Tag Archives: Adult Eating Disorder

Perspective on ED Recovery

Much more fueled by anxiety than I thought

I needed to grab whatever was closest in order to ground me. When I was panicking I would need a lifeline, someting outside of myself, in order to change the feelings so they would become manageable to me.

Much more isolated than I thought

Even though I had a lot of information about eating disorders, was reading personal accounts, and had tried to mention things to friends in passing, I myself didn’t even believe I was sick. The shame I felt, the overwhelm I felt for not knowing how to eat normally, was expressed in self-hate which always turned to eating disordered behaviors.

Much more hidden, much deeper than I thought

My eating disorder told me “Until you return to the most painful spot in your history and relive it until it goes right, you are doing yourself a disservice by changing, growing emotionally, or even considering happiness.”

Over the past 10 years I have been very nostalgic. I have trouble throwing things away and have been chiefly directed by an overwhleming sense of loss. I was attempting to navigate back through my past to a place that didn’t exist anymore. Getting somewhere that doesn’t exist and doing it without a map? I now see that as the ultimate in martyrdom. “Sadly, present life, I can’t show up for you,” in other words.

My eating disorder forced me to check out of my life as it was happening at present. With my eating disorder, I had stability.  It appeared to be comfortable and safe there. It was at least familiar. And even with the physical pain, it was better than acknowledging how lost I felt.

The thing I leearned to let myself see is that the places in the past don’t exist anymore. They are not based in geography so I can’t physically go back. They will have changed to a different place in time. My eating disoder tells me all the time that my body cannot, should not, will not be allowed to change. I believe the last of its behaviors are/were hiding in this thinking that (1) my body can stop time by staying the same or (2) my body can take me back to the past to fix things by maintaining the shape it had then .

Ironically, a lot of the things I wanted to fix back there in the past – but am now letting go of and forgiving myself for – are situations that I felt I could have avoided with better personal boundaries and a greater sense of assertiveness. (For instance, paying attention to red flags in relationships instead of staying when I’m getting hurt. Or trying my best to pinpoint my emotions and reach out for understanding from someone who can help).

Unfortunately I didn’t always have good boundaries or assertiveness skills, and at one point I was too young to have the perspective that help is available to me.

That very fact underscores the importance of moving forward now.

Now, I am working on improving these skills and will not stop asking for other perspectives.

I am lucky enough to have met a number of incidents which brought me here, finally, to the place of getting help. A big part of that has meant help in letting go. Letting go of regret for not acting sooner because I AM acting NOW – and now I’m actually ready! Letting go of my judgements (of myself and others) and replacing that with curiosity as best I can. Letting go of telling myself I’m fat and ugly, and instead asking myself how I really feel and what I can do to feel better in this moment. Letting go of knowing best and letting other people take care of me, allowing for the possibility that it could lead me to happiness. That’s what I really wanted after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do They Want You To Hate Yourself?

Listening to a woman being interviewed on the radio the other day, I was reminded of advertisers’ desire for your self-dissatisfaction.

Ask yourself, she warned, if the point of the advertisement is to get you to be unhappy with some part of who you are in some way.

It’s difficult to separate what I hate about myself and what advertisers want me to hate about myself. I’ve hated most things about me since I can remember.  And they aren’t specific things. Although I’ve punished myself all my life using food and weight control, the object of my dissatisfaction doesn’t really end with weight.  In fact, I’m not too sure it even starts with weight.  My weight is naturally very normal.  My dissatisfaction is more energetic than physical, more internal than external.

For instance, I’ve always had this crushing blow to my self-esteem when I see my own smile in pictures. ~ They all know you hate yourself, why even bother to smile?  You’re annoying. You annoy these people. They tolerate you because they’re sweet and mature, unlike you. You’re uncouth. You’re nuts. They know you have problems so they make sure not to upset you by pointing them out. You are the ugly one here, put away your face as soon as possible ~ I don’t make friends because I don’t want to put people in situations where they’re forced to tolerate me and do me the favor of politeness. I’m so anxious having to live in the uncertainty of acceptance that I isolate myself in order to avoid it completely.

This is the root of my anorexia, the root of my bulimia, and the root of my alcoholism. Each keeps me lonely, serving as a wordless best friend. Each provides the illusion of a predictable immediate environment. And most of all, I’m realizing since I quit drinking, each keeps me from having to ever acknowledge my true self.

When you’re following the itinerary of an eating disorder or addiction, you are always conveniently “busy.” You’re either thinking about the next fix, or you’re hung up on the bad feelings of the last one, or you’re planning how you can revamp the addiction so you don’t spiral into shame or boredom. You do all of this alone.

The entire time I was underweight, I knew how sick I looked. I saw pictures and I looked unreal. It didn’t feel like me, I barely looked like a girl. I looked like a prisoner. I knew people were worried about me. I knew people were talking about me behind my back. And I knew I finally didn’t care. In a way it was like hanging my self-hatred over their heads mockingly, as if they no longer deserved the luxury of ignoring my suffering. I didn’t have to hide it anymore.  THIS IS HOW MUCH I HATE MYSELF! (Pretty attractive, right?) I remember being so self-satisfied then to be able to show it to the world. Like I didn’t have to swallow my shame in silence. I thought it was gravely unfair that I was forced to live in myself, and – it felt – forced to be ashamed of myself. It seemed like there must be something I could do to relieve this burden. Sure, I was born this way, but couldn’t I fix that?

The strange part is that losing weight will not change your smile (besides that it becomes all jutted out and boney), and it will not change your hair (besides it all breaking off and thinning out), but those are the things I desperately wanted to be separate from. That and my family.

As I regained weight after years of starvation, alcohol was the first thing that helped me cope with the loss of my thinness. (Phew, at least I can forget that was ever a problem!) I immediately jumped anorexic ship for alcoholic island. Now, after almost a decade of binge drinking, hiding bottles, blacking out, and impulsive haircuts, I have finally realized I have issues surrounding drinking as well. In the last four years, I’ve been cycling through bulimia, alcoholism, and severe depression and anxiety – overconfident when I’m starving and sober, desperate when I’m starving and drunk, miserable when I’m bingeing, and vowing to change when I lose track of my old body.

I’m feeling grateful at the moment that I have found Alcoholics Anonymous and have come to a point where I’m devoted to making booze a thing of the past. I understand it can take a long time to sort out all the issues you’ve created for yourself and the emotions you have after you quit drinking. I understand that especially the first year can be hard. Yeah. The first YEAR. So because of that, I’m trying to take it very easy on myself.

But the issues surrounding my love relationships and my eating seem completely out of my …control. I get so afraid when I eat because I know I am overeating for comfort.  But when I exercise even lightly to ease my anxiety, I have constant chatter in my head about how fast I should be going and how much I can “improve” by summer. And I still see food and exercise as the only reason the other exists. I take my little aggressions out on my partner and I’m completely unable to tell if I am being taken advantage of, or if I have truly found someone who loves me for me. It depends largely on my mood how I feel about him and I make very serious internal judgements about our relationship that flip flop almost every day.

The people I read about online and the people I meet in AA almost all say they gained weight after getting sober.  Either that or they’ve started smoking more cigarettes. The weight gain scares me so much. I talk about it with people, but I haven’t found anybody who seems genuinely afraid of it. There’s a lot of laughing and patting their sober bellies while telling goofy jokes. Please don’t let me get fat, is the only superficial thing I can think. I don’t know if I’m ready to find out who I really am yet, especially since I started all this mess when I was 14. Seems like 20 years is a lot to make up for. I’ve just been looking in the mirror at my hair, trying to tell myself I’m okay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alcoholics & Overeaters Anonymous

On March 3, I went to my first AA meeting and now I’m on day 17!

I’m so proud of myself and so grateful for the support I have found in meetings.  So much of my chaotic life now makes sense.  Not that I am proud of it or anything.  Anyway, some other issues are more pronounced now that I am no longer drinking.  Relationship problems are one thing, my eating is another.

There are so few in depth personal accounts of adults living with major eating disorders.  So few detailed experiences.  It’s triggering for me and it takes a lot of out me to recount what I go through.

First of all, I quit the SSRIs. After two months of citalopram numbing me out completely, 1/2 a month off, and one month of escitalopram piling pound upon pound of what the citalopram started, here I am left with only my usual Wellbutrin. I think of everything in pounds lost and gained.  I weighed myself today for the first time since early December and I’ve gained seven pounds.  Somehow I’m happy about that – happy and surprised it wasn’t twice as much.

These days I don’t binge too often (maybe about once a week), and even when I do the amount consumed is much less than it used to be. I’ll buy a package of cookies and it takes me two and a half days to plow through it instead of twenty minutes, for instance. But I know which foods get me (cookies, candy, cereal) and whenever I buy them I know what I’m doing.  No longer am I restricting and over exercising, so I don’t spend an hour inhaling basic food like I used to (entire loaves of sliced bread, enough thai takeaway for three people, entire pints of ice cream, big bowls of rice, two packages of ramen, etc).  Now it’s more like consistent overeating – two lunches (one at 1pm and one at 4pm), three desserts (one before dinner as a “snack,” one after dinner, and one before bed).  I feel guilty about it and I am aware it will make me gain weight.  But I have a consistent feeling of testing myself.  That’s the only way I can think to put it.

Testing myself to see how fat “I” will let myself get.  Testing myself to see if “I can stand” being heavy in a world that discriminates against heavy women. Testing my boyfriend to see if he’ll be less attracted to me.  In my ind, I’m saying “isn’t this what you wanted? to not have to care? to not feel pressured to run 5 miles everyday? to not have to live off hard boiled eggs and salad?”  Those diet foods make me almost as scared as binge food makes me now.  When I think of returning to my restricting regimen, I have such a feeling of dread, hatred of my body, and hatred of my masochism, fear of regaining the weight and returning to what is really just a normal weight again.

I’ve learned from Health At Every Size podcasts and websites that if I restrict my calories, or even mentally restrict my food, it will lead me to binge.  Last week I told myself I would try to eat healthier and even that led to me eating more than I wanted to!

That’s what I would define as my problem right now. I’m not bingeing and actually I don’t even hate my body that much right now.  I’m 5-7 pounds heavier than I’ve been in over ten years.  Only once was I in this range before – when I binge ate my way out of anorexia.  It took me a few years to level out to normal after that first major increase.  But now I’m up there again, and it’s not even so bad.  What’s bad about it is the constant eating.  I just wait to be alone so I can eat.  Every time I have free time, I snack.  Every meal is boring or tedious because I’m eating with someone else and can’t stuff it down like I want to.

And the weight gain is simply the proof that I’m eating beyond what’s comfortable. The amount that I’m uncomfortably full these days is, in fact, just about equal to the amount I’m uncomfortably hungry when I diet. I find that really interesting. It’s this slight level – just enough so that I can forget about it if I do something engrossing, but can also default to it as an easy distraction when my mind has nowhere else to go.

FOOD.

YOUR BODY.

THESE ARE ALL YOU HAVE AND ARE.

That’s what the ED brain reminds me constantly, without actually saying a word. When I smile it says I look geeky and awkward. When I stand up it says I’m offending people with my hips and thighs (and now my new stomach). When I do dishes it points big red arrows at my backside that advertise all the extra snacks I’ve had that day. When I spend time on my appearance it asks me why I’m trying to dress up a lost cause.

I just picked back up with running, which I haven’t done for three months, and am surprised to find it feels good.  I trick myself into getting out there by reminding mysef I can go so slow, I can basically walk.  I can stop whenever I feel like it, and that nobody is paying attention.  It’s not easy.  I am out of shape.  But I always get at least one passing moment of freedom when I run and I treasure that feeling still. It gets me out of my hate brain and into my appreciation brain. Do I eat even more because I’ve been running? Maybe, just slightly. Do I tell myself it won’t make any difference to my weight? Yes, but that shouldn’t matter I have to remind myself.  Or – even worse – yes, maybe it will make a difference and imagine how thin I’ll be again!  I read about a lady who started running marathons and she lost 40 pounds.  I really have to remind myself that is not the point. But, my stints with exercise seem to always begin this way – taking it easy, then suddenly …not. It’s an addiction and I have to be careful with it.  Maybe I need to remind myself that the oozy, frothy-mouthed demon who asks me if I feel lazy and fat enough yet could simply be my eating disorder getting really mad that it’s being ignored for the first time in years.

Maybe I’m beating my own head and the overeating is my infantile way of celebrating freedom. Maybe I’m finally okay with growing up and taking up however much space I need to take up. But that doesn’t mean it comes easy. There are voices in my head that tell me I’d better f****** diet, just like there are voices in my head that telling me drinking for a day wouldn’t be so bad.  They tell me there’s nothing else that’s gonna make me palatable to other humans except drinking; there’s nothing that’s gonna make me a good writer except drinking; any guy who’s gonna be able to keep my interest will only fall for me if I have a dark side, too; my boyfriend does not want to be seen with a size 10; my friends are disgusted by my weight change and I have to fix it before I see anybody.

Today I had coffee with a woman I met in AA.  We have a lot in common concerning our romantic lives and being able to talk to another woman in her 30s who has had a string of tumultuous boyfriends (and happens to be single at the moment) meant the world to me. We talked about not making major changes unless you need to in order to protect your own sobriety.  She told me how much she is inclined to make impulsive decisions.  She told me that she is supposed to run things by her sponsor first (things like major purchases, vacations, moves) to make sure she’s not rushing into something that could put her in a tough emotional or financial situation that would threaten her sobriety.

It was really great to hear another grown woman talk about impulsivity as a challenge. That when you live to make things difficult, chaotic, or dramatic for youself, you are creating challenges which will ultimately control you not benefit you.

I am still sober after more than two weeks and I am proud of that.  I am taking it extremely easy, like they remind you to in AA. I am trying my best to accept that although I’m not entirely proud of my body or my eating behaviors right now, that either my eating behaviors or my perspective will change eventually rendering all this a non-issue.

In other words, I’m F.I.N.E. (F***ed up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional).