Why I skipped out on Thanksgiving dinner

Holidays are tough for me- not only because I have an eating disorder and food makes me uncomfortable, it’s also because a very important person is missing from the dinner table. Grandma. She was often the one talking about food and calories and being “good” or “bad” when the desserts started being laid out, however I’ve gotten over that. To me, she was the holder of memories and tradition. Why even celebrate if she’s not here? Or at least, why celebrate the same way we did then?

There’s a bigger reason behind my absence from the family dinner table, and it’s kinda the elephant in the room, so to speak. I had a dream the other night where one of my sisters said “Why doesn’t Lydia start telling her story?” and I woke up and had to remind myself over and over that it was a dream. So- I’m telling my story and I’m going to do it in an unflinchingly honest way.

Food doesn’t hold as much power over me as it used to, though when holiday meals come around, it’s as if I am traveling back in time to when I was fully consumed. Crying, begging, pleading not to have to eat these foods that I watched being made, or helped make myself. Those feelings, they allll come back. The body does hold the score. So, even though eating a family meal today would most likely have turned out differently than it did 8 years ago, I’m still hard wired to avoid, avoid, avoid. I also hold a lot of anger in me. So much so, that last night as I spoke with my husband about the reasons why a Thanksgiving lunch would be difficult for me to deal with, I almost broke down in tears and yet also wanted to punch a wall. I am sick and tired of conforming to this world and its expectations. Every single holiday turns into a huge pig out for a lot of America, and here I am just trying to get through another day of food obstacles and mental hurdles. I feel this horrible pressure to eat and perform and act like everything is OK, when it’s really not. Holidays feel more like nightmares to me than celebrations, and part of that is this idea that if we want to celebrate the right way, we have to eat bland turkey and a pumpkin pie. I’m stressing just thinking about having to deal, and I’ve already told myself that if I need to be gentle, I’ll be gentle. I’m not going to put myself through a Russian roulette of possible triggers and setbacks for you to be happy, because that’s not how recovery works for me. And how does my recovery work, you might ask? It’s eating at times when I feel comfortable, so as to keep my routine up. If I keep my routine, I keep my stable weight, that’s just how it is. It’s pulling away when I don’t feel safe, or when I feel like my mental health is shaky and can’t take another hit. It’s not going to meals that I know will cause stress and anxiety (unneeded I might add). It’s being with family in an environment that feels safe, and doesn’t have to involve food, because if I feel scared, forced to eat, or uncomfortable, those feelings I hold in my body are all gonna come tumbling back in. And hey, you might be thinking I need to up my therapy game if this is how I cope. Well, if that’s the case, then you obviously haven’t walked in my shoes or seen what anorexia can, and has, done to me and my family. Yes, missing a family meal feels icky to me, however I am ready to deal with that. I’ve seen so many posts these past few days on how to get through a holiday with friends and family, and not a single one has said anything about the fact that you don’t have to put yourself through hell to have a happy Thanksgiving. You don’t, and I don’t. Do what feels right to you, and what empowers you and your recovery. This is what’s working right now for me, it might change someday and maybe I’ll feel good enough to eat a traditional meal with my family, who knows? I have seen so many people in my online support groups searching for support through this time, and some are pushing themselves to put on a mask and eat food that they aren’t going to be able to enjoy, and will probably make them feel bad about themselves, simply because they feel like they have to. Pardon my French, but seriously, fuck that shit. Get angry, and stand tall. Feel the discomfort, and sit with it anyway. You’re in recovery, and you’re rocking it. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

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Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

I can feel it seeping into my pores, slowing down the clock 

And I thought I was done with this, done with the chains that shackle my weary limbs

My arms, once raised in a semblance of victory, are now weighed down with linked metal that I can’t break 

“My heart hurts” I say in silence every day 

Hours tick by, slowly. Slowly

I wait for an epiphany, for the chemicals in my brain to adjust themselves 

I wait to feel OK again, to wake up with hope for the day instead of dread 

Racking my brain, trying to find something to help me cope 

Questioning why I feel so much, and is it just me, or do others feel it too

Pleading with myself to find a reason to move forward, to try. Fearing outcomes (I don’t want to have to put the work in again, I don’t know if I can)

How will I ever survive? I wake up at 5:30 and can’t fathom getting through the day, let alone a whole week

I live for the weekend, cocooned in a cloud of darkness and warmth. Numbing my mind with words, living for the abandon of sleep 

Unsettling, this feeling inside of me. This weight like a brick in my chest that is pulling me down 

Sometimes darkness seems like my only companion, my only friend 


How I got to now

It occurred to me the other day that I am finally ready to write about the different support systems that helped me throughout my years of recovery ups and downs, and also the things I can see now that I needed, but could not (or would not) ask for. I hope this will give some insight into how I went about getting on the path to recovery, and what I’ve learned along the way.

Anorexia taught me a lot. (It kind of sucks to have to admit this, however it is my reality.) I’ve been through times that were really rough, and I think that will teach anyone quite a bit about who they are as a person, and how they respond to those around them.

Therapy-

Therapy appointments have been key in helping me really think through and narrow down the reasons behind my thought processes, and have really helped me to see recovery through different lenses. I don’t think I would be as insightful and open-minded as I am if I had not had therapy. Therapy appointments continue to make me nervous, yet they are kind of the glue that holds me together some days. I think it helps that my therapist is a wonderful, smart, empowered woman who sees the possibilities in me. I’ve had bad therapy experiences too, and I’ve had to be persistent in my ability to bounce back. It’s easy to get discouraged and want to give up. Keep looking, your therapist is out there! There is a lot of controversy over when and how individuals in recovery should go about therapy and the recovery process in general, and my opinion has changed a lot over the years. Of course I didn’t ever want to go to see a therapist when I was at a dangerously low weight. I didn’t want to eat, I didn’t want to talk, and I didn’t know if I wanted to live, let alone bare my soul to a professional I knew little about. I struggle with self-esteem, and a big issue for me for many years was the voice in my head telling me that healthcare professionals didn’t really care about me as a person. I was selfish in thinking that just because the doctor had to be reminded that I wanted to be weighed backwards in order not to see my weight, or the fact that she didn’t remember what dosage of medication I was on, was a reflection of the amount of worth I held in their eyes. In reality, (and logically) doctors are working hard and doing the best they can. I am doing the best I can. Period. Getting over myself in that regard helped a lot, though I do still have a lot of anxiety around how I portray myself and how much value I hold in someones eyes. My first few therapy appointments were pretty tough, and I blame a lot of that on the fact that I literally was not thinking clearly. I couldn’t, because I was starving and my brain wasn’t running as efficiently as it could. I look back and marvel at the belief I had that this was as good as it got. That whatever stage my brain was at, I was stuck there. I’m pretty sure my heart skipped a beat when I heard that brains can, and do, heal.

Money-

Money was a really big hurdle for me to get over. I was taught early on that saving was something smart to do, and not to live beyond my means. At some point, money became an obsession for me and I became so tightfisted that I could barely even buy food for myself without being overcome with anxiety. Self-worth had a lot to do with this too, of course; and I still find it difficult to buy frivolous things for myself, however I can at least go to the grocery store and pick up food and not freak out about it. I never, ever would have asked someone to help me out with purchasing my food, because I knew I had money in the bank, I just couldn’t find a way to feel OK about spending it. When my mom stepped in and offered to pick up some food items that were on my meal plan, I began to cry and yet I eventually accepted her offer. I knew that I wouldn’t follow through with buying full-fat yogurt and 2% milk with my money, because I didn’t want to be putting those foods in my body. It was a struggle to even buy light yogurt and other foods on my “safe” list. Guilt and shame are both big parts of the eating disorder mindset, and it takes a lot of hard work and self-talk to get to a point where accepting help feels like an option. It’s important to remember several things when receiving help: that the offer is being extended because you are loved and cared for, and that the individual(s) are offering support because they desire to, not because they pity you.

Family-

Eating with my husband or family was a huge help for me. On the days when my husband would fix a meal for me, or my mom would prepare a plate of breakfast, it gave my brain relief and an excuse to follow through- the choice was taken away from me and I knew I was expected to clear my plate. Sometimes having choices taken away was a good thing, and sometimes it was a bad thing. I think it is important to talk out decision-making capabilities with parents, partners, and anyone else who you trust and will be by your side. Honesty in this area is a must, so it might be a while before that can happen, but once it does, laying out expectations and what meals should look like is a good way to get on the path of self-sufficiency. I was so worried that if I had a lot of hand-holding with meals, I would never know how much to eat, or what to prepare. Introducing more trust in this area is probably really difficult for caregivers to do, it’s something that will have to happen along the way sometime though. Now that I have more freedom in this area, I find that having my husband make suggestions for dinner is very helpful. I can still get territorial about meals, and when and what I want to eat. I’m at a place right now where I feel comfortable with what I’m eating, and it works for me. Just because it’s not what everyone would deem “healthy” is OK, because I am at a good place with my honesty. When I can tell my dietitian that I often skip breakfast, sometimes lunch, but always make up for it at supper…I see myself giving in to ed a bit, and yet if this cuts down on my anxiety and guilt, I’m good with it.

Dietitian-

Eating is a huge part of recovery. I hated it when my mom used to tell me that “food was medicine”, but I see it now, mom. I agree. Because even on medicine and doing talk therapy, I still was an anxious, depressed mess. Food still scares me, milk still terrifies me. I can eat a half a pizza on my own and enjoy a bowl of ice cream for dessert and not want to harm myself, so I’d say we’ve done something right. My dietitian has been with me for years now, and we talk about food a lot, but also just recovery stuff. She was there to calmly explain what to expect when I was scheduled for a physical and was worried to pieces over it. She was there when I needed someone to celebrate with me about eating a hamburger. She was there when I thought I finally got the intuitive eating thing, and when I decided I in fact DID NOT get it. She’s been with me through the worst of my issues, and now she is getting to see me at my best. If you ever need a dietitian, or just a good friend hit me up.

Medicine-

Ugh. I never wanted to depend on meds to “make me” feel better. I believed that I was doomed to a life of depression and suicidal thoughts. It’s all in finding the right medicine though, and that took ages for me, but has been wonderful once I found the right one. Antidepressants scared me initially because I didn’t understand how they worked. Now they scare me because I don’t know how I’ll react to them. Thankfully, I am currently on a medication and dose that cuts waaay down on my depression and anxiety (though that social anxiety is still a killer). Birth control is something that is surprisingly helpful, not only to women who have trauma related to menstruation, but the right ones can also help prevent osteoporosis by providing estrogen to a body that has stopped making it (if periods have stopped due to lack of nutrition/low weight). I can say that personally it has helped me succeed in the recovery process, as my doctor worked with me to come up with a plan of what dosage and kind was right for me.

Obamacare-

Yep, I said it. Obamacare has helped immensely these past few years. I feel really grateful that our country had this healthcare plan in place, because at the time of my decision to seek out help for real this time, I had really crappy insurance that paid for about a third or less of my medical bills. Not to mention the medications I’m on (birth control is upwards of $250 for a 3-month supply, my antidepressant is around $200 for a 90-day supply) which have been fully covered by Medicaid. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have been accepting help from the government, because I know the numbers. Recovery in the home is expensive. Recovery at an inpatient program is ridiculously expensive. As I mentioned above, money has always been an issue for me, especially when I am shelling it out on myself. This holds true even when it comes to medical expenses, which I did have to cover for a long while. I may have to cover them sooner rather than later (thanks, Trump), and I’m in a better place now, a place I can make rational decisions about my expenses and healthcare.

Writing-

Writing my blog and in my journal has been a tremendous help to me. Not only to bounce ideas off of blog readers and get feedback, writing is therapeutic to its very core for me. If I have something that I need to get out, I’d rather write words on paper than speak them. When I first started blogging, it was mostly so anyone who was close to me and knew my story could keep up with me. Now though, I have several readers who I have never met, yet they are going through lots of the things I have. When I was first realizing what anorexia was (at age 13), I thought I was probably the only person in my town that had an eating disorder, maybe one of the few in Iowa. Blogging has really opened my eyes to the fact that not only am I not alone in my illness, I am also not alone in my thoughts and actions. It has also done wonders for my shame about my struggle. I’m real, my problems are real and where’s the shame in that?

Advocacy-

The first time I was really aware of how important advocacy is in the recovery process was about five years ago when I was being forced into hospitalization by a doctor who didn’t know me, and didn’t know eating disorders. She saw me as a liability, and wanted me off her hands. She also let me choose my own antidepressant, if that tells you anything (rolling my eyes here). This was a time in my life where I felt lost, cornered, and abandoned. I was living at home at the time, and I was friends with a woman (who would later become my mother-in-law) who stepped in as a mother figure when my own mother could not. She generously took time out of her day to take me to a therapy session and try to get me out of my current situation, which was looking like a nightmare. She told me that I needed an advocate, and she was going to be that for me. Over the next few years, I didn’t hear much about advocacy, and it isn’t until recently that I can say that I am now well enough to be my own advocate. This is another “sticky” issue, because until someone who is severely underweight is able to process information in their brain fully, they may not be able to make rational decisions, or even the “best” decision. I can honestly say that sticking up for myself has been an issue whether or not I had an eating disorder, so I wasn’t capable of self-advocacy just like that. It’s been through many talks with my therapist, and learning to trust my emotional and physical reactions that have led to me being able to start making decisions based on my best interest.

 

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Just let me ramble 

Can anyone tell me where May went? And what about the past decade.

I look in the mirror and I honestly do not recognize the face I see staring back.

I always thought my twenties would be beautiful. Something shiny and new.

Instead, I am struck with the realization that soon I will no longer be “young”.

And what have I accomplished so far? And does it really matter? Because who am I living this life for anyway.

I’ve spent a large part of my life at war with myself. It feels really scary to think about that reality.

That I am still trying to claw my way out of a pit I fell into at 13.

And I’m now to the point where this climb feels like home, like something I feel comfortable with.

Maybe these patterns I’m in aren’t the “picture of health” but they’re a far cry better than the hell I was living in before.

I know there are those that wish for a better outcome, that recovery would come swiftly and easily.

And yet, I’m the one sitting down for a meal and looking down at my stomach, the one that used to be flat.

I’m the one navigating my way through the awkward, painful, anxiety filled moments that often dictate my actions.

Scheduling conflicts have made therapist appointments difficult, and yet this is one of the longest stretches of time I can recall that I feel somewhat stable.

I started a new antidepressant and wonder of wonders, I seem to be responding well to it.

I still feel the need to have control over food, and though some days this causes more grief than it should, I move on.

I haven’t cut in months, though I still feel deeply and I still need a channel for my hurt and anger.

Finally, my first instinct when I see what’s happening in the Whitehouse today is to laugh, because what else can I do?

And I still have fears and secrets. Dreams that may never come to fruition.

If I were to make a self-portrait, my lips would not be visible, and instead a lock would be in their place.

Right now, I am still looking for the key, yet not sure if I want to find it.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions 

Memories are rough for me sometimes. I’ve always felt more sad than happy, felt the weight of this world on my shoulders. I’ve always felt responsible.

I’ve spent several therapy sessions exploring my childhood, and naturally that requires me to dig into memories.

My first memory is from when I was 3 years old. I distinctly remember standing on our front porch, clutching my blanket. I think I had just woken from a nap, and had been told to go to the front door. Dad was often bringing nature to us kids; a snapping turtle in a 5 gallon bucket, a salamander slipping around inside the bathtub, a dead raccoon in the back of his truck. 

Today it was a toad, and it was perched on our mailbox. I touched its blistered back, and it hopped, leaving a small puddle of pee running down the sloped lid. Later, I would believe the chipped paint that formed a rough circle on the mailbox lid was from the toads pee.

Of course there is a picture of me, hair messy and chubby cheeks, standing on the porch by our mailbox. The toad stood still long enough for one of my parents to capture this: what I know now is my first memory.

When my therapist asked me to recall the first time I ever felt responsible for someone else’s happiness or emotional state, I found that I couldn’t answer her. Thinking about my younger years, I realized that I had a hard time picturing many years of my childhood. 

This made it even more difficult to answer her next query: what advice I might give now, to my younger self. I thought about this, and about my brother, who is six. To help me put the question into perspective, I asked myself what advice I would give to him at this age.

“It can’t be too scary or sad” I ruminated, “I don’t want to scare her (myself)”. All of the things popping into my head were sad and looming, nightmares and loss. Heartache and pain. I realized I was trying to come up with a solution, something that could prevent that sweet little girl from hurting. 

“Make friends and do your best to keep them” I said uncertainly. “And don’t be afraid to ask questions”.

Through my work in therapy, I have come to a place of understanding. Prying  open memories to find answers I never knew existed. Suddenly, I am seeing that I’m not crazy for being the way I am.

And I began to cry, thinking of me, the younger me, before the world and life itself made me old and wary. Thinking of what could have been, and what was, and who I am now. 

I remembered a handful of times I wanted to ask questions, and was too afraid. I don’t know what exactly I was afraid of, maybe uttering words that I rarely heard spoken? Of being made fun of?

I was looking through an old journal of mine recently, and was reminded of how fraught with anxiety my early teen years were. How I thought the ingredients to managing myself and my body as a woman was a secret, or at least not to be discussed.

How I so badly wanted to be like the neighborhood girls I was friends with, buying a bra with their mom and shaving my terribly hairy legs. Even thinking about asking if I could use deodorant (an obvious “adult” item) made me nervous.

It just got worse from there.

I had read about menstruation, but really had no idea what I was in for, or whether what I was experiencing was “normal ” or not. 

I spent weeks afraid I was dying. I’d read anything I could about periods, and for the most part, they didn’t seem too bad. Mine were bad, and I told no one.

And I don’t know why.

I look back at how afraid and alone I felt, and ask myself why. What I was so afraid of. Why I stubbornly and hopelessly turned to myself for all of the answers (and why I continue to do so).

And there aren’t always answers. But I’m learning to ask questions, to ask for help, and to accept it. I’m learning that the things I was so afraid of might be small, but to me they were insurmountable. I’m learning that I am a sensitive person. And that’s ok.

Leaving 

The following is yet another writing of mine on depression. Depression plays a big role in my day to day life, dictating my thoughts and actions. When I am depressed, hunger doesn’t matter, my needs cease to have meaning, and I feel as though I am literally living a lie.


I’m leaving for a while 
Maybe a better word is “disappearing”

I don’t know how long, or exactly where I’m going

You may see the shell of me
But I’m not there
I float and stumble through days
Filling the hours that are sticky like honey
With anything that will get me through 
I miss you, and all of the things I enjoy 
I miss happiness and lightness 
Smiles and laughter 
I hate that when I leave I am taking them with me 
Sometimes their ghosts creep in
A glimmer of better days
And I feel a spark of hope
Emotions are like a candle flame 
There for one moment, and then extinguished 
I’m leaving and I miss you 
Miss this adventure of life
My head is heavy 
With pain and confusion 
Exhaustion 
Maybe if you speak loud enough 
Look me in the eyes
I will come back

Psychological pain 

I don’t talk about suicide a lot, because just saying the word “suicide” makes people uncomfortable. However, I sat in on a talk about suicide and eating disorders this past summer at the annual NEDA  conference, and the information that was presented really helped me to see the connections between suicide and eating disorders.

I have only just barely touched on this topic with my therapist, mostly because I am afraid to speak aloud the thoughts and feelings that are buried so deeply in my soul. I know there was a time when I was happy with my life, when I was a child and my world was all about playing and learning and then sleeping deep, peaceful sleep…that time seems so very far away now. In the past ten years, as I have dealt with anorexia, and at many times given in to the voice of Ed, I have almost constantly had suicidal ideations in the back of my mind. Suicidal ideations are different from a suicide plan, or being suicidal, in my mind. And I learned at the conference I went to that the statistics show this to be true- 34% of those with suicidal ideations actually create a plan, and 26% of those without a  plan actually attempt suicide, while the percentage of those with a plan jumps to a 72% attempt rate. (These numbers may be slightly inaccurate as some time has past since I received this information in September, but it does shed some much needed light on what all of this means.)

Suicide is scary. It scares me so much, because I know what my pain drives me to think. I am especially concerned because I know what it is like not to be in a good mindset, and as I learned at the talk I attended, anorexia has the highest rate of suicide out of all mental illness. Usually, there are 3 factors that premeditate suicide and they are:

  1. Psychological pain
  2. Disconnection from self and others
  3. An acquired capacity for lethality, fearlessness death, and pain tolerance.

All of these things are invisible, so if they are never talked about, no one will ever know what another person may be going through. I know I have kept quiet myself, not out of secrecy or shame, but out of care for those around me. I don’t understand how people don’t feel the depth of the pain I feel, but I don’t want them to. If the thoughts aren’t in their brain, why put them there in the first place? I’m not talking about suicide…I’m talking about the questions that run through my mind when I’m in a dark place. Thoughts of the purpose of existence, the pain a young teen felt before dying by suicide, the heaviness of this world. I feel it all. And it’s so heavy. Too heavy for me to carry, so I try to avoid these thoughts and the emotions that come up.This, to me, is psychological pain.

I had never heard the term “psychological pain” before attending the conference, and I immediately felt myself relaxing a bit, from having the knowledge that I am not alone. I never thought that I felt deeply when I was a child, though I look back now and see a lot of instances where it was clear I was in pain, but not from something anyone else could see. Only someone else who feels so deeply, so much, will truly understand. I’m curious about psychological pain, and what it drives humans to do. We hear of a death by suicide, and wonder what was so bad in their life. We look at school shootings, and think that all of those found guilty must be horrific people, monsters…I often think this too, any time a life is taken, there are questions. But when I put empathy into the equation, it’s almost as though I just purchased a new pair of glasses, ones that are calibrated to fit my eyesight needs perfectly. I see immense pain, uncertainty, and fear. Fear of living, not of death. I’m not saying I sympathize with murderers, I’m simply saying that they are humans too, and we don’t know what pain and demons they have fought on their own.

As I have written before here, I am not trying to glamorize or justify detrimental actions, I am only writing to get this off of my chest, and to place a unique viewpoint out there. I did not ask to feel this much, I did not come into this world desiring death, and I don’t want to die. The demons that live inside me, in my deepest darkest places like to whisper to me that death would be easier than living. They like to blow my issues up into huge looming shadows that I cannot run away from. They infiltrate my dreams and leave me helpless, waking with sweat dripping down my face and a scream on my lips. I hesitate to publish this, as the reactions I have gotten when I do talk about my thoughts sometimes leave me wishing I had never spoken. I am going to write this and publish it, because I need readers and those close to me to understand how intertwined anorexia and suicide are. I need to feel safe, and I need to know that you are there to hold me accountable. Please, when in doubt or if you see something, say something.

It’s always something

Body image. It’s killing me.

Okay, not literally…yet, but it has made a good effort in the past. And the crazy thing is, I never thought I struggled with how my body looked. Yeah, yeah, I know…obviously I had to dislike something to develop an eating disorder, it really wasn’t like that for me though. I used to see those cliche pictures of a girl looking into a mirror and seeing a body reflected that wasn’t accurate at all, and I’d roll my eyes. I became exasperated with how the world saw my predicament.

Until I started looking through the eyes of the world.

I hate to admit this, but many of my actions have come from caring too much about what others think, or caring too little.

I started comparing my body to other women, and wondering why my jeans didn’t fit me like theirs did, why they had clear skin and I didn’t, why they were so at home in their bodies and I wasn’t…and why am I typing this in the past tense? I still do this, every day. I criticize every little “flaw” I have, and then I turn around and preach self-love. I see the hypocrisy, and I’m sure you do too. I’m really struggling with this, with wanting to look different, even though I don’t really want to. I think these thoughts and I have no idea how they were ever introduced into my stream of thoughts.

These thoughts are a huge roadblock to me, because when I really look deep into my heart, I see the root. The twisted gnarled root that is holding all of my negative thoughts and beliefs in place. I try to blame the growth of this huge menace on instances in childhood, on never feeling or being told I was beautiful or perfect. I know the truth though. I know that I don’t value myself, my life, enough to get past this. I see what I’ve been through (which in some cases has been self-inflicted), and I wonder where I even got the notion that I wanted to recover. Some days, I feel like the only thing keeping my head above water is other peoples expectations of me.

I can look at myself with my logical mind, and see a woman who is “getting back to health”, some days I even feel OK when I catch my reflection. Most days, I avoid my body, looking away when I do catch a glimpse of myself. I know I have work to do, and I don’t want to do it. I can’t bear thinking about eating more food. I can’t get over how hard it is for me to plan meals without panicking. I’m told it will get easier, after all it has gotten easier sometimes, hasn’t it?

I want to tell someone who will understand, just how hard this is. What hell my mind is all day every day, how much I hate myself. No one understands, and so I keep to myself, hoping this hatred against my body, my very being, will disappear. I want to get angry, and rage. I want to figure out why these thoughts keep invading my mind, and how to stop them. I want to fight, but Ed is telling me I can’t. And the next logical step is to talk back, to do the thing Ed is telling me I cannot do…until Ed tells me my waist is already too big, my acne is flaring up because I’m not eating healthy foods, my thighs are too big and I begin to believe his lies again.

I’m sick and tired of this cage. Of sitting next to my husband who is eating a delicious lunch, and feeling helpless, like I have no power over emotions and my lack of courage. Of feeling hunger, and reminding myself that I can eat in a half hour. I’m sick of feeling beaten down by something that doesn’t even have a physical presence, unless you count me. I still believe I am not Ed, I’m just trying to figure out who I am without him.

Fear Foods

I know I have referred to “fear foods” here before, and I’m not sure I have ever explained what exactly this term means to me. I’ve been thinking about fear foods a lot lately, because obviously I still struggle, and often it’s on a day-to-day basis. Also, because my dietitian asked me to make a list of fear foods and bring it to our next appointment. I’ve been putting it off, as talking and thinking about the method to my madness is uncomfortable for me in many ways. Writing is a healthy way to get my words out of my brain and onto a page, so thanks for reading, even if it’s just out of curiosity!

So. What is a fear food?

To me personally, a fear food is any edible item that causes me to feel anxious or uncomfortable around. Often, these items are “combination foods”, such as casseroles, pasta dishes, homemade desserts…the list goes on. Another oft feared category for me is anything I know to be high in fat or calories. Sometimes the “food” I fear can be simple, like milk or juice. Pizza and ice cream used to be my biggest fear foods, causing me to beg my parents to let me have something else for a meal…even though I absolutely adore the taste of both of these so called “junk foods”. Now, I eat ice cream nightly (a carton lasts me about 3 servings, thanks to my husband’s generous portions) and pizza is my favorite meal (I lost out on a lot of teenage pizza eating, OK?). 

So why do I still have fear foods? Because I’m not fully recovered. Because I haven’t done that work yet, and because I’m stubborn. There are still foods/bevereges that aren’t favorites and yet a body could benefit from, such as: milk. I don’t “like” milk, but my body could use it. I also don’t like milk because of my little phobia around liquid calories. That’s where this fear food gets tricky. Because I hold one opinion and Ed holds another, and though I try to deny it, I am hearing Ed a little bit. Milk doesn’t appeal to me, and I’m afraid to drink calories, so there’s no drive behind the instruction to drink milk, not like there is with pizza. Tell me to eat more pizza, and I would.

What I wanted to dig into deeper is the emotions behind my thoughts and actions, because I think they are directly linked. So I asked myself: “what is the first emotion I feel when I think about having a glass of milk set in front of me, and being expected to drink it?”, and my answer is: defiance. Which honestly, is the first emotion I feel when being told to eat anything. I also feel anxiety, making my chest tight and my stomach queasy. I’ll often begin to imagine drinking it, maybe even taking a sip. 

These emotions and feelings are uncomfortable, and easier to avoid than dwell on. Fear foods are easier to avoid than to dwell on, and the last stage for me, to dealing with a fear food, is body image. I still view my body as something to shrink, not something to nourish and care for. I yearn to look at my waist and not fear it expanding. It makes me uncomfortable to pull on a pair of jeans, and see a muffin top forming as I button them. And so I avoid what I fear, because somehow doing that will make my days easier.

Ask and you shall receive

I’m not sure when exactly I realized that I have deep rooted pain and beliefs, though I am sure my curiosity and mindfulness expanded by leaps and bounds when I began therapy. I began seeing a therapist as a young teen, and I didn’t really see the point in telling this lady, who had no reason to care about me or listen to my stories, about my problems and thoughts.

Unfortunately, this frame of mind stuck with me for a long time, through several therapists. Eventually I gave up on the mental side of things, along with the physical and nutritional parts. I don’t look at this as time lost though, because I can honestly say I was not ready to open up and learn anything about my thought processes and beliefs at that time. It took years of going back and forth, for me to finally get to a place where I was getting up and showing up.

Finally, I felt “ready” to open up and tackle my inner demons. I see now, how I had to wait for not only the right person to help me with this side of things, I also realize just how starved my brain was.  All of a sudden, things began clicking and I saw connections where before, I thought there were none.

A few weeks ago, I was prompted to take a closer look at my relationship to myself. I think this has come about gradually, the ability (even the option) to stare my problems in the face. It’s not easy, and I am by no means “good” at it. Sometimes you must do things you are not comfortable with though, right? That being the case, I am uncomfortable a lot of the time. Often, I can’t put my feelings or thoughts into words. This can be frustrating, because in therapy, I desperately want to become a person who knows herself better. It’s difficult to carry on with tough stuff when communicating is a weakness!

So, I voiced my concern that I felt a huge roadblock in my recovery: self worth. Or, more precisely, self love. I have known for a long time that I don’t get along well with myself. Internal battles are raging at almost all hours of the day, I often choose to drown them out by distracting myself or pouring myself into mindless activities.

I’ve been attempting to be a little more focused when it comes to my wants and needs, and I immediately made a connection last week and this week that I think might shine some light on at least one aspect of my self worth/ love:my ability to ask for what I want, need, desire or hope for.

I found myself observing situations that were so simple, yet for me the scenarios were bringing up some realizations. I heard my little brother voicing his needs and wants. I observed family asking for simple things, and I was aware that this is something I rarely do. Then, I recalled situations where I have been asked for something and been able to provide it, and the sense of helpfulness that gave me. Not deprivation, helpfulness.

I’ve looked back at several instances throughout the past few weeks, and how I handled them. I’ve looked back at the times I remember thinking I might be a more fulfilled being if I had asked for: (fill in the blank), and I recall feeling a little bit deprived, because I desired something that was readily available to me, and yet I lacked the self worth to ask for it.

I deny my own needs and wants, in an attempt to push down the feelings that might come up. Feelings associated with me not being deserving, worthy, or needed. In this way, I tell myself silently that I am less than, and I often end up depriving myself in a small way. Am I afraid I am taking from someone more worthy than me, if I request this one small thing? Am I doubtful of the outcome? What would happen if I actually voiced my want or need, and it is denied?  These are all questions I am trying to answer bit by bit.

I can recall this process repeating itself over and over in childhood. This mindset, or belief, did not pop up out of nowhere, it has been a part of me for longer than I can remember. From holding back my wants as a girl wanting to fit in with my peers, to offering someone else the last slice of pizza when I’m still a tad hungry, I am now acknowledging this hurdle. And just like the tennis net I attempted to jump over when I was twelve, I’m sure I will get my foot caught the first time I try to turn this around. It’s going to be painful and I might get a little disoriented, but to continue on this trajectory will only hold me back in the long run.

Needs, wants, desires, I see you. I see all of the times I denied you. I hurt because of you, and I wonder at my actions and what could have been if I would have just spoken up. I see how connected you are to the path I have taken, and I am going to commit myself to voicing my opinion, my needs, my thoughts.