so, my weekend..

Dear Bee,

I mean, you were obviously around this weekend. In the mirrors and on the scales and in the food I ate. You were there lurking in the booths at each and every restaurant at each and every meal.

That’s not to say I didn’t have a good weekend, because I did. I had a fabulous weekend with my boyfriend. We had a vacation house to ourselves, where we were able to lounge in the jacuzzi, hike pretty mountains, and enjoy gorgeous beaches. He is the best thing that has ever happened in my life, that I know. But, still a part of me, wishes I could be fully and 100% present to soak in every delicious vibrance of this love.

I recognize that last sentence streams into perfectionism. There is no 100%. It is impossible. And nobody can be fully present. After all, that is what distinguishes humanity from all other animals. Because we are able to think and explore alternative meanings, our minds are constantly wandering to the past and future. To expect to live in the exact moment at every single exact moment would not only be irrational, but it could also be detrimental. Imagine if we only had our impulses to drive us into what we wanted to do. We would have no way to self-regulate, own responsibility, or make intelligent decisions based on our unique needs and wants. In other words, we would live in chaos.

I ate a lot of carbs this weekend. There was pizza and pasta and calzones and fudge and burritos. So, yes, I ate a variety of food. This is a simple statement. Also a neutral statement. It’s the meaning I want to attach to it. My eating disorder wants to attach the negative dialogue (of course) and tell me that I’m hedonistic, gluttonous, a failure at recovery, grotesque, disgusting, and weak. My “positive-affirmation” warrior side of me counterbalances those insults by telling me that I’m allowed to enjoy life, that one weekend won’t kill me, that food is just food, and I’m absolutely not grotesque, disgusting, and weak. I want to believe both, but I will choose to listen to the warrior side, because the disordered side just wants to keep me sick, and I’m fully aware of that. I’m not a bad person for what I ate. I’m not a bad person for experiencing certain feelings or thoughts about these foods. I’m in recovery, and it gets hard. Especially on vacation. 

I am done weighing myself again for awhile. At least for a few weeks. I’ve been letting that number dominate my emotions and thoughts about my body image way too much. I gave up the scale for about six months at the beginning of this journey, and I can give it up again. There is no reason to measure myself by an electric number, not at these stages of recovery. However, I have rationalized the stepping up and down on the scale, attempting to convince myself that I’m just “checking the number” just to “see my progress.” This is unhealthy for me. This is way too dangerous. I’m realizing it now. I have come WAY too far to backslide into the never-ending, addictive quest to reach a new lowest weight. And that’s exactly where you will take me…down that slippery slope that promises eternal beauty and happiness. Bullshit. There’s no beauty or happiness attached to a weight. There never was, and there never will be.

I’ve been working on that novel for Nanowrimo…so far, so good. I’ve missed fiction writing. I like letting my characters unravel their stories into complex and intricate plots. I have a loose idea of the beginning and the end. The middle is a little more fuzzy. Kind of like recovery. I remember where I started, and I have a vision of what the end chapters will look like, but all that lies between…that’s really up in the air, isn’t it? 

F.E.A.R: False Evidence Appearing Real

What is fear

But just a fallacy?

A wrath of distortion

Perceived as reality

 

Fear- the thread

Of choke-hold lust

Captures our energy

And depletes our trust.

 

Fear- the barrier

That only builds a wall

Separating two souls

Until no closeness exists at all

 

Fear- the force

So true in a fickle mind

Turn your back upon it,

Or it is never far behind.

Sometimes, I write poetry. Usually on yellow legal pads during slow days at work. I write essays. I write song lyrics. I write fiction. I once wrote a full book, but it still sits just roughly edited somewhere on a computer file. I have a bundle of scribbled notes on unused receipt paper rolls (from when I used to work retail). I have draft upon draft of starts of stories saved on my laptop.

I was this close to majoring in creative writing in college, but I feared the instability of existing on an erratic salary and bleak job opportunities.

Fortunately, I fell in love with psychology. And then, I fell in love with therapy. Still, creative writing has always been my primary love, and so long as I have the ability to put the pen to the paper and string letters together, I will forever be creating stories and sensing my logic together in fluid motion.

So, fear. This is a big one. Fear is what keeps us stuck. Fear is what keeps us in a chronic state of anxiety and distress. Fear is this blanket of irrationality that suffocates us in the calmest weathers.

It holds us back, whether we realize it or not. In the face of fear, we play games with people, we avoid taking chances, we settle for less than we deserve, we accept misery and discontent.

If you are living with an eating disorder, you are living in fear. You are afraid of something. I thought I was afraid of gaining weight. And, indeed, I was. But, what did this fear of gaining weight actually stem from? It is unnatural to fear a fluctuation or increase of body mass unless we attach some kind of potent emotion to it. So, for me, I associated gaining weight as an indication of gluttony, laziness, and being unlovable. Thus, losing weight indicated the opposite: pureness, discipline, and love. I was afraid of the former, so I desperately sought for the latter.

These thoughts manifested from a deep pit of fear. They are untrue, no matter how much society wants me to believe that a certain size of body or certain intake of food will stimulate genuine emotions. Body size does not correlate with love, confidence, self-acceptance, or happiness. Whatever feelings I have towards my body or towards the food I ate create are artificial: they indicate deeper issues elsewhere. They are laced with fear; fear of being unacceptable, fear of the unknown, fear of being incompetent and unworthy. After all, a body cannot make me sad. But the idea of someone rejecting me or feeling insecure can.

And what happens when someone rejected me or I feel insecure when I’m skinny? Because, my body has always been on the slim-to-average size. Well, then I just have one less excuse to blame (my body)…and again, I have to face my fear of being unlovable, unworthy, or incompetent. Those fears do not disappear as weight disappears.

Recovery means accepting and then releasing this fear. I recognize that every single step and breakthrough made in recovery requires accepting, facing, and eventually conquering specific fears. For instance, I have experienced sheer terror in asking for help when I needed it, adopting coping strategies besides than eating or exercising, accepting my body the way it is, seeking outside support, incorporating new foods into my regular diet, letting go of my tight grip of control, decreasing my exercise, equalizing all foods, speaking up about my issues, sitting with feelings and letting them pass, and embracing the unknown identity that has started to emerge as a result of my transformation.

The human mind is incredibly resilient. We do not develop fear without a good reason, but it is important to recognize that those reasons may be ineffective and untrue. More importantly, despite our resilience, we are eager to “maintain homeostasis” and stay as is. That is why personalities are so hard to change and decisions can be so tricky to make. We fear taking risks because it may alter our homeostasis…and we tend to be pessimistic in the outcome.

Fear penetrates us and attacks our character. Stand up to something you are scared of today. Laugh at it. Challenge it. Talk to it if you must. But don’t give it another ounce of power to overcome you. You are greater than the sum of your fears.

the desire to restrict

Dear Bee,

Things have been hard with the food today. I woke up and weighed myself. I didn’t like the number at all. Then, I went to the doctor, still on an empty stomach, and weighed myself about two hours later. Still wasn’t satisfied. I don’t want to fall into the weighing myself obsession again. Rationally, i know it’s just a number and not a reflection of my beauty, self-worth, or recovery. And yet, I’ve been stepping on the scale more and more frequently. I’m aware that I’m punishing myself. I need to start believing again that I don’t have to do that!

I woke up still feeling full from last night, even though my binge was probably only 1/4 of what I’m used to bingeing on. I had to force myself to make breakfast at 10:30am, because I know I need to eat. Now, I feel absolutely full and bloated, and I don’t like that feeling right now. It’s uncomfortable. I want to restrict this week. That urge is strong. I was already calculating skipping lunch and just eating a light dinner. With the Prozac, I can do that. I don’t get ravenous hunger urges, and it hardly takes anything to fill me up. I can lose five pounds by the weekend if I really wanted to, and right now, I want that. 

The crazy thing about my eating disorder is that even though I hate the bingeing, I don’t mind the restricting. In fact, I hardly think of that as part of my disorder. I feel so much more empowered when I eat less than I need to than when I more than I need to. I’ll take a hungry stomach over a full one. Swinging on this pendulum is a dangerous one. I’m just free-writing my thoughts. I don’t want to act upon them. I will eat normally today. I will listen to my body.

All morning, I’ve been listening to you. And you’ve been harsh! Skip breakfast and have a late lunch. Keep weighing yourself and watch that number go down. Drink a ton of coffee so it’ll become a diuretic and you’ll at least lose some water weight. Forget your presentation and project due this afternoon and get your ass to the gym. God, you’re fat. You’re hideous. You think you’re doing well in recovery…ha! Let me prove you wrong! You’re no better off than you were when you started.

Sometimes, I’m grateful for you. Sometimes, I love you. Sometimes, I don’t mind your voice or distorted logic.  But today, I’ll just say FUCK YOU. 

I am worth recovery. You’re not going to bring me down today. 

Fourth of July success!

Dear Bee,

When does this euphoria fade? Because I’m still floating on Cloud Nine. Either I have been in terrible relationships my entire life or these feelings are just beyond my conscious scope of happiness and virtue.

I can’t stop smiling. It’s almost obnoxious.

Fourth of July was amazing. Everything with him is amazing. We spent the entire day at the beach with some friends. We rode bikes and lied on the sand and watched fireworks and laughed and took pictures and cuddled and it was perfect. So, so perfect. Why is this so effortless? It just blows my mind away. I am so present with him. We are so connected, this energy we share. I could write about this guy and our disgusting bliss all day, but this is an eating disorder blog and not a mushy-gushy love one. Sorry, not sorry.

But seriously, Fourth of July used to be a rough holiday for me. All that food and alcohol. So much temptation. I can distinctly remember the past four of them by whether I binged or starved. Lovely. None of that even crossed my mind yesterday. Last year, I was so damn proud of myself for not bingeing. But how much energy did I focus on avoiding that? The entire day’s worth. I can barely remember anything I did. I only remember where I was and who I was with. Hardly present. We were too enmeshed. It was sad.

I’ve been eating so normally that it’s almost ridiculous. I haven’t been afraid of food. I’ve been eating all kinds of things. Just because. Because the lines between “safe” and “unsafe” are so flexible now. I haven’t wanted to binge. I have been eating less, but, to be honest, it’s because food hasn’t been on my mind. That’s something I never believed could happen. 

I did weigh myself the other day. I’ve been doing this more frequently. Not everyday or anything, but when I first started recovery, I went months without stepping on the scale. Now, I check every so often. I don’t know why. Okay, I do, and the reasons are eating-disordered. I like that sense of satisfaction when that number is lower than I expected. I still tie some of my self-worth to that digital reading. I weigh less than I have in awhile, but I’m definitely still in a normal range. Do I still think about losing weight? Yes. Am I going to act upon those urges? Probably not. Conscious dieting is way too slippery of a slope for me. There is no need. I have a beautiful body. I am healthy. Most importantly, I am worthy of treating it with kindness and nourishing it the best ways I know how. 

In my last relationship, I became such an exercise fanatic. Maybe it was to compensate for his sedentary lifestyle. I wanted to motivate him. Okay, I wanted to change him. And I was wrapped up in my own insecurities and fears and unhappiness. That’s not going to happen this time around. I’m done with letting my eating disorder triangulate myself into anything meaningful to me. Because whenever you are feeling RIGHT, something in my life is very WRONG. And I need to address whatever it is that feels wrong before listening to you.

 The summer is turning out to be so wonderful. I have a week and a half left of this intense summer class, and then I’m as free as a bird until the end of August! Ah! Just two months and I’ll be seeing my first clients! AHHHHH. Super excited and somewhat nervous. But, I’m trying not to focus on any of that right now. I want to enjoy this summer.

Be present. That’s what matters.  

I’m still writing my review on the DSM-V revisions for eating disorders, so I’ll post that soon. I’m actually making it a relatively legit and somewhat professional entry, so it won’t be just a bunch of senseless rambles like my normal ones.

Diet pills, flat stomachs, and body bashing

Dear Bee,

It’s almost summer. I am surrounded by diet talk. This becomes an inevitable trend around this time of year. I firmly believe there is a direct correlation between increased temperature and increased body insecurity. Diet talk embodies a social facilitation effect. It is rampant and contagious, starting on the elementary school playgrounds and muttered in the circles of elderly ladies. Girls complain about their bellies, their breasts or lack of breasts, their thunder thighs and flabby arms, their cankles and back fat and rolls.

Does it ever end? I don’t know. I consider diet talk a cultural phenomenon. In a sick way, it unites women. Body bashing give us common ground, something to talk about, something to obsess over. Unlike men, women do not like to brag about themselves; we are not inherently taught to be arrogant. Rather, we remain modest at our best and critical at our worst.

Despite having an eating disorder, I never really engaged in much of this body bashing. Maybe, I opted from publicly drawing attention to my appearance, out of fear that someone else would notice, and God forbid, agree with my statements. I’ve listened to friends do it my entire life. They complain and vent only to receive the standardized chorus of responses, you’re beautiful or no, you have a great body or you don’t need to even worry. 

As if any of that ever resonated with them!

Today, one of my close friends started a diet pill regime. Seriously. I recognize I am in absolutely NO place to judge or be self-righteous, as I have CLEARLY done enough turmoil to my body to last a lifetime…but still, my immediate reaction was, she is so stupid. Would I have felt this triggered if I wasn’t dealing with my own eating disorder? I’d like to think not, but I’d also like to think this shows that I am still PROFOUNDLY influenced by people talking about weight loss or taking extreme dieting measures.

Another friend is on a mission to get in shape. This girl has a natural thin build with a body most people would consider flawless. She calls it skinny fat. She eats, in her own words, whatever the fuck I want. That same kind of mantra represents the essence of her life. I’ve never seen a woman so intuitive, and I must admit I try to emulate some of her free-spirited approach to balance. And yet, her quest to “get in shape” because she just wants a “flat stomach” (even though it is) for summer bothered me. Probably because it threatened me. Being aware of these feelings (jealousy, anxiety, resentment) is wonderful. Changing the thoughts (realizing that she is allowed to have her own needs and desires and whatever she does with her life does not need to influence the way I live mine) is even better. Constructively coping with these feelings and thoughts is golden. 

I also ran into an old friend from college at the gym today. I approached him, and he said he had seen me from a distance, but wasn’t sure if it was me. After I hugged him, he said, you look like you’ve lost a lot of weight! You look good! 

This statement, which was naturally meant to be a sincere and harmless compliment, triggered in so many ways. The initial feelings were anxiety, resentment, happiness, humiliation, and shame. Quite a cocktail.

Then came the thoughts. Was he hitting on me? Did I really look that different from when he saw me last? (keep in mind, I spent years offsetting my bingeing and compulsive overeating with a very “clean” and somewhat restrictive diet and compulsive overexercising regime. My weight has not dramatically fluctuated since he last saw me, although it is possible that the shape of my body has. I have always remained in the normal range.

And, finally, my last thought was hey, who cares what he thinks of your weight. Why don’t you just ignore that and listen to the “you look good part?” 

 Because I can and will believe that! 

Eating disorders are mental illnesses. Yes, they distort the way we perceive our bodies and weights, but I don’t look at myself and see an obese person. I may not always be 100% comfortable in my own skin, and there are definitely situations where I feel “fat” (which is not a feeling, by the way), but for the most part, I appreciate my body. My eating disorder started with the dieting mentality. As it progressed, it simply became a coping mechanism: it became a way for me to obtain perceived control and suppress uncomfortable feelings. 

I have a distorted reality of food. I understand and accept that.

But, I think as a society, we need to really focus on this whole body-bashing epidemic. I have so many friends with no history of eating disorders who hate their bodies. And this just devastates me. Today, my friend (the one taking diet pills) told me she just wants to feel confident in a bikini for once. She said she’s never liked her body. This girl knows about my recovery process. She believes thinness will make her happy, and I can’t blame her for that! We are practically engrained with the message that the perfect body will provide us with the perfect relationship, job, life, etc. It is insane. If you don’t have an eating disorder, chances are, you are on some kind of diet. It is practically a developmental requirement. People are either on a diet or planning on starting a diet…tomorrow. 

Thinking about it, I have never met a female who has never been on a diet. I would love to know how and why they were able to avoid that societal message. 

 

Eight Years Ago Today.

Dear Bee,

May 3, 2005

Well, I’m ______ tall and _______ lbs. I could stand to lose 5-10 lbs.

I wrote that eight years ago today. 

Unfathomable. 

Something was telling me to flip through an old journal tonight (after a really rough day in eating-disorder land) and this is what I stumbled upon. Isn’t that fabulous? 2005. Wow.

 And of all ironies, I weighed myself yesterday morning. It was an impulsive choice–one that took me by surprise. It was the first time I stepped on the scale in a long time. Obviously, this is a lose-lose action, but in that brief moment, I didn’t care. I just wanted to see that number.

I’ve lost weight. Relief- that was my instant reaction. Relief that even that lowish number must be probably higher than my actual number due to the water weight from yesterday’s binge.

Regret. That was my second reaction.

I have an urge to weigh myself again, but I am committing that I’m not going to, because I know there is nothing good to be found in that number. There is nothing in that number that can possibly tell the picture of my recovery or of my journey.

My body then wasn’t fully developed, and I weigh maybe ten or twelve pounds more than I did when I wrote that down eight years ago. Are eight years of restricting, bingeing, compulsively exercising, counting calories, hurting others, therapy, support groups, writing, researching, and doing everything in my willpower to recover worth ten or twelve pounds? 

Back then, I obviously struggled with body dissatisfaction. I recall loosely flirting with diets, trying to eat healthier and work out more. The disordered pathology wasn’t quite cemented. I didn’t understand how to use food as a coping mechanism. I didn’t realize I could block out pain or numb myself from pain with it. Moreover, eating disorders seemed stupid to me. I didn’t know anyone who personally had them, but I had read brief snippets in Seventeen and Chicken Soup. Those individuals seemed insane to me. Who would want to starve themselves? Who would want to puke? Who would want to continue eating long after feeling full? 

As if any of us ever had a choice. 

 I know that as long as I’m measuring my success by numbers, be it calories consumed, pounds weighed, or minutes exercised, I’m not going to be successful in recovery. Numbers might not be what got me sick, but they were what kept me sick. And by sick, I mean, they kept me preoccupied, obsessive, and disordered.

 I don’t know what else it is I need. The support in my life is so overwhelming, kind, and amazing. My friends are here for me. Any of them would help me out if I ask for it. My mom, bless her beautiful soul, made me cry on the phone yesterday morning because she told me that she’d do anything for me, that she’ll try her best to give me anything I need, and I just need to ask her, and that she’s so proud of me. How many people have a mother who is that supportive? Probably nobody. And then there are the people in OA and my therapist. All of them have infinite words of wisdom and a myriad of knowledge. I know I can go to any of them when I need a lift…and yet, why is it so hard for me to just reach out before and not after the crisis. I also have my Higher Power, but…BUT…I simply couldn’t wrap my head around having faith in anything greater than my own self. I just didn’t want to listen to anyone. I didn’t want to have faith in myself, and in turn, I didn’t have faith in myself.

My ex-boyfriend cried when I told him about my history of eating disorders about a year ago. He couldn’t understand why I was continuing to struggle. He told me I was beautiful every chance he had and he loved me unconditionally. He saw eating disorders as a breeding ground for insecurity, and he believed I had no right to feel insecure. He thought his love could save me. Can I blame him for the ignorance? No, because at one point, I thought people had the power to save me as well. I think we all do well. But people get married. They have children. They have best friends. They have wonderful families. They still have eating disorders.

I wish I could just ride the infinite love in my life and use that as incentive to believe them and heal myself. First, I have to love myself, and I understand that. Because yes, if we loved ourselves, why would we possibly punish ourselves? That would be irrational and absurd. But when you’re into something deep, it seems like self-esteem and love are not going to be the only lifeboats saving you from the clutches of this disease. And I’m tired of people believing a lack of self-love or respect for oneself is the only thing keeping us from sanity.

 We don’t expect love and support to cure other illnesses. Love alone cannot cure the common cold, cancer, schizophrenia, or any other physical or medical diagnosis.

Why should eating disorders be any different? 

Loving my body and loving my warrior story!

Dear Bee,

I am just overcome with gratitude for everything and everyone I have today. There are so many infinite blessings in my life, so many reasons to be excited to live, and so many reasons to be passionate for what is happening RIGHT NOW. 

At this present moment, I feel content and peaceful, despite the turbulence I have encountered this past week. I just feel an immense and overwhelming sensation of love from the people in my life, but more than that, I love the feeling of loving myself. I think we love ourselves, when we absolutely give ourselves that unconditional positive regard, fear just dissipates. We know we can cope with whatever life may throw at us. We know that we always have one strong and constant ally- ourselves.

On Friday, I made the decision to let go and follow my intuition. I know this will be the last step in ending our relationship. I know termination is near. Why? Because LETTING GO is your antithesis; LETTING GO is your achilles heel. You cannot survive when I let go. You exist solely on rigidity, structure, and rules. Removing all those from my life removes you. 

I love listening to my body so much more than I ever loved listening to you, for my body is gentle and compassionate, not urging or demanding. My body may be unpredictable in its timing or desires, but when I give it what it nourishes, it profusely thanks me. It never makes me feel guilty or deprived or resentful or angry. It never makes me feel bad about myself. That’s all you hun. My body is so easy to understand when I really listen to it. You are illogical and confusing; you tell me one thing and then contradict it moments later. You tell me I can have this, then you tell me I can’t. You tell me I’m “worthy,” then you call me “worthless.” You tell me I’m in control of my life, and then you snatch that away with a taunting laugh and call me pitiful for being so “out of control.” 

You are, my dear, an utter nightmare. 

I love my body. I love it so much. I can honestly say that with pride in this moment right now. I just looked at it in the mirror as I was trying on a new dress and I was just so happy with ME. EVERY LAST INCH.

This morning, I was at the doctor’s office and the nurse weighed me. I didn’t need to, but I looked at the number. It was lower than I expected. It could have triggered me. I chose not to let it. It’s a number. My temperature is a number. My height is a number. My license is a number. My home address is a number. My blood sugar is a number. My social security number is a number. Imagine if I had emotional attachment to my social security number the same way I did to my weight?!! 

When the nurse said, we’re giving you this dose because you don’t weigh very much, you could have easily sent me into a complete tailspin. Oh yes, I heard you challenging her offhanded remark. I heard you calling her stupid and blind for being unable to see my ENORMOUS SELF. I also wondered if it was true, if my body appeared “thin” to others, though my weight falls in such an average range. I have often felt I have an unfair and distorted advantage in being so short and petite, because people automatically assume a shorter height with a smaller body frame. 

Either way, IT DOESN’T MATTER.  It just doesn’t. I am living for bigger and better things now.

This recovery will be my warrior story one day, and that day is coming very soon. I do not intend to be active in my disorder for much longer. As my own therapist said, I can stop this whenever I am willing to fully let go, and that time has FINALLY come. And soon enough, I will be a therapist myself and I will help others suffering through their own crises and pitfalls. I will use my own experience to guide, empathize, and relate to such clients.

Instilling  a sense of unconditional hope for the people who cannot yet see it for themselves will be my purpose in this world. That is my calling and that will be own saving grace.