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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fighting the good fight.

Dear Bee,

I’m writing this letter knowing that I’m probably going to binge later. I’ve already started a bit. Just because I feel so tense and so out of control and so all over the place, and I don’t want to feel my feelings, nor do I want to sit with them. I don’t want to do anything but isolate myself with you. That’s when it gets scary, you know, when I actually isolate myself to be sick. 

I just want to give myself permission to do it. I don’t want to work the recovery right now. It just seems too hard.

I know this is distorted. I don’t care. This is the time when I’m supposed to intervene, when I’m supposed to reach out and use my coping tools…but I don’t want to. I would rather just sulk in my own misery.

Eating disorders are terrible. They really are. They are conniving and painstaking. They are a measure of endurance. 

I’d rather feel internal pain than external stress. I’d rather avoid than be vulnerable. I’d rather stuff my fears than risk being exposed to them. I romanticize this eating disorder, when really, it’s a monster.The eloquent writing makes it seem as if we can somehow capture the patterns of mental illness in a predictable, almost whimsical notion, but that is not always the truth. This is when it is difficult: when I know with 100% certainty that bingeing is not the right answer, but I consequently also know with 100% certainty that bingeing is the only thing I want to do right now. Binge to ease the anger of bingeing. It’s a fucked-up cycle, but one that I’m used to. 

And I can tell myself tomorrow will be different, because it will be. My mind, like most, is wired to believe that somehow, after the magical minute of 12:01am, I have a clean slate. We call this all-or-nothing thinking. Mess up just a bit, and the day is ruined. Again, awareness of the distortion can only take us so far. 

I need an action-based preventative plan, and I am in the works of making it right now. I feel like I’ve experimented A LOT: I’ve done individual therapy, group therapy, twelve-step work, medication, reading and writing. I’ve done meditation, exercise, this diet, that diet, no diet, etc. Some work better than others. All have their flaws. There is no perfect remedy to this calamity. I have to stop expecting perfection, and I have to account for the very real understanding that my eating disorder will always find a way to turn me back to the food. It doesn’t matter what mood I’m in. An alcoholic will always find an excuse to drink. I will always find an excuse to eat (or not eat) depending on which end of the spectrum I oscillate towards.

Time to go back to the basics. 

1. Begin using the Recovery Record app again. 

2. Blog consistently.

3. Make a conscious effort to meditate everyday.

4. Eat three meals and two snacks. Actually go back to cooking and preparing food so I can account for 14-hour workdays…instead of somehow convincing myself I can survive on just yogurt and an apple.

5. Go back to Gratitude. 10 things that make me grateful every damn day. Because there’s a lot in this life worth appreciating.

I’m giving myself permission to binge. I’m not going to resist it right now. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. We’ll see how this goes. Appreciate all your lovely support during these past few days. You guys are a blessing 🙂 

Aside

I hate this part right here.

Dear Bee,

This is the part I hate. The owning-up-to-the-fucking-up. Even though I have some sense of anonymity on this blog, I still want to be that shining star who succeeds in recovery, who doesn’t mess up, who can be a source of inspiration for everyone. Yes, I’m still perfectionistic, and yes, I still have a need to impress. It’s a long, dirty habit I’m really trying to break. 

Anyway.

I feel hypocritical because I’m not practicing the self-care and self-love I encourage my clients to embody. I’m not taking good care of myself in the way I’m taking care of them. It’s so amazing how nonjudgmental I can be towards any of their self-perceived baggage, but when I slip in recovery, it’s a complete all-or-nothing failure.

I know I’m stressed. School is going to be overwhelming. I had five clients before my three-hour class. I am lost with two of my clients. One has Borderline Personality Disorder and the other I suspect has Borderline traits. Both are elderly, and neither are willing to change or grow much. It’s hard to be in the room with them. I like my teenage clients best, and I saw them all today. I don’t miss high school, that’s for damn sure. 

My eating is alternating; my exercise is alternating. Some days, I know I’m overdoing it, and others I’m not doing enough. Moderation, it seems, bores me. The erratic is more glamorous. The chaos keeps it exciting. I guess. I’m used to being anxious, used to being frustrated and insecure and unsure and essentially frightened.

My body isn’t a fucking trash can. It’s a temple. I need to take care of it, love it, honor it as i would for any holy place. I wouldn’t treat an enemy the way I sometimes treat my own body. That’s the cold truth, and it’s a tough one to swallow.

Going to bed.

The struggle is real, but tomorrow will be better. 

 

Big Lunches.

Dear Bee,

One of my clients is hinting emotional eating tendencies. She’s also an alcoholic. She struggles with compulsion and often finds herself compensating “one vice for another.”

This is hard. I relate all too well.

My lunch was unplanned, because I ate out with some friends at my agency, and it was too big for my liking. I feel too full. It was too greasy, too carb-y. On a “restrictive” day, I would feel tempted to skip eating for the rest of the day. On a “binge” day, I feel tempted to keep going…because, hello, I’ve already fucked it up.

^^^^^^

I wrote that last paragraph an hour and a half ago to see if my black-and-white thinking would change at all. It has. It’s now been almost two hours since eating. I’m not going to restrict. I’m not going to binge. One meal doesn’t mean I’ve fucked up. One meal doesn’t mean much in the scheme of life. One meal means I enjoyed what I ate, even if it was a little too much, and that, just like everything else, it will digest and eventually metabolize in my body. One meal is nothing.

Changing thinking is so much harder than changing behavior. Changing behavior only skims the dirty surface; it ignores the residue and layers underneath. Thoughts are much harder to tackle. For instance, it’s not necessarily hard to PREVENT a binge, but I once found it nearly impossible to STOP a binge if it already started. All-or-nothing; that was my way of thinking. My friend is the same with alcohol. She can’t be satisfied with one drink. She doesn’t stop until she passes out. That’s the addict mindset. The other night, for instance, I got a little snack-y and indulged just a bit to realize I was treading that dangerous “yellow zone” in between feeling calm and feeling triggered. Typically, it goes yellow to red. I find it much harder to go from yellow to green, but the other night, that’s exactly what I did. I just sat with the discomfort and waited for it to pass. It took the whole damn night, but it passed.

And yesterday, I spent the day hiking and soaking in the gorgeous California sunshine. I was so proud of my strong body. I was so proud to be me. I am slowly learning how to sit with discomfort. To give into my eating disorder is not an option, no matter how much it tempts me, no matter how much I want to rationalize or justify doing it just once. Even though I did not make a New Year’s Resolution, I am proud that I have made it two weeks into 2014 without engaging in my eating disorder ONCE. That’s something worth celebrating. I may not be perfect, but I’m trying, and that’s all I can ask for myself. The most challenging tests are the ones we take against ourselves, but this is one I know I can win. I have the strength, support, and self-love to fight against my desire to self-harm. Day by day, that’s all this takes. Choice by choice. Meal by meal.

I am doing good enough because I am good enough.

It’s 3:33pm. The day is mine; it’s not my eating disorder’s. That’s a choice I’m making today.

binge.

Dear Bee, 

Today,

I woke up in my boyfriend’s arms.

I went to a recognition ceremony for a wonderful nonprofit group that I run.

I did yoga.

I studied for my finals.

I laughed with family.

I binged.

Yeah. Sometimes, it just happens like that. Seems like it comes out of nowhere, right? Those triggers suck.

 

It wasn’t even good binge food, and you know what I mean…leftover chocolate, cereal, some rice cakes. At least it could have been something I really like.

I’m not very happy about it. In fact, I’m trying not to hate myself. But it’s hard. I just told my boyfriend, too. Yeah, talk about shameful. Right? But secrets keep us sick. And I promised I’d be honest with him as hard as it is, so at least that’s a step in the right direction.

I want to throw up. I can’t. I want to starve for the next three days. I can’t do that either. I want to stop fighting my body. I can do that right now. I want to be done with the eating disorder. I can do my best.

I know that there are times when I just can’t tempt myself, and tonight, I let the sick, twisted voice take over. The you can just have one…one won’t hurt you…just have a bite. My recovery knows better; my eating disorder does not.

I hate hurting myself.

I hate being obsessed with my body.

I hate when food dominates my mind. 

My boyfriend wants to talk about it. I don’t want to. I’m too wrapped up in the shame. But I will. Because that’s the part of recovery that matters. The coming clean and the being honest and the letting go. That’s how the disorder loses power. That’s how I win. He’ll be there to catch me, to listen, to love, because that’s how he is…it’s me that just wants to stay isolated right now. Why? Because I feel too unstable, too crazy, too unlovable. I don’t know. There’s still a tiny part of me that thinks, Oh God, I’m broken. And I’m never going to get better. And nobody is going to want to be with that. 

I know this is all distorted.

I recognize that my feelings are valid but my thoughts are irrational. 

But, fuck. Recovery is no joke. 

The anatomy of eating disorder recovery

In a nutshell, 

You’re going to fall down. A lot. You’ll probably hit an extreme rock bottom, maybe one that’s lower than the rock bottom you thought you reached when you were sick, and you’ll wonder what the hell at the point of all of this stupid, shitty-ass work is all about. You’re tired of falling. You equate falling with failing. Aren’t they the same thing? You’ll cry to a God if you believe in one, and if you don’t, you’ll still cry and probably wish you believed in one.

There will be low points. And they will hurt like hell. 

You’ll think you are the exception. You are the one who won’t heal, the one who cannot recover, the lost cause who is doomed to a lifetime of misery. 

People are going to tell you this part of the process. What, this falling down, slamming yourself into the ground, time and time again? This utter inability to actually take care of yourself constructively? The continuation of the very habits you want to break the most? Oh, yes! They’ll tell you with their knowing nods, condescending smiles, and confident attitudes. This is part of the journey. 

You’re going to slip. Professionals like to use that term. Slip. Maybe you’ll slip right back to where you started. Maybe you’ll slip even harder and fall into a new realm of hell. At least you’re gaining insight. This is part of the process. You’ll keep hearing those words. Be kind to yourself. You will also hear that, even though that’s the most fucking counterintuitive advice you’ve ever heard. Be kind to yourself? REALLY? Who could be kind to such a monster? Who could be kind to someone who continuously beats, torments, and wrecks me? This just seems nonsensical. In fact, you may even hate yourself now more than you ever thought you did in the past. You will not be kind to yourself for a very long time because unfettered kindness equates with immense self-love, which in turn, KILLS the eating disorder, literally diminishing it from existence. You just can’t get rid of it that fast. It just doesn’t work that way.

You will doubt recovery. You will doubt you even had an eating disorder. You will doubt the validity of positive affirmations, doubt your treatment team (if you have one), and doubt that anything is actually going to stick. You will still lie, because lying has been the basic bane of your existence. In fact, don’t be too surprised if you even get better at it. You will become talented at cheating the system and cheating yourself. You will hang on to your eating disorder for dear life, while, at the same time, doing everything you can to throw it away. You will constantly feel tormented, conflicted, and vulnerable. 

If you are fortunate, you may quickly stop the behaviors. But the negative, distorted thoughts long preceded those behaviors, so they will linger far after. You will become just as obsessed with recovery as you were with sickness, wanting to be perfect yet again. Seeing the world in black-and-white yet again. This is your habit. This is how your eating disorder trained you. If you can’t be the most perfect sick person, you have to be the most perfect recovered person. The obsession stays for a long time, and that is one of the hardest parts. Food dominates your mind. Every meal, every unplanned snack, every new item of clothing, every change in your body…this will be scrutinizes and analyzed. This will be your new compulsion.

After awhile, with some smooth sailing, you may get cocky. This happens, too. During those high points. You will get confident that you will never use that behavior again. You will never be back to the way you were. You will never choose to hurt yourself again. These statements, you will realize, are just as detrimental as the negative, all-or-nothing statements that maintained your disorder. People will try and warn you about potential triggers and the risk of relapse. You will shrug them off. Couldn’t happen to me. I GOT THIS. 

It’s only a matter time before you are triggered. You will spiral out in a tailspin. You will realize they were probably right. You will curse them…and then, you will realize you are a fucking human being who is recovering from one of the most beastly, complex, chronic mental disorders in the DSM, and therefore, YOU WILL FALTER. You didn’t move into hell overnight. You won’t be able to move out overnight either. Even though you desperately want to. But, with recovery, you get to start seeing other places to live. You get to check out the other real estate. You get to see if it’s worth moving. You are shopping; you are learning what else is out there.

And if you start liking what you see, you will start to push yourself. More than you’ve ever pushed yourself. You will start accepting, HONEST-TO-GOD accepting the fact that you can’t “WIN” recovery any more than you can “WIN” an eating disorder. You just plug at it. You may have epiphanies and you will probably feel random bursts of inspiration and motivation, but sadly there is no magic formula or voodoo secret. You will have to trial-and-error. And, in a clinical sense, trial-and-error essentially means TRY, TRY, TRY until something works. And that’s what recovery is. TRY, TRY, TRYING until something works. 

There is no timeline. There is no right or wrong. There is no prize for you at the end, except, of course, your health, vitality, sanity, and freedom. But, here’s the catch. You don’t actually receive those just at the end of your journey. Those gifts are with you from the start, from the first moment you decide you’ve extended your stay in Hell and want a new place to live. Those gifts are what keep your path, and all its ups and downs, worthwhile. Whatever sense of health, vitality, sanity, and freedom you thought you had in sickness can ONLY improve in recovery. You will notice that. You will start to see, taste, hear, and feel it. The sensations may be overwhelming. Stick with them. 

Healing hurts. Unleashing the pain hurts. The rawness of exposed wounds hurts. That is part of recovery. There is no way to avoid all the suppressed feelings, the stuffed-down anguish, the starving fears. But remember this. With an eating disorder, pain progressively increases. With recovery, pain progressively decreases. 

And on the other side, of pain, you will see, lies a pleasure you may have never known existed. 

 

Between clients

Dear Bee, 

Where are so many people canceling this week? Not cool. On the bright side, I’ll be out of here early. I can’t believe I’ve only been doing this gig for a month and I’ve already seen such a diverse range of people. I don’t define a person by his or her diagnosis (EVER) because a person is a person, but so far, I’ve had sessions with individuals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depression Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Schizophrenia- Paranoid Type, Alcohol Abuse, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Pedophilia, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Not to mention miscellaneous but equally important issues, such as: domestic violence, career-related stress, emotional abuse, coping with divorce, adolescent concerns, life transitions, family-of-origin problems, identity crises, and financial concerns.

It’s been a hell of a learning opportunity, and I think I’m doing a good job. I mean, this is pretty much my baseline, right? It only gets better from here on out. My clients seem responsive to my interventions and appear to like coming in to talk. Nevertheless, it’s hard to release the perfectionism in this kind of field. It’s hard to NOT take it personally if a client doesn’t do his or her homework or doesn’t seem to have the motivation to change or doesn’t want to speak to you. But that’s on them, not on me.

I love my Thursdays, because after finishing up with clients at my site, I go to my boyfriend’s house and we start our weekend together. Tonight, I’m surprising him with a bottle of wine and those cute, tasty macaroons (I’ve never actually had them, but they are so gorgeous, and I’m excited to try them)and some massage oil or something romantic like that. I’m too poor to buy new lingerie, but he’s getting sparkling pink wine and my vagina. Happy boyfriend, happy girlfriend.

I’ve had an unusual appetite today, as in, I’ve been extremely hungry, despite eating regular meals. I know our bodies sometimes just ask for more food. And thinking back on it, I barely ate much for dinner yesterday.

And my office has all these delicious foods everywhere, but I’m acting weird because they aren’t “safe,” and therefore, I worry how I’ll react around them. Let’s keep it real: I need to just chill out. I had a cookie earlier, and I survived. I love how sometimes we think it is simply just going to be the end of the world.

Yesterday, I had a client complete a thought record for her anxiety, and when she was talking about her activated trigger, she mentioned, I don’t even know if I should write this down because it seems so silly.

That’s the power of triggers. THEY DO SEEM SILLY. In fact, oftentimes, they seem so silly that we actually minimize their effects and deny our thoughts and feelings around them. But their damage can deliberate us. Triggers keep us frightened and afraid. But everyone with any kind of mental illness or disorder has triggers. They are scary, but they are normal. Recognizing them is key. It doesn’t matter how insignificant or trivial they seem. For instance, I get triggered when a stranger compliments my body. I get triggered to binge, as if I need to somehow prove them wrong or as if I deserve to now “treat” myself due to being so rewarded. Other triggers to binge include:, feeling overwhelmed with schoolwork, eating food I consider “unsafe,” exercising compulsively (because I want some kind of reward for punishing myself so hard), wanting to procrastinate, thinking about the unknown, drinking alcohol, and making major decisions.

Irrationality doesn’t negate the trigger. Knowing something is irrational is not necessarily synonymous with feeling instantly better. Everyone is different, so everyone’s triggers will be different. Just because they are not common does not mean they are not okay. For instance, I knew someone with an eating disorder who felt triggered to binge whenever she watched television. They just went hand-in-hand. Numbing out with food in front of the TV as a means to relax. 

Bottom line: your triggers are not stupid. Your triggers are not insignificant or unimportant. Your triggers are real. OWN THEM then WORK THROUGH THEM.