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.

Emotional eating

When ed first showed up in my life, he seemed to have all of the answers.

He told me that he knew how to keep me small, like a child. Safe.

He told me he knew how to stop the monthly bleeding and cramps.

He told me that with him, I didn’t need a diet to keep me healthy.

And I was looking for answers, answers to questions I wasn’t willing to ask.

I was feeling emotions that were stronger than my heart could hold.

Ed told me he would keep my secrets and give me answers. Now I see that he was lying.

Ed didn’t have answers, he only had partial solutions.

Solutions that lasted, only if I followed his plan.

Eagerly, I signed up.

 

What I didn’t realize, when I held out my hand and allowed ed to pull me to my feet again, was that the plan he had was to erase what I had become.

I was a happy young girl, hungry for the world.

Hungry for purpose and meaning.

Ed told me hunger was weakness.

And I followed the rules set out for me, because it was so easy.

So easy to deny myself this thing that I wasn’t even sure I deserved anyway.

Over time, I learned that the best way to keep ed happy was to do exactly as he commanded.

This meant not eating foods I used to love.

Keeping to myself and staying quiet.

Not rocking the boat.

I quickly saw how much nicer and easier this made life.

I no longer felt as much, everything took on a dull sheen.

My emotions were gone, all except for fear and guilt, shame and deep darkness.

Eating food made me feel guilty.

Food was scary, and not allowed.

When I did eat, it was different than what it used to be.

Meals used to be fun, especially if it was pizza or birthday cake.

And then they turned into a nightmare.

 

When I ate, I felt.

Not as much as I used to, but some.

Mostly I felt negative emotions.

And sometimes, when I was doing well, I felt a spark of what used to be.

I felt loved, cared for, safe.

But only for a moment, and then I had to deal with what I had just done.

Which usually meant withholding food until ed said I could eat again. 

I hid from food, like I hid from everything.

Dulling the pain and sadness I felt was a relief.

Little did I know that I might be free from so many hardships if I could only speak up.

 

Once I started talking back to ed, things got a little dicey.

He wasn’t as kind as he had once seemed.

Yes, he had done what he promised, but in the meantime, he had also changed me into something I couldn’t evolve back to.

I no longer knew who I was, what I wanted, or why I was living.

So I began to research and find out who ed really was.

I began to fight him, because he is a prison that can last lifetimes.

 

As I ate, I grew. And grew.

I grew shirt sizes and jean sizes, and I also grew on the inside.

My heart had been trampled on, and I could feel it healing, expanding and feeling.

And with that healing, came emotions I didn’t recognize anymore.

When I ate, I felt full and I wanted to hide. To scratch my skin and feel pain instead.

And yet I knew I must continue, because every bite I took was a middle finger to the permission slips ed rarely doled out.

When I hugged I felt loved, and for so long ed told me that wasn’t something I needed.

When I cried, I felt pain and sadness. So much that I cried more, to wash the feelings away.

When I took a bite of a fear food, I felt pride, courage, triumph, and shame.

Shame for allowing myself to get to this place. And too, shame for feeling satisfied.

 

When I feel sad, depressed, lost…I still must eat.

And because ed trained me well, I still feel negative emotions more than the positive.

When I am hurting or stressed, food is the last thing I go to.

Sometimes, I mindfully refuse food, as a punishment.

So I pause and look deeper.

I question my actions, and ed’s voice. 

And I feel.

And it is because I am a highly emotional being.

It is because I learned to punish myself before I learned to love myself.

It is because I am still learning, and meandering along this path of recovery, and though the going can be slow at times, I still believe it’s worth it.

It is because I feel too much, and I am on a journey to find who I really am and how to use my emotions positively.

This is why I am still writing, thinking, and hoping: it is because even when I have stumbled and skinned my knees (again) I still see  a light flickering at the end of the tunnel.


 

Hello, Goodbye

This year has given me so much. Joy, pain, tears, happiness, sadness, laughter, love…the list goes on. 

Last year at this time, I was searching. And this year, I am searching still. This doesn’t mean I haven’t grown or learned, it simply means I haven’t found my peace yet.

It’s hard for me to picture another year come and gone. I often struggle to see beyond the present, and yet I never feel like I am fully living in the moment. My brain is often on overdrive, most of the time with worries or food related stress.

I can’t remember what my expectations of 2016 were. I’m sure among them were “recovery”, “loving myself more”, “spending more time with those I love” and of course, “reading more books”.

Recovery didn’t happen. Healing, yes. Recovery, no. In fact, as I write this, I feel less recovered than I have in a long time. I know full recovery takes as long as it needs to. I am trying to be patient and kind with myself, and yet am finding more questions than answers.

Loving myself more was a great intention to have, I think. I once had a conversation about the belief that one must love themselves first, in order to truly love others. At the time, I had no argument for either side, and as I’ve grown, and given more permission to myself to be curious, I am coming to find that I truly don’t love myself, though I do love others. I have often struggled with love; accepting and giving (mostly accepting), and am learning how detrimental this can be in recovery from an eating disorder. I am excited to see what loving myself might look like, and though it is frustrating, I’m trying to believe it might be possible.

I think I may have succeeded with spending more time with those I hold near, though I may not have been as present as I could have. Much of the dark side of anorexia for me is held in the isolation and removal of myself. I know I spent many days holed up when I could have been spending time with others. I am learning to accept this as a fact, and preparing myself for a more flexible approach in the future. Some day, I hope to have a better excuse for not showing up than “I was scared of the food”.

The one expectation that I fulfilled completely was reading more books. I’m more embarrassed than proud about this though. The more I read, the less time I spend in “real life”, though I hold the opinion that reading keeps me sane. I plan to continue to read as much, if not more, in 2017; hopefully integrating piles of self-help and biography titles into my shelves.

I don’t usually make resolutions for the new year. So this year, I am making intentions. Below are the 3 intentions I hold for the new year. All of them are things I can do every day, and yet they are challenging in lots of different ways:

  • To live presently
  • To tame my expectations
  • To learn more about myself

 

Do you carry resolutions or intentions into the new year?  I’d love to hear advice, feedback, and experiences!


 

 

Winter

I didn’t want to write this post. I didn’t want to even have to think about admitting what’s been going on lately.

I know winter is coming every year. I know it gets to me in all of the worst ways. I used to think it was just the cold and lack of sun. Now I think it goes much deeper than that.
When I enter into this season, I always think everything will stay the same. And why shouldn’t it? After all, it is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year”.

So when I found myself feeling down and extra tired, crying at appointments and shutting down at the drop of a pin (I.e. My husband making me a half sandwich which I refused to eat, my car not starting on one of the warmest days last week, etc.) I should’ve probably spoken up for myself, and made an appointment with my doctor.

I didn’t though, and ended up having to play phone tag for part of an afternoon with the doctors nurse, who said I should make an appointment.

It was a relief to get an appointment with my doctor and see her within two days. I’m now on a little bit of a different plan with her on the medication side of things, and I’m hoping this change will help, and keep me moving forward.

It’s been hard to take care of myself these past few weeks. Of course, a great option for me to choose would be to accept care from others when I’m in this state, and yet I chose to stubbornly refuse it most days.

Self care can come in many different forms. I never thought of taking my medicine as an act of self care, and now I do. If I’m not consistent in listening to my body, brain, and whole self, then I’m not practicing self care (I do realize how ironic it is, that I’m talking about self care while actively not taking care of myself very well).  

Even if I feel like I’m doing everything wrong lately, at least I’m still showing up for appointments and taking my medications. I’m still waking up and going to work. And I’m still planning to do my best to enjoy the rest of this week. At least there’s that!

Wake up

When sleep feels like the only safe place.

When dreams are nowhere to be found.

Feeling like I must have an aura of pitch black following me around.

Anorexia was never an act of not physically being able to eat, rather it was a refusal. 

Learning early on that it was easier to abstain than put myself through the guilt and shame.

Now ed is silent, because a new voice has taken over.

Depression. The kind that feeds off itself (or is that depression in general?).

Still going through the motions, to get through the day. Collapsing and shutting down at home.

I keep reminding myself where this road could lead. I don’t want to go back there.

Something intuitive tells me this could be a breakthrough.

Maybe there is something more I need to learn before I’m ready to heal.

Maybe, like the labyrinth, depression is something I keep looping back on. 

Maybe there is something unvisited deep inside me.

I find myself thinking that no wonder I ended up here, ultimately.

No wonder I developed an eating disorder at the age of 13.

No wonder I had no friends.

This depression is deep, and I’m not sure I’ve even glimpsed the bottom; I may still be standing on the edge.

And if this is exactly how I felt when I was a new teen, an eating disorder would feed off of this behavior.

Nothing holds much interest, besides sleep. 

I am no longer hungry, and I freeze  at the thought of food passing my lips.

I’m scared, because this darkness is finding me more and more.

I thought things were looking up, and now I’m losing hope.

I know better days can and will happen.

I know this too shall pass.

It’s the holding on that’s exhausting. The guilt and sadness I feel for my husband, for not being present.

And I know I’m priveleged, I should feel gratitude for all I have.

I know my problems are typical “white girl” problems. Trust me, this weighs on me too.

Learning to take care of myself, it’s hard. Often it means I have to do things I’d prefer not to do.

Thankfully, I’m hanging in there. An appointment with my doctor, therapist and dietitian, all within this week.

I know I’m going to be OK, as long as I keep showing up, in life and at important appointments.

Focus 

Sometimes, things seem to be going well, almost scary well, like the calm before a storm.

I felt that way these past few weeks, I woke up, excited, knowing I was going to go out and work and see people, and have meals to fill myself up!

Motivation and a sense of new beginnings began following me around, and I accept it, holding on with hope in my heart.

Then, something happens and I stumble and fall on a knee, or scratch my palms with dirt and grit. I lose my hold on all of that hope.

It’s like letting so many helium balloons go, up into the wide open sky.

I start to overthink. I lay in bed, or kneel to put my boots on, and I think “Ok, I don’t know what today will bring…” and if I don’t take that thought and use it to propel myself to the next step of the day, I might get lost.

If I don’t consciously make a decision whether or not to eat, if I’m not gently easing into the mindset that what I’m doing and going through is for me, and that if I want to do well and be well, I must eat…

It’s exhausting. Trying to turn down the whispers and scratches of anxiety in my ears, often is only successful if I stop and tell myself to focus.

If I’m paying too much attention to calories, focus. If I’m worried about my next meal, focus. Trying to stop and bring all of my thoughts into one place.

Getting through the day. Focusing on that next step.

And some days are easier than others. And I don’t know why.

I’m working on learning what make “bad” days so bad, and how I can try to turn a “bad” day into more of a “good” day, so I don’t keep revisiting the same patterns over and over.

I know it’s going to take help, and time. I know it’s going to be hard. I’ve known that for a long time.

Nobody is perfect and it’s not a waste of time if I learned something.