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.

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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…

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. 

This may be offensive.

Let’s talk about appearance. It matters. Anyone who alludes otherwise is either living under a rock or blatantly ignorant. To claim that appearance shouldn’t matter is similar to claims that race shouldn’t matter. You’re right. It shouldn’t. But, it does. And to deny that this privilege exists makes you look like a fucking bigoted idiot.

I don’t know what it’s like to be fat. Like fat, fat. I really don’t. I’ve never been obese. At my very heaviest weight, maybe I was considered a few pounds overweight, and even then, it was very temporary. I have my eating-disordered-fueled “fat days,” but as far as I’m concerned, I can eat whatever the hell I please without worrying about being outwardly judged (except myself). I can wear revealing shit and I’m typically met with erections instead of winces. I’ve never been criticized, fat-shamed, or called a terrible name due to the size or shape of my body. It’s a privilege, and I’m fully aware of it. I’ve used my appearance to flirt, to be understood, to receive validation, to feel good about myself. I know my body turns people on. I know my nudity is atheistically pleasing. I work damn hard for this body, not just for someone else’s satisfaction, but for my own as well.

Although I do not have first-hand experience of weight stigmatization, I can only imagine how painful it must be…only because I know I automatically judge myself. As a person who has struggled with an eating disorder, I compare myself to every body I see. This is instinctual, and I am sure most anyone reading this can relate. In some ways, it is a litmus test. How do I rank? Am I bigger? Smaller? Society tells us thinner is superior and fatter is inferior. I wish I didn’t abide to that archaic logic, but I do. I respect thinness because I want it. Fat, in a sense, scares me. Maybe because I know I am just a few more careless episodes of bingeing and overeating and depression to spiraling there myself. And I’d feel like a failure. Harsh, but true. 

I can’t picture myself liking a fat version of myself. 

Writing this post is uncomfortable. I am a training therapist. I am an expert in empathy and an advocate for human equality. I have friends and family of all shapes and sizes. To openly admit that I have my own prejudices makes me feel ashamed, but it is the truth. And I do my best to promote radical transparency, especially on here. It is a result of the society I live in and the eating disorder I struggle with. It is a result of the engrained messages preached from a very young age and the surroundings that reinforce it.

I never want to be fat. And maybe that keeps me in the eating disordered logic. I would rather hang onto my body (and still linger onto some disordered behaviors) than risk the changes that could come from letting them go. This is such faulty logic. I am not going to gain weight, I know this. And even if I do, I won’t pile on a hundred pounds overweight. 

Maybe “fat” terrifies me because I often feel like a “fat” person trapped in a thin body. My binges would definitely indicate that I have an insatiable, gluttonous appetite. However, I also compensate with those binges by frequent exercise and what society considers a “well-balanced, nutritious diet.” As far as food tastes go, nothing excites me more than beautifully-prepared vegetables or a plate of fruit. It’s weird, I know. But, when I’m in binge-mode, anything sugary and carb-y goes. Things I don’t even LIKE are consumed. Things that taste like processed shit are consumed. Punishment on top of punishment. You would think if I want to binge I would at least afford myself in quality treats. So not the case. I eat whatever I can get my hands on.

We have a huge obesity problem. We also have a huge eating disorder problem. To me, it’s ninety percent psychological and ten percent physical. Doesn’t matter which end of the spectrum we are on. We just happen to value the thinness side more. So, that’s the side I want to be on. 

 

where is this blog even going?

Dear Bee,

Even blogging hasn’t been as cathartic as it once was.

I spent a full week taking care of myself.

It felt good.

Tonight, I binged. Just a bit. I can’t do anything about it now. I was stressed- I suppose- maybe I also wanted to self-sabatoge myself, but what else is new? I can’t be too hard on myself. Otherwise, I’ll just keep going. 

I’ve been nourishing myself with exercise and literature and sex and great hikes and deep conversation. I’ve spent a lot of time with my boyfriend. I’ve been doing some great therapy with my clients. I’ve been grieving, yes. I’ve been experiencing a rainbow of emotions. I do what I can. I’ve been spending time with people I love, and that feels good. My job makes me happy. My friends make me happy. 

And my boyfriend. That goes without saying. Can we believe it’s already been almost eight months? 

I don’t write as much, because I’m talking more. Expressing more. Growing more. I’m getting healthier; I don’t have words pouring out on the page anymore. I am able to verbalize the emotions, and that’s scary, but it’s rewarding. I’m working towards recovery, whatever that looks like, and it’s still a struggle. I miss the luxury of weekly individual therapy, but it isn’t something I can afford right now. I’ve contemplated actually going back to OA meetings (because they’re free), but I already know I have preexisting issues with their philosophies. I’m not sure. I think what I’m doing is working. There are slips along the way, but that’s life. Maybe I miss having the accountability. Nobody asks me about recovery anymore unless I bring it up first. I don’t have a treatment team. Maybe I miss the sick role. I take care of other people’s problems all day…maybe I subconsciously want somebody to take care of mine.

Really, I need to learn how to do it myself. 

Can’t believe it’s February. I’m excited for Valentine’s Day. I’m excited for the turn of spring and graduation and summer…and then, who knows? My future is limitless! Eating disorder or not, life keeps moving for me. What a blessing. 

This blog used to be so raw.

I just don’t know what I want to do with it anymore! 

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…