Tag Archives: Binge Eating Disorder

Picture The Past

I finally saw my ex with a new person. It was from the comfort of my own bed. I was on my phone. A reflex led me to my infrequent but habitual crawl of his photo feed. Sure I would find nothing, I clicked through several tags and there it was. This can’t be, I thought. But she was pictured several times in my place – on a trip, in the car – as if I had never existed at all.
The intense feeling of erasure consumed me.
We have been broken up for years now and we never speak, but I still hadn’t yet been confronted with his “moving on.” At times I’ve anticipated the event with a fear that’s made me tremble. He’s the only person I’ve ever really loved, ever been able to truly imagine spending my life with. Why it didn’t work out is a combination of slightly divergent world views, and traumatic move over long distance, and fundamental immaturity. Maybe alcohol. Maybe depression. We couldn’t save each other, so to speak. We dragged it out for sometime, hauling our attachment to each other through the muddy grey area of wishful semi-commitment.
The woman I believe to be his new partner is pretty and thin and white. So pretty, her life is a magazine. So thin, she can fall asleep comfortably in skinny jeans. (But not too thin, of course. Nice boobs). And so “white,” she rides horses. Simply looking at her pictures made me feel more ugly myself. After crying all morning, I dissolved into the type of constant negative brain chatter which has defined me my entire life.

If only your hair was – straight – blonde – shiny – long…
I can’t believe you are working on loving yourself looking like this…
Please don’t settle for this body. Get to work! You’ve done it before – do it again!
He was pretending to love you that whole time, just waiting for her to show up…
People think you’re annoying…
You’ll never have what she has…

Thankfully I now recognize the Diet Culture and Misogynist roots of all these feelings. We cannot help being conditioned to think that we are in competition with Other Women. We have also been conditioned to think that if we work hard enough we can change our bodies and our looks permanently. This is a waste of our energy and our love. It would be better served in accepting ourselves and helping others. I understand those things thanks to the treatment I received, my sobriety, and reading a ton of books which helped me feel empowered. I don’t want to judge her, or hate myself in comparison.
Despite that, when I feel hurt, threatened, or sad, my default reaction is still to think “I am disgusting and should begin my exercise regimen and skip certain food.” Other reactions are: a tall pint of beer, a bottle of wine or two, and a lot of ice cream or cookies. In other words, right back to where I was last winter.
I am willing to meet myself where I am in my recovery right now. I want all those things, but I can recognize I want them because of my fears and insecurities. I can recognize that I have full permission to act on them to any degree but that acting on them probably won’t make me feel much better.
Five months ago I was already able to recognize this, but now I can clearly feel the difference in my body. Now, it is not just the knowledge that yeah, i guess I feel better when I don’t binge. Now, I finally do feel better when I don’t. I actively choose to sit with feelings because it feels better to feel them than to be drunk or stuffed full of food.
I can’t tell you how much relief I feel in realizing that to be truth.
(To put this stage of recovery into context, I eat three meals and two snacks per day. They are dietician prescribed meals, so they are balanced and plenty of calories. I don’t exclude any food group of type of food. It took that much nutrition – every single fucking day – over the course of the last five months to get me to the point where I can recognize my preference for balance over extremes. Yes, I was worried about gaining weight. I have had large weight swings throughout my life. Now that I am eating everything, never doing strenuous exercise, and am never hungry for long, I am still no heavier than I was when I was at the top of my past weight swings).
I am feeling more lonely than ever, though. My relationship sucks and my confidence is low. My skin is thin. I’m often frustrated and confused about how I got here. I am a little lost and not sure what to do next in my life in order to give it meaning. My eating disorder used to do that for me! I feel like a more powerful woman/person, but I’m highly unsure of where a powerful woman fits into our society. That’s what I feel when I look at the pictures of my ex-boyfriend’s new partner. I feel like she fits – easily – and I just… don’t.

Advertisements

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right Here, Right Now

It’s been three whole months since my last post here and I’ve come a long way. My sobriety then did not feel like Sobriety. It felt like an addiction to alcohol being replaced by an addiction to binge eating… while not drunk.

I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and made the decision to investigate my eating more thoroughly.  For four entire years – April 2013 through March 2017, I had been stuck in a cycle of binge-restrict-exercise, repeat. My weight was on the low side and fairly stable most of that time. But each night, I went to sleep bloated on packaged food to make up for the calories I wasn’t consciously allowing myself to consume during waking hours. Then I would make a teeny breakfast, pack a carb-free salad for lunch, feel gassy and aggressive and ashamed all afternoon, workout hard, make a vegetarian dinner that was mostly greens, drink an entire bottle of wine, and binge.

The last 4-6 months of this four year span were mildly healthier-minded. I began listening to Health At Every Size (HAES) podcasts and wanting to adopt that principle. I found Christy Harrison’s Food Psych, Isabel Foxen Duke, Melissa Fabello, and Summer Innanen. I learned about the books Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size. I discovered The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf (which now is like my bible. You can read it in full here), and edited my social media feeds to include posts from fat activists such as Lindy West and Virgie Tovar. I loved everything I read and saw. I was more open-minded, slightly less judgmental, and very interested in learning more. I read a lot of blogs from women who decided to stop drinking in their 30s. Besides Hip Sobriety none really resonated with me.  I scoured the internet for bloggers addressing both food and alcohol addiction, but those were difficult to find. (If you are interested & okay with possibly triggering language, here are very few links to what I did discover – onetwo, three). Nobody’s story was enough like mine so that I read it and knew exactly what to do to get better. A lot of the eating disorder recovery and body positivity posts, like most of the internet, are image based. This had me stuck in diverse superficiality. Cue loneliness and hopelessness and binge eating. ARG!

I went back to the therapist I’d seen the year before.  Once a week did not feel like enough. When I was left alone I would panic and binge eat. And, yes, I did feel like a toddler who’s afraid of the dark. And, yes, I did feel ashamed of that panic. I decided I’d had enough of my anxiety and started seeing a psychiatrist who helped me work my way down the list of medications as they each presented their annoying side effects. (For a while, I still drank on the pills even though you aren’t supposed to). Fast forward eight months, and I think I’m finally on the right anti-depressant for me. I can’t offer advice on what to do about medications.  Trust your doctor and keep trying, or find a new doctor you like more! I found a new doctor.

What I am getting to with all this back story is that once I made the decision to start anti-depressants, stop high intensity exercise completely, try eat more intuitively, and – five months into that IE journey – finally quit alcohol, it became clear to me that my eating disorder had morphed but not disappeared.

So in mid-May this year I entered eating disorder treatment on an intensive outpatient level. The program consisted of three half days per week. We had group therapy, instruction on emotional regulation via CBT, self-esteem and body image work, individual therapy, and group dinners. I did it because somehow I was lucky enough to be covered by my insurance. All the therapy work I’d done on my own outside of treatment turned out to be necessary for my insurance to cover the next level of treatment, so it wasn’t all for naught. Still, by the time I got there I was ready to kick this things butt. I’ll admit that I was anxious to get treatment largely because my bingeing was making me heavier by the week and I was scared of getting fat.

SIDE NOTE: Whatever my weight, however, treatment came at the right time for me. It wasn’t because of my weight. It was necessary because all I could think about was food. It ruled my life and I was in a very unhealthy, unsustainable place. In fact, one of the main reasons I convinced myself I wasn’t sick was because I wasn’t as thin as I’d been when I’d been sick in the past. I was so afraid to enter treatment and be surrounded by people who looked like my former anorexic self. That they’d judge me for my size. What happened was this: not everybody in the program was thin. In groups, we barely ever talked about what exactly our specific behaviors were, but more about the emotions and situations surrounding them. The first two weeks, I was self-conscious about my body at treatment just like I am self-conscious about my body in every other part of my life. Then I started to get to know people. Sometimes we’d offer insight to each other, and the gratitude I felt for having helped someone, and the gratitude I felt having been helped by them began to feel much more important than my body. Then I started to remember how stable and comfortable “heavier” people looked to me when I was very underweight – I started to remember that feeling of hope I had when I’d see someone recovered who was happy – someone who looked very normal weight, who had once been where I was, being kind and patient with me. And I decided that was one really good thing my current body could do for someone there. That isn’t to say I’m healthy 100%, but I do feel better physically being a higher/”normal” weight.

So, now I am sober from both alcohol and bingeing. I haven’t binged in five weeks and that is a major accomplishment for me. On top of that, it had been about seven years since I’d been free of yo-yo diets/restriction and overexercise. I’m proud to say that now I don’t restrict or binge and I exercise only moderately. I have a relapse plan. I stopped weighing myself in November and do not plan to diet or step on a scale again.

While my body does not look entirely free of fat or super toned, I have gotten to the point where I feel neutral about it instead of negative. The time and energy I spent in an effort to look “airbrushed in real life” seems insane to me now. I’m happy it seems insane. I’m happy to leave it in the past. I have been this heavy one time before in my life, a weight that is still within (but on the higher side of) a healthy range (EDIT Oct 2017 – according to the BMI, which is bull****. I believe neither size nor weight indicate “health”) .  I still have the privileges of existing in a smaller body, though it is more difficult to find clothes that fit that I like. The more curves you have, the more individual your body becomes. So it’s more difficult to find mass produced clothing that fits in all the right places. This does not mean I’m too big or overweight. It means I’m one of a kind and could use an awesome tailor.

One thing that I’m excited about is that the longer I spend at this weight, the more normal and comfortable it feels to me. A large part of this has been switching from bingeing to feeding myself more frequently at regular intervals. As it turns out, I was not feeding myself enough at meal times even when trying to eat intuitively. When my body is fed regularly to the point of fullness, my urge to binge at any point during the day or night is decreased from about 8 or 9/10 to about 2 or 4/10. When the urge is that low, it is much easier for me to sit with and override that urge.

In hindsight, had I not had the money or time for treatment, I think a dietician who could have taken over my meal plan would have helped the most. I needed someone to weigh me, keep track of that themselves, and give me a good idea of how much I should be eating and when. Group support was/is a close second.  In my real life, nobody knows about the depth of my issues with food and body. (I wonder how they couldn’t with my weight having been all over the place, but maybe the external changes aren’t as huge as they seem to me). Having a place to bare the secrets I held SO close and felt SO MUCH shame about was freeing. If you can, find group support!

I’m in a really good place now and I want to help other people stuck in this maddening cycle. Leaving this squirrely story here in hopes of helping you.

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).