When life gives you lemons, say THANK YOU.

Dear Bee, 

I’m always grateful for my recovery! I love writing down all the reasons recovery is worth it ūüôā¬†

1. Being able to spontaneously go out for pancakes because they are my favorite food in the world and because I wanted them. And not feeling one shred of guilt, desire to binge, or the inkling to restrict my food intake later during the day. 

2. Going on long and beautiful walk on the beach with my brother. Not for the exercise, not for the workout, but just because it was a gorgeous summer morning and I wanted to catch up with my best friend.

3. Stumbling upon a cute coffee shop and drinking DELICIOUS coffee, because let’s face it, I’m kind of caffeine-blooded.

4. Wearing tank tops and shorts basically all day everyday because I know I can rock them.

5. Being in love with someone else is so much better when you are able to ALSO be in love with yourself. I’m FINALLY there. I’ve never been so confident and self-assured in my own skin before, and my goodness, it feels good!!!

6. Sex. Sex. Sex. Good, great, earth-shattering sex. No inhibitions. No reservations.

7. The awareness that life is hard. That life is unpredictable, crazy, jarred, and messy. But that the most gorgeous beauty lies in that chaos. I don’t have to try and control any of it. I can release the stress and fear and just RIDE the intoxicating energy that is the journey of my LIFE.¬†

8. Because I’m backpacking around Europe in a few weeks and this is the first vacation in years that I can honestly say I could care LESS about what I’ll be eating or not eating and what I’ll be weighing or not weighing. This experience is going to rock my world and I’m going to enjoy every moment of it.

9. Having the ability to reframe situations, challenge distortions, practice reality testing, and cope with stress in POSITIVE and CONSTRUCTIVE ways that HELP, rather than HARM me.

10. Being able to envision and live a happy life free of maladaptive behaviors and free of the prisoned chokehold that was my eating disorder.  

 

I am happier than I’ve ever been, and I don’t lose sight of that gratitude for one second. It could disappear at any second. In my past, I would be scared of this bliss slipping away, as if I didn’t deserve it, as if everything would crumble like sand falling through my fingers, but I no longer live in that fear. I am worthy of this joy and bliss. None of us deserve anything¬†in this life, so I am grateful for anything and everything I receive.

I don’t believe in random luck. I believe luck is the sum of hard work meeting opportunity. The happiest people are the ones who DESIRE to take risks, who CRAVE growth, who INTERPRET the world with a curious eye. We are all existing…we are all ticking to our own individual death clocks, whether we like it or not. Mortality is the only given right we get in this life. May as well make the most of what we got, right?

 

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Talking sex, sugar, and raising kids

Dear Bee,

Finally got laid. I know I put it in such romantic terms, but, really, that’s just the best way of putting it. I feel insanely horny these days. Oh well. We spent the day hanging out, meeting family, eating dinner, grocery shopping (okay, married couple), and then once the sex happened, it just kept happening throughout the night. I was just consumed with hormones and was just like,¬†I need you inside me.¬†I’m actually pretty sore. It’s been awhile. He’s very good in bed, and all I will say is that my vahjay needs awhile to recuperate.

I’ve done my fair share of kissing and hooking up with dudes, but I’ve never been one of those girls who has sex to have it. My number is three. I’m content with that. I don’t plan on having a high number. Quality over quantity, yes. And sex is a healthy and enjoyable part of any relationship, but it’s just a piece of the puzzle.¬†

This guy is going to marry me. He has no doubt. We’re going to also rule the therapy world together. Maybe open a private practice. We’ll be graduating the same time next year. We’re literally in the exact same places in our lives. Crazy. It’s only been a few weeks. What if we just know? I love spending time with him. Every day gets better and better and our connection grows deeper and deeper. I’m gagging at the cheesy sentiment of all this, but it adores me nonetheless.

I didn’t sleep at his place, although I did a few times this week. I came home exhausted. I’m still up, but I’m going to go to bed soon. I had some sugar just now, and I feel slightly ambivalent about eating it. I say¬†slightly¬†because I really want to take it easy on myself.¬†I recognize that I have been eating much less than normal lately. I think the antidepressants suppress my appetite. Even when I feel ravenous, it does not take much food to satisfy me. Moreover, I hardly think about food. But then, the hunger sometimes creeps on suddenly…it’s almost as if you are reminding me that you are still there, waiting for me to run back into your arms. Even though you recognize you don’t carry the same strength you once did, you still have some slight hold over me.

A handful of cookies, chunks of fudge, and some ice cream cake. Not a normal-sized snack by any means, but not an outrageous gorge either. I’m not thrilled by my actions, but I absolutely recognize my triggers: sleepiness, heightened emotions, and cockiness (in recovery and in life).¬†

Still, I haven’t lost sight of any of my progress, and I know that this tiny bump in the road hardly detours me on my path of recovery. I am already back driving with clear focus and intent. I know what I need to do. I love myself too much to continue hurting myself, and so, I brushed my teeth, and I am now in bed, relaxing.

A few weeks ago, I posted a link about the paper chain project. I have thirty-five colorful links. Two of them are white, which indicate intentional restrictions or binges. This is numerical progress. I plan to keep that chain going for at least six months. I don’t know how many more white links will be on there, but, even though I am hoping for zero, I will never discount how many OTHER VIBRANT colors are being used. Two days are outliers. Two days are abnormalities. Two days are hardly anything.¬†

Insane restricting or bingeing doesn’t appeal to me, and maybe that’s because I don’t feel like I have any forbidden foods much anymore. My guy is a very healthy eater, and tonight, we went to the grocery store because he needed to pick up some things. He asked me to grab some vegetarian-friendly food to have at his place for when we are together and want to cook at home. Of course, this was somewhat of a difficult task. Ever notice how abnormal grocery shopping can be for the eating-disordered mindset?

On our drive back to his place, he asked me about nutrition and how I would teach healthy eating to children. Obviously, this is a challenge. My primary concern lies in eating disorder prevention and management. These diagnoses run in families; I would NEVER want to pass this down to my own child. Although I do not know how or when I would tell them, I believe I will disclose my own eating disorder in some fashion to my children. Awareness is key, and what better teacher than a survivor? While raising kids, I do not believe in ANY negative body-talk whatsoever. I think balance, like everything else, is key. If I have children, I would like them to play active roles in grocery shopping and food preparation and just promote an overall active lifestyle. Children model after their parents. If I can teach them to love their bodies and treat themselves with kindness, that will be enough for me. Of course, I say this now…as just a hypothetical young, childless adult, and my perspective may easily change with time and experience.¬†

Having a relationship with an eating disorder.

Dear Bee,

So there is a very real possibility that things are going to be moving quickly with this guy. I just have a feeling. And normally, this is¬†not how I roll. Because this isn’t part of some “plan.” Because this isn’t on some kind of safe timeline.¬†I’m not that kind of girl who falls all over a guy she just met. Like at all. But, who am I to fight this conquering beast we call life?

Having always believed my emotions were wrong or inferior, I followed the all-knowing logic that existed in my head. Who cared what my heart felt? Feelings didn’t matter, but practicality and convenience did. This explains why I stayed in relationships with men I didn’t love. This is why I followed those dating rules almost religiously. Play the nice girl, dumb myself down if needed, give him what he wants, don’t fall too hard, etc.

But, I am also not native. Dating and relationships represent dangerous territories in early stages of recovery. Professionals typically advise recovering addicts to maintain sobriety for at least a year before considering a relationship. What about individuals with eating disorders? There does not seem to be a general rule of thumb for this. Do we need one? Obviously, the dynamic of a recovering drug addict may be different than someone recovering from an eating disorder, but is it? In fact, with an eating disorder, the recovery is less black-and-white. Individuals with codependency issues may find themselves prioritizing the other person’s needs over their own. I am aware that I am still fragile and vulnerable; while i have been making remarkable progress, I need to continue pushing forward.¬†

At this point, my recovery is the most sacred part of my life. I will sacrifice and change virtually¬†anything¬†to accommodate those needs. And yet, it seems like he can fit into this equation. For one, he already knows what I’m going through (because this what two aspiring therapists talk about all day). And for two, I didn’t feel any sense of shame in telling him. I didn’t plan on disclosing something so personal so soon, but our conversation somehow led us in a direction that opened the door for me to talk about it. ¬†He was genuinely curious and said he admired my strength and willingness. So, there you go.¬†

You triangulated yourself in my past relationships, and it was extremely painful. You let me be in love, but never with myself. You let me be close to someone, but never to the point where I was fully able to let go and fall into my primal emotions. You always,¬†always¬†kept me grounded and orderly; structured and controlled. Because that’s where you liked me. That’s where you thrived the most. You needed to be the first priority in my life, and you did everything in your seductive powers to make that happen. When I think of past anniversaries, do I remember the feelings i experienced or the food I ate? When I think of vacations, do I remember all the laughs we shared or do I remember feeling self-conscious in my skin? When I think of holding someone in my arms, was I thinking about how much I loved him or how much I weighed that morning? It didn’t matter how many times he told me I was beautiful. It didn’t matter how much I knew that number on the scale didn’t¬†really¬†matter or the food I ate wasn’t¬†really¬†going to make me incredibly fat.

The eating disorder pathology isn’t about logic and reason. If it was, it wouldn’t exist.¬†

I would never wish for that history to repeat itself, but I just don’t think it will. You may still linger from time to time, but I no longer need you for protection. I no longer need you to keep me safe or in control. I can trust myself and the universe now. I know a world that is so much more beautiful than your reality.¬†

spin, sunshine, and orgasms.

Dear Bee,

I was not about to let you interrupt another day or ruin my mojo, so I didn’t. Go me.

The title of this letter just about says it all. I haven’t been exercising much this week. I’ve actually been really inactive and lethargic, and this is unusual for me. I’m usually a ball of unrestricted energy. I’ve never understood how people could be comfortable with not moving their bodies. No matter what my food looks like, I¬†always¬†keep up with the exercise. That’s how I knew things were getting bad.

Anyway, I did a spin class this morning. And I went running last night. Hard, hard sprints. I did both strictly for the endorphins. I just needed physical release. Even though I usually steer away from pure cardio in the gym (because it gets dreadfully boring), I was just chasing the “runner’s high.” And, it worked.¬†

Sunshine. Yes. Even though I needed to study and work on treatment plans for school today, I did my reading and work outside for some much-needed Vitamin D. I find it just physically impossible to not feel at least¬†a little better¬†when it’s nice and warm outside :).

And orgasms. Do I need further explanation? 

You know that annoying phrase,¬†it’s the little things?¬†Maybe it can just be that simple; maybe it’s when we try to overcomplicate, analyze, and categorize life into one huge puzzle that the world feels complicated and impossible. We all have things to do. We all have obligations and demands and responsibilities. But why not make them as pleasant as possible? The little things.¬†If you have to study, why not make the atmosphere comfortable and soothing? If you have to work, why not wear your favorite underwear underneath (as I most definitely will be doing this afternoon)? If you have to eat and you have an eating disorder and it’s a rough phase and everything about eating seems to terrify you, may as well make the dining experience as pleasant as possible. If you have to look for a new apartment and everything is expensive, disgusting, or unavailable, may as well keep telling yourself that the perfect one is just around the corner.¬†

And if all else fails, just have an orgasm. 

 

Seriously!

Banging my coworker and eating ice cream.

Dear Bee,

First of all, I need to figure out this issue with my coworker.

Why does he have to be 15 years older than me and (unhappily) married? And even worse, why do we have to flirt together the entire time we work? That’s not to mention all the exchanged “inside joke” texts and pictures. He’s obviously into this. And I’m enabling it. Terrible.

Why do I want what I clearly cannot have? Even if he were single, we are way too alike (stubborn, defiant, and with compulsive tendencies). I have zero interest in dating him. He is arrogant and somewhat ignorant. We would be a terrible match. We are on completely different playing fields.

But. I. Still. Occasionally. Think. About. The. Potential. Sex.
Preferably in my workplace. Because public sex is hot and one of my favorite things ever…even though I realize I risk losing so much if I ever get caught and face legal ramifications. It will never happen. I am not that kind of a girl. I draw the line.

Anyway, despite my insatiable state of raging hormones, life is cruising. I spent the day basking in the California sunshine, hiking with friends, lying out on the beach, talking and laughing. Summer is delicious. Then, I had a beer with said coworker before work (because we’re that professional), and I’ve been horny ever since.

Sigh. Feelings are real…

We were chilling at work (I.E: doing nothing), and then he ordered pizza for dinner so we split a small veggie one. And some chips. Also had ice cream. Too much ice cream. I hate the stomach pain after eating too much ice cream.

I ate too much, beyond the point of satisfaction, but it’s okay. Because life isn’t perfect and recovery isn’t perfect and everyone makes mistakes. I didn’t go insane, and I caught myself before it absolutely escalated.

Progress, not perfection.

I know why I overrate. It was because I just feel so oddly safe and comfortable around this guy (probably because I know I can’t have him). And yet knowing I can’t have him obviously invokes some sadness and loneliness in addition to the guilt and anger I have towards having these feelings in the first place. So, yeah, I ate. I couldn’t deal with the malady of my rampant emotions. It happens.

We’ve been flirting for almost a solid year, but only lately has he really been getting into the details of his unhappy marriage and plans for divorce.

Again, SIGH.

Hanging out with him is a fun distraction, but I think I’ve finally come to terms that our innocent-seeking banter has morphed into definite attraction…and I would never, ever want to act out on these impulses. I deserve better. And he needs to really work on his marriage.

On being a whore and figuring out what I want in a relationship

Dear Bee,

Last night, got a little shameless with the men (I say men because there were multiple). I won’t go into specific details, but if we want to abide by societal standards, one would probably consider me somewhat of a whore. That’s okay. I don’t care much for labels. I had fun, and I don’t have any regrets.

But I do have some concerns. And I suppose they relate more towards the core, underlying issues regarding my self-worth and how I perceive myself and others. Before recovery, I was unable to understand any link between my attitude on dating, sexuality, and relationships and my eating disorder. How could I? I had not yet identified my eating disorder as anything beyond a mere lack of willpower or inability to “control” what or how much I consumed. Also, like many, I equated thinness with happiness and assumed if my body looked a particular way, all other problems would seemingly vanish.

I did not realize how IMMATURE my eating disorder made me in dating. Are we able to have functional, healthy relationships while active in these illnesses? Maybe. I’m not one to speak on behalf of everyone else, but I have recognized that I was absolutely NOT in functional or healthy relationships. How could I be? I was too wrapped up in my own shame, self-misery, compulsion, and secrets. Essentially, I was living a complete lie.¬†

The truth is: I have an attractive body, whether I want to believe it or not. I know this is true because other people like my body¬†and¬†praise my body. Logically, this should do wonders for my self-esteem. However, I am starting to realize that body attention is a trigger for me. When other people start wanting me solely for my body, I feel resentful. Angry, even. Don’t they see me beyond my legs, boobs, and ass?¬†

And while I don’t necessarily dress provocatively, I know how to play up my assets. And when I do play them up, I know men will respond. I have used this to increase my perception of power, self-reassurance, and happiness.¬†I have used it to get what I want, be it a favor, free drink, ride home, etc. Interestingly, I can be a staunch feminist in every regard, but I have no qualms using my tits to grab the bartender’s attention.¬†

It’s almost a lose-lose situation: I desperately seek attention, but once I get it, I almost fear and resent it. As if men are such horrible creatures for their raging hormones. As if they are so shallow for only wanting my body, rather than wanting to know more about my mind. As if they’re somehow going to see past the illusion that is my body. As if they’re going to (God forbid) pursue me further than just by means of physical hooking up.

I haven’t necessarily met anyone that seems worth dating. I’ve narrowed down what I WON’T tolerate, but I am finally starting to channel in the traits I actively seek: someone ambitious, driven, and passionate. Someone who is educated and savvy. Someone stable and responsible. Someone who can maintain a healthy balance of autonomy and interpersonal relationships. Someone as philosophical and creative as me would be nice, but that’s not a requirement…just a perk ūüôā¬†

The important thing is that I no longer mind the wait. I can enjoy the ride. When it happens, it will be at the perfect time. For once, I’m no longer rushing the prospects of a new relationship. For a girl who used to define her self-worth by other people loving and taking care of her, this embodies huge growth.¬†

I think I’m still adjusting to the strange life that is the young and single world. I am trying to be intuitive with this process, going with how I feel, rather than what I believe is “right.” I am finally giving my feelings some power. And no, I haven’t gone super wild child, but I am doing things I’m not sure I imagined myself doing. I don’t want to judge myself for my behaviors, but I’m just trying to figure out what it is that I do want. I suppose I need to realize that I don’t need to have all those answers now. Like everything else, it’s a process, and I need to be patient and kind with myself.

Sexually starved…maybe?

Dear Bee,

For the last four days, I’ve essentially been a hermit writing an ENDLESS paper for one of my classes. I severely underestimated how long it would take me to write this damn thing! Writing papers is kinda an easy thing for me (surprise, surprise), but this assignment is INSANELY TEDIOUS.¬†

All is good on the recovery front. Still attending meetings daily, and I must say that doing so has absolutely changed my outlook. I feel grounded and humbled by the shares I hear and literature I read. Furthermore, taking a more active and alive approach, rather than assuming my previous wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am (don’t talk to me, don’t hug me, I don’t really want to be here) style in those rooms makes for a much more satisfying experience. I feel much more connected to the program and to my fellow compulsive overeaters/anorexics/bulimics/whatever you want to identify yourself with.

In working through step two, I actually defined a Higher Power that makes the perfect sense for me, which, as an agnostic, is a goal I NEVER though I could achieve. Exciting.

I must say, it’s wonderful to be able to focus on OTHER issues besides my eating disorder.

And in talking about other issues: it’s been almost four months since I have last had sex.¬†FOUR MONTHS. Sigh. I really miss it. I had a few hookups, a lot of random make-out sessions, and a horrific one-night stand after my breakup, but truth be told, I miss relationship sex. I miss comfort and intimacy and knowing someone’s body as well as my own. I guess, in a sense, I miss companionship. I’m not used to being on my own romantically, and even though it is exhilarating to develop the relationship I share with myself, part of me misses the security and comfort shared with another person.¬†

And yet, I DO NOT WANT A RELATIONSHIP. I am absolutely not ready for one.

Having been with one person for so long, I looked forward to venturing out sexually, but I’m starting to think raw promiscuity isn’t really my thing. Sure, I like going out and meeting new people. I love getting raunchy on the dance floor (with both men and women), and I love the thrill of first kisses and wandering hands and those blitzes of electricity shared between our bodies…but sex? I don’t know. That still makes me nervous. That still holds some sacristy. I grew up believing sex was an act between two people who loved each other. While I no longer follow that disposition, I know I personally feel uncomfortable when guys chase me solely for sex. Which, is in fact, 99.9% of the male population. Gross generalization? Not when you’re my age. ¬†

And yet, sometimes, it’s so validating and so reassuring. Knowing that someone wants to see my naked body, be inside me, and use me for his own pleasure. It sounds terrible, but the attention can be addictive.

The woes of youth, I know.

I lost my virginity a few later than most of my friends. This was by choice. My decision to wait  until I was fully ready embodied the awkward white elephant in previous relationships (and actually ended one of them), but I never regretted my first time, as I had found someone who was patient, attentive, and kind. I felt absolutely comfortable in my own skin around him.

He loved every inch of my body and never failed to praise my appearance. I was absolutely confident in the bedroom and together, we did things I never imagined I’d do…much less, enjoy! I channeled out a side of me I never knew existed. And yet, there were many times I wondered…what else is out there? What am I missing?¬†

On the flip side, I never experienced the same level of physical attraction towards him. Yes, this made me feel guilty, but no, I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t turned on by his body, and in fact, I often resented it. But, this gave me power. I was in the torturous throes of a binge-restrict-compulsive exercise cycle…and yet, I had a better body than him. He was overweight to obese. And frankly, it often disgusted me. I wanted him to lose weight. I wanted him to eat healthier. I loathed most of his dietary habits (and with an eating disorder, could I be any more hypocritical?!?!)

Yet, I liked knowing that I was small around him. I liked knowing that people looked at us and saw me as this attractive young thing. I liked the jealousy I invoked in his friends and people on the street. I liked having that sense of control, knowing that I never had to really worry about how I looked, because no matter what, I was physically superior to him. I liked knowing that I was more attractive than any of his exes and probably any of his next’s.

In other words, I was sick. Absolutely sick.

Anyway, I’m totally rambling, and I’m not going to even edit or reread this letter…because I need to continue editing my 20+ page treatment plan on dysfunctional families.

But, I will say this: I am interested to see what sex in recovery will be like. Will I feel more connected to my body? More attractive? More insecure (especially if the guy has a great body)? Will my sex life improve, simply because I am less preoccupied with food, control, weight, etc. Will I make sure I only choose mates I feel equally physically attracted to? Will I feel entirely threatened if he is, in fact, a very attractive man? Will I be able to let go of wanting the upper hand in a relationship, looks-wise?

Maybe this entire post seems shallow (just writing them sounds ridiculous), but sexual chemistry comprises an underlying thread of much of our relational satisfaction. So for now, I will just say that I am excited to see what lies ahead.