Running for the fun of it

If you’ve been a reader of my blog since the beginning, you’ll know that I’ve had a complicated relationship with exercise in the past. Abusing my body with exercise became something I couldn’t control, just like restrictive eating. It was compulsive and obsessive and something I didn’t enjoy at all, I just felt like I had to do it. I’d do it rain or shine, when it was snowing or storming, when I had a cold or a fever, was tired or just wasn’t feeling well.

I did crunches and leg lifts, ran on the treadmill or outside, walked everywhere I could and tried to be in movement constantly so as not to waste an opportunity to burn extra calories.

When I started to really take recovery seriously I decided to listen to my doctors advice and stop any and all exercise other than using my legs to get me where they absolutely had to. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done, and probably made my anxiety worse for a short amount of time, but I knew it was something I had to do to get better.

Previous times when I wasn’t fully committed to recovering I still exercised as much as I could, trying to hide it from my mom because I knew I was doing something detrimental to my health. I remember how I would walk to work in the ice and snow and then cry to my mom, telling her how terrified I was that I would just collapse on the sidewalk from heart failure. And yet I couldn’t give myself permission to quit.

I’m a very all or nothing person. Things are either black or they’re white- the gray areas scare me so I pretend they don’t exist. So when I quit exercise I figured I was quitting for good. And eventually I became scared that if I took even a short walk, I’d become obsessed and addicted again, that I wouldn’t be able to stop.

When I reached a stable weight, I was pretty frightened by what that meant. I told the doctor I didn’t want to know my weight because who knew if that would send me into a tailspin. My stomach felt sick and my chest tightened at the thought of what this news meant, because up until I met a safe weight I had mentally been alright with eating pizza and ice cream, even learned to enjoy them again. Did knowing about my higher weight mean I’d start restricting again, running again, abusing my body again?

Thankfully I can look back now and tell you that no, it didn’t mean much of anything. I didn’t start exercising or restricting, though I could have. I just kept pushing forward and doing the same things I had been up until that point. I knew that I could go on a bike ride or a long walk and wouldn’t be depleting my body of the extra stores it had, but I’d had such a fraught relationship with exercise in the past that I didn’t even want to dip my toe in, could barely even think about what giving myself permission to exercise again might look and feel like.

Through a series of small events that really have nothing to do with me, I decided to try running again. In some ways it was a tribute to a tragedy that happened to a young woman who lost her life while running, to show solidarity and pay homage to her. I still think about her every time I run, and she’s really the reason why I attempted to run again in the first place.

My first try was more of a walk than a run, I think I got maybe .15 of a mile in before I could barely breathe and just walked the rest of the way. Last week I successfully ran a mile without stopping and it was cool to see that I could do it, however I haven’t done it since. I know a mile is nothing, but I had to push myself to hit that mile and it felt good to be doing it for the fun of it rather than because I was trying to burn off calories.

I never thought I’d run again, and definitely not for fun. I just didn’t think I could do it mentally, and be able to do it in a healthy way, without overdoing it. I usually go out for a run a few times a week now, but only when I feel like it. I had a cold last week and today was the first day I felt well enough to get out for a run. It was so strange to feel sick and just rest, to not be thinking about how I was going to fit some exercise in, even though it’s been so long since I’ve forced myself to exercise.

Though years have passed since I last intentionally exercised, the first time I ran I still felt shame about going for a run. I felt like I had to sneak out and just get it over with, which was a mindset I had previously when I was sick. The body remembers, just like the mind remembers. Digging deeper into those emotions and feelings, I realize that exercise still feels like it should be a punishment, and something I shouldn’t be doing. It’s gonna take time to show myself that it’s something I can do healthily and for fun, but for now I’m going to stick with it, because I want to, not because my sick brain is telling me it’s something I have to do.

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Beauty from Pain

In my life, I have spent countless hours inflicting pain on my body.

Self-harm manifests in myriad ways, whether it be denying sustenance or needs, physical abuse, verbal abuse…the list goes on.

For some reason unknown to me, it feels more natural to hurt myself than to better myself.

I find solace in the dirty, dark corners of my soul.

I have a penchant for self-inflicted pain.

I turned 25 last week, and I don’t know how I got here. I feel as though I was just a teen yesterday. Just a child a week ago.

Like I’m living in this in-between time, where memories trap me and hold time hostage.

Though I’m not as depressed as I once was, a deep sadness lingers in me.

I want everything to stay the same, though it all changed long ago.

Nothing can ever stay.

Time moves on, with or without us.

And so, another year passes.

My birthday has always been rough for me.

As a child- all of the hype and excitement leading up to it.

The rush, the mystery of turning a year older, being an age I have never been before.

The sadness of it being over.

The sun setting and then rising to usher in a new day.

As I get older, the excitement fades. And so does a facet of the sadness.

There’s a whirlwind of emotion and feelings inside of me, difficult to interpret.

All of this rambling to say, I wanted this birthday to be anchored in my memory.

I wanted a memento.

After all, I’ve lived a quarter of a century- even if that time seems to have passed in the blink of an eye.

I’ve been through some stuff, and I wanted something to remind me of my grandma and something to remind me I’m still here.

I wanted this birthday to be one I could finally do something meaningful for myself, something to commemorate my time here.

At one time, my body was a battlefield, a place that expected pain and destruction.

While the needle punctured my skin, my thoughts wandered.

I know this pain well.

While I sat with the see-through bandage on my arm, pulling at my sleeve to look at it again, I smiled.

Looked again at the tattoo of lavender on my arm and held back tears.

Even though I might not look at myself and like what I see, I will always find a part of myself beautiful.

Just because

Don’t let me fool you- just because I gained a bunch of weight and look “healthy” it doesn’t mean I am healthy.

Just because I’m eating, it doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle with food.

Just because I don’t run and abuse exercise anymore, it doesn’t mean I’m not still tempted to dip my toe back in.

Just because I eat pizza and ice cream, it doesn’t mean I’m recovered.

Just because I look “healthy” it doesn’t mean I’m not engaging in disordered behaviors.

Just because I post a picture on Instagram with a cute caption, it doesn’t mean I’m happy.

Just because I’m holding down a job, it doesn’t mean I feel capable of responsibility.

Just because I’m not currently depressed, it doesn’t mean my mental health is stable.

Recovery is unique and different for everyone. I like this quote from the wise Lindsey Hall “Whatever version of recovery you decide- however it looks: be confident enough in it- that you don’t have to lie.”

It is often difficult for me to feel pride in my journey. There is a lot of guilt and shame surrounding my development of an eating disorder, and even though I know that anorexia isn’t my fault, I feel I do have to take ownership of the fact that I tried to destroy my body and my very being.

When I talk about my past, and even my present, it is so empowering to be able to be truthful about what’s going on with my mental health. I don’t often open up about things, mostly because of lack of opportunity, but also because feelings are sticky and hard for me to navigate.

Maybe I’m the only one who feels pressured by the recovery community to recover completely, to do it the “right way” and to befriend my body and my food.

Maybe I’m the only one who is determined not to recover completely just for those reasons, because I’m angry that anyone feels like they can tell someone how to recover and what it should look like.

And perhaps I’m a little jealous as well, because the Instagram profiles of the women who tout “complete recovery” and “body acceptance” are at a place in their lives where they are seemingly “over” their eating disorders. They’ve left it in the past, which is something I can’t seem to do.

It’s incomprehensible to me, the act of complete recovery. After spending 10+ years restricting and crafting elaborate rules and routines, I struggle to change my thought patterns. I’m not trying to make excuses here- I’ll own up to the fact that I’m sick and tired of fighting my brain, I’ve become complacent and stopped pushing myself because it’s uncomfortable.

So this is the version of recovery I decide.

Some days it looks like survival, some days it looks like thriving.

Rescue

I’ve been wrestling a lot lately with my people-pleasing side.

Having nightmares because my work/life balance seems off.

I’ve always wanted to be able to go with the flow- cause no strong current, no choppy waters.

I worry about how people view me, how people will react if I say “no” to something that they expected, even wanted, a “yes” to.

I say yes all of the time to things I have no desire to do, to things I’m internally screaming no at.

My boss asks me to work extra hours, I say “that should work” when I’m really feeling anxiety and a headache coming on from knowing I’ll be stuck at work even more this week.

That’s just one example out of many, sometimes there’s not even an audible question, there’s just a standing expectation.

Sometimes I pile expectations onto myself, and become lost in the self imposed rules I make- “this is my job, if I don’t do it, who will?”

Recovery from anorexia is a conundrum for a people pleaser.

I still have nightmares about it. About what happened when I was at a loss of where to turn.

Of course everything in my body was telling me to keep doing what was keeping me safe.

My doctor, dietitian, and family were telling me I needed to recover.

Please the people, or please the mental illness (which felt like me at the time)?

I still have nightmares about my family turning their backs on me.

In some ways I am still living in my past. When I dream, I am always living at home, yet married.

Always trying to escape my childhood home. Always screaming at my family about how much they hate me and how I don’t understand.

Always trying to find my husband, fumbling with my phone, unable to type out how I need him, I have to get away.

These dreams (nightmares) seem to surface when I’m going through any kind of conflict in my life.

Let me be clear that my family doesn’t hate me (to my knowledge) and it’s been around five years since I felt abandoned by everyone close to me.

I had one of these nightmares last night. Someone was trying to kill me, and no one would defend me.

In some ways, these nightmares seem like they’re telling me a story, one I’ve heard- lived through- before.

One that keeps repeating itself until I learn my lesson.

Conflict? Run.

Anorexia beat me up and left me bruised and broken.

I felt I had nowhere to turn, no home to run to.

This is my biggest trauma.

It feels powerful to write that, like I’ve been waiting for it for a while now.

It makes sense that in my dreams, I am running away. And running towards my husband.

Several years ago, I was pretty lost. I didn’t know what to do in my recovery. I was slipping and those around me were watching me fall.

Maybe it was because I tore all of the ropes and rescue devices right out of their hands. Anorexia didn’t give them many in the first place.

How to rescue someone who can’t be reached?

I ran away, as I am wont to do.

Maybe I’ll finally learn and apply this lesson. Own up to my spirit and heart and say no to what I don’t want.

Maybe I’ll stop running away.

Maybe this will be my rescue.

Missing time

There’s a point you get to in recovery, it’s a place you were always striving for, and yet a bit terrified of arriving at. It’s when you show up at your 6 month follow up to your doctors appointment and your doctor tells you how proud she is of you for coming this far, for fighting. And she says your weight has been stable for a year (mixed emotions with that one, guys) and that your labs look good.

You’re not so small anymore. You’re not so fragile. Not so breakable.

And yet a part of you yearns to go back to that place.

Because everything was out of your control, on some level you felt like you were blameless (it’s the mental illness, the disorder, not you).

You felt dangerous, helpless, yet almost superhuman.

Eating was out of the norm, so every bite you took felt like a miracle, a big win. You knew you had to eat, had to gain some pounds, so you ate and eventually some of that fear you carried with you dissipated.

And now…now you don’t celebrate every bite and hurdle you successfully jump over. You’re back in a routine, because that feels safe, but still not too safe.

Now, you fit into normal clothing sizes for your age category, you don’t get stares and second glances. You pull jeans from the rack and think “these are huge, they’ll never fit me” and yet they fit you perfectly.

(You know you have no room to be complaining here…you know thin privilege is something you’ve taken for granted.)

It’s scary to be here, in this place. Scary because you didn’t have the time or strength to develop a true self before, and now you have no idea who you are. Do you have interests, hobbies, passions?

Scary because even though you’ve worked so hard to stop listening to the voice that tells you you’re not enough, you still believe it.

Scary because even though you know the media offers a skewed view, you still feel pressured to go for daily runs (you don’t do it though) and if not that, then at least some aerobics or pilates (you’ve ended up browsing light hand weights a few times, convinced you have to do something to keep this body, keep eating…to earn the right to eat).

Some might say recovery is amazing, the best thing they ever did! And you want to believe that they’re telling the truth-their truth. Because for you, it hasn’t been glamorous and everything you’ve always wanted. For you, life is still hard.

Some days are easier than others, some days are filled with happiness, and you think “yes, this was what I was missing out on!”. But you still get caught up in how monotonous your life can be. How terribly sad this world is, and how you just want the pain and sadness to stop.

It’s easier to be the small one, the fragile and breakable one. Easier to obsess over things that don’t really matter, to distract from the big questions and things that matter most.

It was easier, because you didn’t put on so many masks, pretending everything was OK when it’s most certainly not. It was easier, because the tears and anger flowed more freely- almost uncontrollably. You felt more and it was tragic and heartbreaking but you were suffering so it made sense.

You’ve seen both sides of your adult life now. Sick, and healthy. Each one comes with its own struggles and setbacks. One feels morally right, and the other sinful. You like to think that it’s not a choice, not up to you. And yet now you know better, so you have to do better.

This mental health journey has been long and rough and looking back, it doesn’t even seem real. How did that much time pass? How the hell did that happen to you? And it’s not over yet, it may never be completely over. And that’s exhausting to think about, but you will survive. After all, you’ve come this far.

Jaded recovery

I came to a tough, honest reality this morning. One I’ve been hiding from for a long time.

One of my friends in recovery made a social media post, and when I read it, and began composing a comment for it, I started writing words and truths that I’ve been ignoring and evading for over a year now.

I’m still so insecure in my body, and I still hate it. I act like I don’t, but I do.

The way my clothes fit, how uncomfortable jeans are going over an actual butt and hugging my thighs. Shirts riding up over the slight bulge my side and belly makes over the top of my jeans. I hate it.

And yes, I know all of the powerful retorts and mantras…I know what all of the recovery positive people would say, and what the Instagram posts of recovered men and women want me to believe.

They want me to believe I’m beautiful and strong and uncrushable. That this extra fat on my body changes me for the better, not the worst. How having my period come back is a blessing and means I’m healthy and getting better. That clothes actually fitting me and accentuating my slight curves are wonderful and to be celebrated.

But what if deep down, that’s not how I feel? What if I don’t believe I can feel it? What if I don’t want to feel it?

It’s easy for me to get angry at the people who tout health and recovery. For many reasons, but some that are near the top are the facts that feeling so much sucks. And trying to feel beautiful sucks. No one knows, truly, what someone else has been through/is going through. They can’t tell you things will get better and that eating will make things a bit easier eventually.

I’m here to tell you that I am still “in recovery” and that this is by no means a post to diss recovery or anyone who believes that being recovered is the only way, etc. I do believe there are people who recover fully, and live an abundant, resilient life. I don’t believe that I am one of those people. Sometimes I think that truly feeling so wonderful and sparkly about oneself is a load of bs. And maybe we only think we have to feel positive and beautiful in our bodies because someone told us to. Because the media praises glamorous, confident women and says “be sexy, or else.”

I’m just writing my truth and what it looks like for me right now.

My truth is, that my life will never go back to the way it was before this. Before anorexia. I was never a confident person, and anorexia made that confidence level drop to zero. I never believed I was beautiful, and no one ever told me I was, though I heard others being called beautiful my whole life (oh, how I longed to be called pretty). Now, if someone complimented my looks, I wouldn’t believe a word they were saying. This has nothing to do with the person who is doing the complimenting. Nope, it’s all on me.

I learned to starve and hurt myself to cope with how I was feeling and how I viewed life. I learned to push my thoughts and feelings about how wrong things are in this world and in me down and feel hunger instead. Feel hunger until I couldn’t feel anything else.

Sometimes hunger is easier to feel than the true feelings. Okay, often hunger is easier to feel than the true feelings.

I was told my way wasn’t healthy, my way wasn’t good. So I was forced to stop. I was forced to begin nourishing myself and feeling my feelings. To show up and put on a mask and say that everything is OK, when it is definitely not.

And no matter what your support around you says and does…they don’t have to go through what you are going through. They could hold my hand and tell me to eat, but that wasn’t curing my mind and heart, not in the way I needed.

Is it obvious that I’m a little bitter about this? That I feel so strongly that my pain and depression and past matters and so now I just want to do what I want, for once in my adult life?

At many points in my life so far, I have been trying to destroy myself. Trying to break myself down into enough tiny pieces that eventually I disappear.

How does one come back from that? How do I go about living a bigger life, when I know at one point my only desire was to cease to exist?

And some people might say that the only reason I wanted to destroy my body and stop existing was because it’s a symptom of depression and an eating disorder. To that I say, true. However, I’ve never felt at home in my body or on this earth. Only I know how deeply these feelings flow. Only I know how uncomfortable I feel. Who are you to try to change me?

The truth is, I want to keep to myself. I’ve opened up and been hurt enough times that I just stopped being vulnerable. It’s too hard. I don’t want to hear that it’s selfish to try to disappear-my pain is real. I don’t want to tell someone how I feel, and then feel belittled by their reply.

I lost my “best” coping tool. And yes, I still dabble in hunger just to reassure myself it’s still there.

So this is for the strong ones. The ones that have come so far, only to realize that their best wasn’t “enough”.

It’s for those who have been through hell, and are going back in. Because this world has broken them and they can’t stand that kind of hurt.

It’s for the ones who have made it in recovery, and yet still feel lost and empty. The ones who see no way out, not even through.

I see you, and I feel those feelings too. Instead of starving, I bow my head and eat creamy peanut butter ice cream, and pizza that has more cheese than I ever thought I’d feel comfortable with. I keep my routine, because earlier, when I was at a scary weight and didn’t know what might happen to me, my biggest fear was eating these foods and just ballooning into a monster.

And now I know that I can eat these foods daily (seriously, I eat pizza and ice cream daily.) and stay at a stable body size. I’ve numbed out, become complacent. I’ve got to prove to myself day in and day out that eating these foods that I still fear just a bit is OK. Because I know how easy it would be to slip back.

And some days, I want to.

The scarcity mindset

It happened again when my husband was preparing dinner. I felt a pang of anxiety- he was putting a frozen pizza in the oven for me (half, because it’s my favorite and he doesn’t care for it) and an old fear cropped up: if I eat the pizza tonight, then I’ll only have half left. Meaning my precious pizza will be gone forever after I eat the other half tomorrow (I eat a lot of pizza now. Making up for the lack of it for so many years, k?).

My logical brain says my husband always buys me that pizza to have on hand. Even if he didn’t, we usually have another frozen pizza in the freezer that I like, and if not, Walmart. My logical brain knows I’ve never had to suffer for my food, never had to worry if there will be a meal on the table…and yet I have.

Trauma lives in the body like a memory lives in the brain. Throughout years of starvation, my brain still thinks I might not be able to provide it nourishment. It still thinks that even though I’ve had a good stretch of steady food intake, my track record says it might not see nutrients for a while if I eat that pizza now.

I spent years telling my body “if I eat this now, I won’t eat anything later” and “I ate (fill in the blank) so I can’t eat that”. I toiled over numbers, trying to calculate how I could cut out even more calories. No matter how many times I promised myself that this was the last time, no matter how many miles I ran, no matter how much weight I lost, it was never enough.

So for years, I told my body no. I told my stomach to “toughen up” and my head to “shut up”. Eventually, my mind and body realized that somehow as going on and began conserving energy and my brain began making new pathways. Pathways that said “this is what we do around food now, we freak out”. Brains are amazing things though. Given time and enough love and discipline, damage that was done can be healed.

For a long time, I thought I was the only one getting anxious about running out of food. Not like the grocery store shelves would be empty kind of running out…running out of the foods I allowed myself. My light yogurts, my baked Lays, my Diet Coke…and so I began to hoard because if I ran out, what would I eat?

I bought food items during rare times when I felt stable enough to be spending money on myself and food. Sale on my favorite soda? Buy one and stuff it in the corner (it will expire and I’ll throw it out a year later, when I could finally allow myself to throw out old food). New flavor of 100 Calorie Greek yogurt released? Buy 3 and eat 2, a similar scenario to the one above, except I didn’t keep the expired yogurt quite as long. I was terrified of eating the last of “my” food. I was also scared that once it was gone, I wouldn’t allow myself to buy more- a scenario that most memorably occurred years ago when I moved into an apartment. I was excited that I had my very own place, and I took one shopping trip in the month that I lived there. One shopping trip to buy foods that I squirreled away and barely touched. I remember this time as one of loneliness, anxiety, and of very low intake. I recall going to the apartment on my lunch break and dropping in and out of sleep uncontrollably. I remember calculating how long my food might last before I would be forced to buy more.

Eventually though, when I began eating again, I found that I had a little bit of a different mentality- stock up, stock up, stock up! It felt like it would be the end of the world if, god forbid, I ran out of my favorite granola bars. I still have a little bit of that fear of running out inside of me- but I’m not hiding from it anymore. Instead of getting anxious about running out, I buy in bulk and restock my favorite items as I run low. And guess what? I’m not the only one who does this. A post I read a few months ago actually suggested buying say, 3 boxes of the cereal you know you’re going to eat most mornings. When you open the first box and finish it off, go out and buy another one, even though you still have 2 at home (obviously, don’t be like me and let the food expire, use your best judgement here). This is a great way to show up for yourself by not only allowing this food into your home, and claiming it as yours (you can totally share, if you’re able. If not, don’t sweat it…some day you’ll be able to- I’ve been there!), you’re also proving to yourself that this food isn’t going to just disappear. You have plenty, and you have permission to eat it.

It’s kinda embarrassing to have so many weird issues with food. However, learning how to navigate your own idiosyncrasies is key in allowing more food back into your life. You have to learn to let yourself be judgement free in this area. It takes time, and lots of self-talk. In recovery, facing “weird” judgements you place upon yourself about what you do or don’t eat is difficult, because it requires asking yourself how much you can really handle. You have to be honest with yourself, about why you’re not fueling your body adequately. It’s tough. There were, and still are, foods I won’t touch. And I’m learning that that is perfectly fine for me. I had to eat a lot of things that made me really uncomfortable in my weight restoration phase, and I often didn’t do it for me, I did it because I was told to, or I did it to make the dietitian happy and the scale happy. Sometimes, you’ve just got to find what works for you, and do your best to stick to it.

Slow Change

And so it goes

Life, or survival

Because surviving is what I’m doing most days

Wracking my brain, trying to figure out how I made it through

Years of starvation and body hatred

To get to now

Fighting for my life with my own self

Begging this reel of horror behind my eyes to stop

For just a moment

The more I fight, the harder it gets

I was comfortable with my war on food, on my body

It barely frightened me at all anymore

And then just when I was getting a grip

My feet fell out from under me

And I was lost

Wondering how I could make it through the gauntlet of anorexia (did that really happen to me?)

And then be struck with a blow that knocked the wind out of me

Not what I was or wasn’t doing

Just some disconnect, some chemical imbalance

Disruption

Sometimes it’s hard to notice such a slow change

And then, out of nowhere, I’m facing my worst fear

And shutting out, shutting down

Sleeping like I’ll never sleep enough

And the tears won’t come, no matter how many times I blink

My eyes are dry as a desert

Yet there’s a storm just inside

And finally, I cry

The tears won’t stop

At work, running errands, driving down the street

All a blur, just like my past

Did I ever imagine I’d be here?

I put all my focus on healing

On feeding myself, my soul

And no matter how hard I try, I can’t heal this

Beast

Depression

Crippling, blinding, headache inducing

Thoughts running around and around on repeat

Numb, again

I always wondered what came first

Depression, or eating disorder

How could depression not have come first

When its grip on me is like second nature

•••

It’s been a tough 2018 already, guys. I’ve begun writing so many posts, and abandoned them out of fear. Fear of honesty, showing what’s really going on behind my “hi, how are yous” and “I’m good, thanks”. Fear of dismissal, of being found out. It’s real life, but it doesn’t feel like it.

Not calling the psychiatrist, because her nurse makes inappropriate jokes about mental health, and giving up too easily when I couldn’t reach the doctor myself. By some miracle, I got in to see the psychiatrist this past week, and she upped my mood stabilizer (god knows it wasn’t stabilizing anything at that point). It felt like a relief, and yet it was deja vu. I’ll probably be there again, after a similar episode, in a month or two.

She says “you’re at the lowest dose, and really nobody stays there. We’ll just have to keep adjusting it until you get to the dose that’s right for you”. And though I knew that was coming, and I nod and say OK, it’s not OK. Because going through that again, putting my husband through that again is not OK. I’m at the mercy of two little white pills and one huge orange capsule that work together (or don’t) to fix a breach in my brain. And I’m tired of trying, but of course, I must. Often, things get worse before they get better. It’s just another storm to brave and more habits to break.

Baby, it’s cold outside

These bone-chilling temps are giving me flashbacks to years ago when I was deep in the clutches of anorexia. One thing I will never miss is the constant cold I felt, even in the heat of summer. I couldn’t get warm, no matter how many blankets I wrapped around myself.

It’s come as a surprise to me that I am no longer the one that is always cold. It probably shouldn’t, as I am well aware that low weight leads to low body temperature/failure to stay, keep, or ever be warm. I was that person for a large part of my life, and really can’t remember a time (before now) that I wasn’t always freezing. Obviously I was in a bit of denial at the time, I always assumed I was naturally just a cold person, and that would never change.

Then, in the chillier months of fall, I began waking up soaked in sweat, even though we keep a fan on in the bedroom. I was on a new medication that can cause excessive sweating, so I chalked it up to that. However, today as I write this, I’m relieved to be able to say that the horrible cold outside doesn’t cause me any anxiety (read further and you’ll see why it ever did). Sure, the cold is really annoying and can get to me at times, it just doesn’t bother me like it used to.

Every time I take a shower, I am taken back to the shower in my parents home- the one I would pray would have steaming hot water spouting from it when I stepped in, and that the hot water would last at least a few minutes (I come from a family of 8, so if I showered after one or two others, I’d often get lukewarm or cold water). I remember dreading the moment when the water would turn cold and I would have to prepare to step out of the steam and into chilly air.

Sometimes I would be so cold, I’d stand frozen in my towel, blue lipped and shivering, waiting until I had the will to reach for my clothes and painstakingly pull them on. I’m sure my parents kept our well-insulated house comfortably warm, but to me, it felt like I was never able to get warm. I dressed in layers, always and the sound of the heater kicking on still brings me a feeling of relief and comfort.

Despite feeling frozen all the time, I was still exercising outside as much as possible. I remember walking to work in freezing temperatures, and being very careful not to slip on an icy patch. I also recall tearfully confiding in my mom that I was so afraid of having a heart attack and just collapsing in a pile of snow. That fear wasn’t enough to stop the compulsion to exercise though, I was constantly looking for ways to move, to get rid of any calories I had ingested. My mom was so worried about me, and tried her best to keep me safe. At one point I refused to stay inside, so she set a rule for me- if the temperature was below zero, or the windchill made it “feel” below zero, I was to stay inside. We didn’t have smartphones at that time, so I was calling the Time and Temperature service number every morning, sobbing if the temperature wasn’t in my favor.

On the one hand, I still see this sad, sick girl’s point of view. All I wanted was to feel safe and in control, and the only way I knew how to feel even a little bit better was to move my body, to be able to appease that demon inside me and make it happy for a moment or two, or at least until I ate again. On the other, I’ve always been able to get a glimpse at the illogical patterns and danger of these compulsions. I was so afraid of a sudden heart attack, or breaking a fragile bone, yet I was more afraid and concerned with how to make my mind shut up. Looking back, I feel so immature and stupid. I look at these scenes I described through a new lense, and want to reach out and stop that girl from leaving her house. I want to tell her that the sooner she stops, the better. The sooner she stops, the less grief and heartache there will be later.

I don’t exercise intentionally at all anymore. Maybe one day I’ll have the desire to, at this point though, it just feels excessive and like a really dangerous and easy way to relapse. Stopping was incredibly difficult, however I would encourage anyone who feels like their workouts or exercise routine is out of control to consider taking a break. It’s kind of been one of the best decisions I’ve made. Here’s to warmer winters!

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.