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.

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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.

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.