, we were safe. You provided safety from others hurting me, and for so long, I believed in every word you told me.

That’s why I still defend you to this day. That’s why I am still attracted to your facade and ashamed of our bond. I no longer mind telling people about you; I love telling people when I conquer you, but I loathe telling them when you defeat me. The preoccupation may have somewhat faded and the behaviors may have lessened, but you are still strong and intense, and you enjoy to remind me of your ferocity. 

The pressure to not mess up my recovery is increasing. I don’t know how not to be a perfectionist with this. I feel like if I need to push myself in order to succeed, and I fear if I become lax on it, I will just spiral back into deep relapse. 

None of that is true. Fear is constructed in the mind, and that’s where my perfectionism stems from. Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear of not having control. Fear of not being the best. Fear of being average. Fear of losing others’ approval. Fear of losing my own approval.

 I feel like I’m frustrating. I feel like my mood swings are too much to handle. I feel like I’m secretive and deceitful. And with recovery? I feel like I keep taking three steps forwards and one big leap backwards. I feel like I know every single damn coping skill in the book, but in those frenzied moods, all that logic and reason leaves me. It seems so common-sense, this recovery process, and yet it continuously baffles me. 

I have an amazing sponsor who provides unconditional nurturance and support. I am so grateful for her guidance, but I feel like I am a disappointment when I do not always follow it. I feel like I am bothering her with my venting. Of course, I know this is just in my mind. I simply have issues with asking for help and relying on others. She accepts me for who I am and accepts me for where I am in this process. It doesn’t matter what I do or do not do. I love describing my moments of clarity and optimism, but it’s so hard for me to fess up when I’m struggling. 

And goodness, I PAY my therapist for eating disorder treatment. This is her JOB. This will be MY job. It is irrational for me to think I am a burden to her. And yet, I still feel a sense of protectiveness over her and defensiveness over myself. We call these projective processes  transference in the mental health field, but those unconscious themes are its own saga. All I know is that I want to release this shame. I think of all the clients I will be seeing…we are TRAINED to serve their needs. Therapy is for the clients, not for the clinicians. Eating disorders are known to be incredibly difficult to treat; progress is not linear, slips and relapse are to be expected, and dual-diagnosis treatment is common. So, why do I still feel like I am letting her down? She had an eating disorder for almost twenty years…clearly, she knows the pain I’m suffering. Clearly, she knows this process is not easy. 

What am I trying to prove to the world? I guess I am just so used to making others proud, and it worries me when I feel like I am not meeting such expectations. 

The most important person in this process, of course, is myself. Am I letting myself down? I don’t know. Times like tonight are rough. Earlier this evening, I half-binged, stopped and spent HOURS coping in the best ways I knew how. But, a half-binge for someone who struggles with compulsive overeating is like a half-buzz for an alcoholic. For the alcoholic mindset, one either abstains or becomes passed-out drunk. It’s just as black-and-white: any in-betweens are anxiety-provoking and uncomfortable; the sensation of just being “buzzed” is far worse and triggering than avoiding the alcohol altogether.

That’s how I get with food. Stopping mid-binge can be insanely hard. It’s triggering. It creates emotional agony. I’ve been able to successfully stop, but nine times out of ten, I need to finish the job. All-or-nothing mentality. I know, I know. 

Regardless, I thought I had fully calmed myself down tonight. I thought I could get through it. I tried so, so, SO hard. I acted “as if.” I went through my coping skills. I sought help. I talked about it with brutal and open honesty. I did my best.

We always tell people that as long as they do their best, they did a good enough job. 

Now the challenge is to believe it for myself. 

 I know this journey requires patience and love and nurturance. Knowing and feeling, however, are completely different. Forgiveness of the self is such a challenge, probably because I associate it with enabling myself. As my therapist once said, bingeing is punishment, but beating yourself up afterwards is just torture. 

I am asking to be relieved of this emotional pain, regret, and shame…these are real feelings, and I do not invalidate them, but the path of healing requires accepting the raw experiences for what they are and finding the means to release and let them go. 

it’s not about the setback; it’s how you react to the setback

Dear Bee,

I may have slipped earlier, but I’ve never forgiven myself this quickly before. I’ve never been able to really tell myself, it’s okay without enduring that long, long cycle of self-loathing, guilt, anxiety, and deep remorse. Moving from those negative feelings into a positive state of acceptance and forgiveness usually takes days. 

I never believed I was worth forgiveness. I thought forgiveness just fueled my disorder. I thought it meant tolerating the abuse I caused to myself.

Image

^If I can be half as insightful and amazing as this woman was, I will be one extraordinary therapist. She is so moving. 

Forgiving myself? Knowing I’m exactly where I need to be and actually believing it? Accepting that some days are hard? That we all fall down next time? That is how I KNOW I’m making progress…and this is a journey about progress, not perfection. Acceptance, not denial. Faith, not willpower. Love, not hate. Surrendering, not fighting. Peace, not war. 

I am more than the remnants of my eating disorder. I am more than my mistakes.

Shine on.