Control & Trust

“Sometimes I think I’d actually like to be fat”. Yes, I found myself uttering these words the other night to my husband, as we were talking about progress and how far I have to go. Now, I know “fat” can be quite an ugly word. But fat can be beautiful. I know this may seem odd and a little crazy coming from the mouth of an underweight person, it might also seem insensitive. I have seen women who are probably overweight on a doctor’s weight chart, but seem perfectly comfortable in their skin. They are strong and beautiful. Some days I think that is what I want. To be a typical size woman in a body I can love. The truth is, women of all shapes and sizes have body image issues. I may see someone walking down the street and think they look so perfect and confident…but in reality it might be that they feel anything but perfection and confidence. As with a geode, sometimes what is inside is a lot more complex and jagged than the smooth outer rock.

I think that as I face recovery, I don’t know what it is that I want exactly. I’ve never weighed over 100 pounds. The thought of reaching that weight and going beyond it…is really scary. Sometimes I get caught up in anxiety about gaining weight. I start thinking about what it will feel like to weigh more than I ever have. What I will look like. How my clothes will fit. If I’ll have a big butt (I kind of hope I do, just so I can joke about it, dat booty doe). How it will feel to walk around in a “new” body. It’s frightening and yet a little exciting. I find myself wanting to be strong and kind to myself. To learn how to be my own caretaker. I also find myself looking at others around me, and wondering where I will fit in. I have always been the thinnest one. I have ways been the one that draws stares and comments. I don’t like it, but it’s become a bit of a part of my identity. I have to learn to lose that– to let it go. I look at my sisters and wonder if my body type will be like theirs. Will I stay tall and slim? Or did I ruin my metabolism and will I just gain and gain?

“If you had never met me, you wouldn’t have to worry. You wouldn’t have anyone telling you what you should weigh. If you just had a little more control, a little more resistance…you could have stopped yourself and stayed at a healthy weight all along.” whispers Ed.
Oh, shut up, Ed!  I already hit my limit of self-control. I resisted food for you for ages, and where did it get me? Don’t tell me what I could have or should have done. I know how you operate. You are never satisfied. It’s always one step further with you, you’re always telling me to go a little bit further, to break the rules for you one more time. No. This time I break the rules for ME.

I have a long way to go in general, but I know that after all of the food is eaten and all of the milk is drunk, I still have to deal with how I feel.  So far I am doing all right taking it day by day. But the clothes I have are ones I have fit into for a long time. I have some jeans that I have been able to fit into for almost 9 years. Someday I won’t, and I will have to come to terms with that. I know I will be able to, but it is going to be difficult. I wore a pair of jeans the other day that I have always had to use a belt to hold up. Given I was wearing thermal leggings underneath, but I didn’t have to wear a belt to keep them up. It was a little bit of an anxious moment for me, and I almost decided to wear a belt simply to allay my feelings…but I didn’t. And I found that I like being able to wear jeans without a belt all the time. It’s weird to think that I kind of have this opportunity to make my body what I want it to be. I was telling my husband the other night that I never wanted to be this thin. It’s true, I didn’t set out on this journey thinking that in the end I would be unhealthy and diseased. Nope. Ed reassured me that he had the wheel, that nothing could possibly go wrong. And I believed him…until he began making decisions that I didn’t necessarily agree with or feel comfortable with.

I remember being so angry at first, when nurses and doctors at St. Luke’s would state that anorexia is all about control. I was naïve and didn’t think they knew what they were talking about, after all, they didn’t know me. But the reality is (at least for me) that it is so much about control. It is finding myself in a place where I don’t know where to turn, and deciding to take control. To restrict and see what happens. And then to keep holding on to that satisfying control and not give it up. It is so much about trust, also. What did that person put in my food? Was it made “right”? What if they used butter? Is this milk really 2%, or is it whole? Trust and control. Hand in hand. I’m trying to learn how to apply less control and more trust, but it will be a long road. I think I’m up for it though.289904751d13d5c9edbf95cf82da724b

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Satisfied. For now.

I went to see my dietitian and doctor this week in the early morning, and one of the first things my dietitian asked was if everything was OK, because I hadn’t blogged recently. I’m doing all right, everybody! And much of that is thanks to the time and effort of the healthcare professionals at our hospital, and the love and care of my family (especially my mom and husband). I know sometimes people at big institutions can all get lumped into one entity. “Oh, I’ve been there, the service is horrible!” someone might say after one visit to an establishment. Or “All of the staff there are really mean”. I’ve had my ups and downs with the hospital in our town but this time around, I have only been treated with respect and the highest level of care I could expect. My doctor and the dietitian have been wonderful to work with, and I am so happy that though they may not specialize in eating disorders, they are learning and doing what they can to help me. My doctor hardly even knew me, and one of the first things she did was schedule me for an appointment on her day off…if that isn’t dedication, I don’t know what is. And my dietitian regularly will check up on me via Facebook message, asking me how my day is going, or how I am doing incorporating new additions to my meal plan. This one goes out to you, Cara and Dr. S!

I am happy to be able to say that my doctor told me she thinks I am doing well, and am most likely past the danger of refeeding syndrome (hooray!), and that though I am at high risk for osteoporosis she’s going to let the x-ray screening for that go for a little while, since the most I can do is try to get more calcium. She told me that if I keep doing as well as I have been, I might get to go three weeks between visits with her. My dietitian didn’t have a whole lot of time with me on this morning, but thankfully our meeting didn’t end in tears from me today. She asked me to continue to add what I have been, and to try to add another half cup of milk in with my dinner. I am also to add another slice of toast to my breakfast, and we added an option of an egg sandwich to my breakfast choices. There were smiles and figurative pats on the back all around. They told me they were proud of me. And I know they are. I know I’ve done a good thing. But that doesn’t make it any less scary. This all feels temporary…and I have to keep reminding myself that no, I am trying to cultivate habits that will last a lifetime. I am attempting to bring back what I once used to be: a competent eater.

I used to have all sorts of things to fall back on if I was feeling anxious or bad about myself. Eat too much? Go for a walk. “Feel” fat? Eat less today. Mad at myself for something I had no control over? Cut. Say something stupid? Don’t talk for the rest of the day. Now I have little of those things, or none. When all of your safety nets are pulled away, where do you fall? I know that the fact that everyone says I am doing well is because my weight is going up. I say that is good and healthy. Ed says nuh uh, they’re making you fat. I look in the mirror and see the same old me. Ed says I feel fat. I say that fat is not a feeling anyway, and what is he trying to do, make me crazy? I can’t go run off my fat feeling. I can’t restrict to make me feel good and clean inside. Nope, instead I am sitting in a chair, reading. Feeling my belly full and digesting the food and nutrients I have given it today. I am satisfied. For now.

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A brief interlude

Ok, so you know how I said that these past few weeks have seemed eerily smooth and easygoing? I think “Ed” was taking a slight nap.

Today, when I went to see my dietitian, she asked me what area of eating I would like to focus on this week. I replied that my dinner could probably use some bulking up. She suggested that I try to have as many meals a week with my family or others as possible, and to try to make it a goal to have at least 6 dinners a week with someone. Like, real dinners. Not the piddly ones I usually have. I knew I had it coming, and later I kind of kicked myself for suggesting a change…because (queue creepy music here) then she went on to say that she thought my additions to what I am eating seems to be going well, but she would really like me to stop eating Fiber One bars, or any sort of special “diet” bars. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would have had to only work on getting rid of the bars, if I hadn’t brought up dinner. Then she told me to give them away. Or if I couldn’t do it myself, have someone take them away (I could practically hear Gollum hissing “my preciouuuussssss!”). Ed said “no, no, no!” And I told her I didn’t think I could do that. That I couldn’t just give them away. I bought them, I would eat them. They are my special food, something that is safe, and delicious, and will always be there at the end of the day for me to go home to (this is an attempt at me trying to make a joke, in the midst of my pain and agony).

I am not that attached to Fiber One bars, really I’m not. It’s not that at all (or maybe it is, feel free to call me out here!). It’s that I have them, and bought them, and I want them…I don’t want them taken away. And Ed, or me, or both of us says that a calorie is a calorie. These bars may be quote “diet”, but I’m more than willing to eat a Nature Valley granola bar, or Kashi, or Sunbelt. These just need to be eaten up first. I just got into a habit of buying a certain brand, and they’re almost always readily available at where I shop, and so…ta da! I have a stockpile. And so here I am sitting in front of my mom and dietitian, and crying and shutting down, because I know that I won’t be able to give those bars up. And I know that part of it is me being stubborn, and part of it is this damn, sleazy guy, called Ed that has been with me for so many years, calling the shots and ruining my life. And I am mad at Ed and mad that I have let him creep his way in, this smooth-talking bastard. I cry because I am frustrated and alone  and don’t always know how to express my feelings. I cry for all of the days that I didn’t cry, didn’t let that feeling out, when I covered it up by holding back and cutting back and not eating, not eating, not eating.

And by the way, this is how messed up my mind is…as I was shutting down and crying, I looked down at the boots and leggings I had on and thought about how now I would have to change when I got home, because today was a bad day and I couldn’t look good or feel good. I didn’t deserve it. Weird, huh? Just goes to show how intertwined everything in the disease is. I can’t look good or feel good, because Ed is mad. Nice.

After the appointment, my mom dropped me off at home. I immediately went to my stash and looked at the bars. and I picked them up…shuffled them around, put them back. I sorted the bars out from the ones that aren’t “diet”. I looked at them for a while. I shut the drawer. They’re still there. I know they’re there. They know they’re there. I can’t help feeling like I am overwhelmed, and as though I will be letting people down if I don’t get rid of those bars. I think I know what I’ll be dreaming about tonight.

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Cause < Effect

Years ago when I was first diagnosed with an eating disorder, it seemed like I was always, always questioning the circumstances behind why I developed anorexia. What came first? The depression, or the eating disorder? I really got caught up in this question, and it wasn’t until I was talking to a friend later, who had come to me to ask me some questions about anorexia and eating disorders in general, that I stopped focusing on that question so much. At one point, while talking to her, I think I just kept saying over and over that I didn’t know what came first. Was I depressed, and then did I lose my appetite and start to restrict? Or did I begin eating less and less in an attempt to be “healthier” and grow depressed because I wasn’t getting enough nutrients? She made the point that I may never know, and why dwell on that? The important thing is to get better. She is so right.
With something like anorexia, it might not really matter what caused it, at least for recovery. In my case, I have found that I am curious about the circumstances and what might have caused me to develop disordered eating, but I know it wasn’t because of something that happened to me. I wasn’t abused or anything, which I think might sometimes be assumed by certain health professionals, or just society in general. I think there may be some connection between how I perceive my body, and how I treat it. I read a line in a book a while ago, where the protagonist says she never felt like her body was her own. She was almost afraid of it. I feel that way often. And if I feel that way, of course it’s going to be easy for me to care less for it. It has only been within the last month or so, that I have realized I can put lotion on my dry skin, and be taking care of myself. If my lips are chapped, I can put balm on them, and be taking care of myself. It seems so simple, and ridiculous, right? But for years, I never did anything to remedy these simple things, because I just didn’t care, I didn’t feel worth it. You can imagine how I would view food then, if I was already dabbling in disordered eating. I always felt like I wasn’t worth the food. Someone else should eat it instead of me, because I wouldn’t enjoy it enough. Never feeling like I “owned” my body gave me permission to treat it with less compassion than I should. I feel like I am slowly recognizing ways I can be kind to myself and heal. Depression might have played a role in the onset of an eating disorder, I know it really affects how I treat myself now, and view recovery. I value myself a whole lot less when I feel less than spectacular. I start questioning life, why I’m here, if life is even worth living. Right now it’s hard for me to remember what it feels like to be depressed, because I’m in a better place. And when I’m depressed it’s hard for me to remember what being happy feels like. More and more though, I am beginning to believe that genetics played a huge role in how my adolescence played out. “Genetics load the gun, environment (or circumstances) pulls the trigger.” If one quote could sum up how I feel about anorexia, that just might be it. I do think that lack of food causes me to feel crappy. Of course it does. But I think something in my brain may have always been on the prowl. I may have always had a genetic disposition to develop some sort of mental illness, and over the course of a few short months of eating less and exercising more, my brain got rewired faster than it should have, and suddenly I was more likely to eat less, exercise excessively, and feel less than happy about food as fuel. Or maybe it was always there with me. I can look back on certain instances and remember always feeling a certain way about food. Always feeling indebted to something, and always feeling unworthy. I write all of this in hopes that maybe it will help someone else come to find peace about the “why” behind their circumstances. I think I’m also writing this to try to lay to rest the thoughts and feelings I have today.
I won’t ever know for certain why I developed an eating disorder, but I do know it happened. And I also know that I am finally, finally ready to look my problems in the face and tell them to just give up. Because though sometimes it feels useless, and like I am fighting a worthless battle against myself, I know that there is a part of me that has gone rogue. It’s sickly and diseased, and it has to go. And the only way to do that is to be persistent and keep fighting. I recently saw this post pop up in my Facebook news feed, courtesy of one of my friends.

It’s interesting how my view of eating disorders used to be one of uncertainty and judgement. I thought the people doing the starving were intentionally hurting themselves. For me, on some level, I knew what I was doing…after the fact. But initially, I didn’t have a name to put to what was afflicting me. I remember writing in my journal that we had finally found out what was wrong. That I had been diagnosed with an eating disorder. This is also a good read, that I think helps to prove that eating disorders aren’t always intentional, or what we as a society think they are or should be.

A little extra peanut butter won’t kill me

The other night when I was about to eat a snack of crackers and peanut butter, my mom asked “does this look like two tablespoons to you? I just eyeballed it and I’m not sure.” I looked at the plate that had a mound of peanut butter perched on the edge. “Uh, I’m not sure” I said. “It might be a little more than two…” I trailed off, trying to measure the peanut butter with my eyes. The dietitian I have been seeing weekly suggested I add a protein to my usual snack of crackers at night. One of the options was two tablespoons of peanut butter. TWO TABLESPOONS.

Yikes. And to make this snack even scarier was the fact that I had just eaten a hamburger and fries from McDonald’s. And a full fat Greek yogurt earlier in the day. And a breakfast of a banana, a little 2% milk, and a slice of peanut butter toast. And I still had more food to go after this. I never would have been eating this…”well” on my own, without the suggestion from a professional, or maybe my mom. If I myself had made these decisions of what to eat, I would think that I must be crazy. Yes, I am making the decision to eat this food, but in some sense, my hands are tied. I know that if I don’t eat what I am instructed to, I won’t be able to stay outpatient. This is one reason why I am able to eat more now. But it’s not scary, like it could be. Not threatening. I think the reason I’m not overwhelmed by the thought of inpatient treatment and being threatened with it this time around is this: I’m trying. And not only am I trying, I’m doing my best. I know that the doctor has told me she will be able to tell if I am eating what the dietitian tells me to, by what the numbers on the scale say. It’s true. And the only thing I am afraid of is that by some odd phenomenon the scale starts dipping down instead of going up, despite the fact that I am following orders. I guess this could happen if my fantastic metabolism kicks in and goes absolutely bonkers, but hey, I guess at least I’ll know I am being honest. This time there has been no lying and deceiving. It’s so freeing to know I am doing this, I have help, and I’m not sabotaging my own recovery.

That’s not to say every step so far has been easy. I think the biggest fight I have had with “Ed” has been about coffee. I say I want coffee with my milk in the morning, because it tastes good. Ed says I don’t need good, I need less. Even though coffee is basically bean flavored water, he says a solid “NO” and I then have to fight tooth and nail to get him to relent enough for me to go through the motions of making the beverage. Once I’ve made it, there’s no going back. And I enjoy that milky coffee so much! I just have to keep fighting, even on the tiniest things, because I know that down the road, it’s going to be bigger things I have to face. Like making my own meals. With multiple ingredients. All mixed together.

But getting back to the beginning of this post, when I was facing a bunch of peanut butter and crackers…I found myself hesitating before scooping up my first dollop onto a cracker. “I could put just a little bit back, since it’s probably more than the two tablespoons” I found myself thinking. I thought this twice. I looked at the peanut butter, and reached for a cracker. I tentatively dipped an edge into the gooey goodness. I lifted the cracker, laden with medicine, to my lips and bit into the savory snack. I took a step forward, even though it was frightening, and felt so wrong. And I thought “a little extra peanut butter won’t kill me.”

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Not fiction

I have done a bit of reading lately that was more educational than recreational. Sometimes it’s easy for me to get into a rut of only reading fiction, or things that are easy to pick up and set down. But this past week I read two non-fiction books: Rising Strong and Body of Truth. Both of these books were pretty great, in my opinion. Rising Strong had a lot of interesting parts, and some that I just didn’t really care much for. But for the most part, my time was well spent picking up the wisdom of a wonderfully bold woman. One of my favorite quotes from the book is “Genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger” probably because it has only been more recently that I have come to realize just how much genetics can affect how people grow and change. My mom and I were talking recently about the situation I am in, and I brought up the fact that everyone says I am at such a low weight, and have been for so long, that it’s surprising my body isn’t totally…well, dead. I asked her if she thought maybe my genetics had a part to play in that. My grandfather on my mother’s side was very slim naturally, though he did enjoy walking a lot. But the fact that I may have inherited those genes from my mom (it’s very likely that I did, because all of my siblings seem to have inherited them too!) and that they may have helped me cope with the dire situation I have let my body get into, is intriguing. Perhaps my genetic makeup is allowing my body to function at such a low weight, because I am naturally going to be a slim person? Now, that’s not to say I want to take advantage of this blessing anymore. My doctor keeps reiterating that I have been lucky so far, and that if I were to go on much longer, starving my brain and body, I will die. I believe her. And that’s partly why I want to change.

Body of Truth was another really good read, but I couldn’t say I related to very much of it. Certainly not as much as to Harriet Brown’s previous book Brave Girl Eating, a book chronicling some of the struggles her family went through after her daughter was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Body of Truth focused a lot on the obesity “epidemic”, but it also had lots of good truths about beauty, how we perceive it, and lies the media feeds to us like candy. A few quotes really stood out to me:

“Like many women who’ve dieted on and off for years, I was scared to stop counting Weight Watchers points or calories or fat grams or whatever I was counting at any given moment, afraid that if I stopped restraining myself, my hunger would be insatiable. I had to learn to trust my own appetite, and man, was that scary. I mean, if there were no rules, what would stop me from just eating and eating and eating until I weighed five hundred pounds? How would I know when to stop eating the foods I loved if there was no one to tell me to stop?”

“How many evenings did I stand in the middle of grocery store aisle, paralyzed with fear and indecision? It’s not just the time I regret; it’s the loss of who I might have been if I wasn’t so consumed. It’s who I might have loved, how I might have lived, what I might have accomplished. I might have been a force to be reckoned with.”

Yes, yes, yes. I can so totally relate. I guess I have recently learned that lots of people struggle with eating and shame around food. Harriet Brown really delved into that issue in a few of the chapters, saying how when she asked her students a question they cane back with one for her…what is normal eating? It is so easy for me to make up a story in my mind (Brené Brown talks about this in Rising Strong) about how my problems are different from someone else’s, how they wouldn’t understand, or they would think me crazy for how my mind works. But the truth is, it’s not just me. So many women deal with guilt surrounding food. Maybe not to the same level that I do, but it’s still there. And how can this be surprising, when everywhere we turn there is a display full of “diet” food, an ad showing a model who is way out of proportion or airbrushed…it’s hard to think healthy about food when the food itself isn’t healthy.

Challenging the challenger

This past week was easy…like, scary easy. I keep wondering if this is the calm before the storm. Wondering when things are going to get worse…possibly way worse. I know it is coming, unless I somehow miraculously recover with no backlash whatsoever (not happening). This week I worked on two things. One: adding a real breakfast into my regular routine. A few months ago, I felt so ready to beat anorexia’s butt. I was ready. And I began making a few changes here and there, adding some extra snacks and bits of food where I felt I could. Well, despite my good intentions, those additions all got lumped in with the rest of my daily eating habits…which means I managed to push them back in the day so far, that my breakfast became a snack of a “lunch” and my lunch became more of a dinner…and dinner is all right before bed along with some candy and ice cream. So, yeah…a round of applause for me being able to add anything at all…but shame on me for failing to eat at reasonable times. So this week when I went to see my dietitian, she asked me to work on having breakfast. (In addition to what is my breakfast, but has slid back towards 1:00.) Before nine AM. And I obliged. What did this look like? Pretty great, in fact. It was me, going over to my parents house and my mom making a slice of peanut butter toast or French toast for me. It was my mom, slathering those pieces of bread with delicious peanut butter or apricot jelly and pouring me some 2% milk. It was my mom clearing her morning schedule and driving to where I work, to drop off one of these breakfast options, and making sure I had a banana to go along with the peanut butter toast. It was me, tasting that wonderful peanut butter for the first time in years. Eating a real piece of French toast, that was made with coconut oil, a milky egg, and love. It was me, drinking 2% milk and reveling at the taste of it. Remembering how, as a child, my mom would typically buy skim, and my brother and I would beg her to buy 2%, like our friends moms did. It was me pushing away the guilt, shame, and anxiety that goes along with consuming food. It was daily emails from my mom, asking me how my eating went that day. It was different, but good.

The second thing I worked on was not restricting in other areas, since I was eating a bigger breakfast than usual. I think I did OK, though I did find myself having restrictive thoughts, and I know there were a few times I chose a lower calorie snack simply because I wasn’t up to fighting off Ed. But I still ate the snack, even though I didn’t always feel like it, even though often, Ed was telling me that I really wasn’t hungry. I survived! I survived, even though the first day eating breakfast, I also took a Thiamine tablet and when I peed later on in the day my urine was Mountain Dew colored and I thought something had gone terribly awry already. I survived. And now I am moving on to my second week of my attempt at “real recovery”. This week I have been asked to add some extra chicken to my sandwich, a protein to my usual snack at night, and to buy real, full fat yogurt (scary, scary, scary). I may be a little anxious, but I’m also kind of excited to see where this journey takes me. The stakes are high, but so is the reward.

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Recovery needs…

It needs ears just big enough to hear the truth, but small enough to be able to shut when the lies start. Because they will start.

It needs two arms, connected to a warm body. It needs these arms to be open when they need to be open, and closed when they should be closed. Sometimes it will be surprised to find these arms are open, because they think that most likely, they will arrive to find the arms hanging limply by the side. Nope, instead, these arms are open wide. Waiting to close at just the right moment to perform a swift and gentle hug.

It needs a reminder. And then another. And another. It needs someone to tell it that it is not welcome anymore, but that those other things waiting on the sidelines? (Patience, hunger, yearning, love, generosity, kindness…the list goes on an on…) those other things are more than welcome. In fact, they are going to be required, because this disease is going to leave a gaping hole, and something has to fill it.

It needs sleep and lots of rest. It has been working hard for years to take over someone’s life, and now there is so much catching up to do; not only physically, but mentally and in every which way.

It needs a mouth, to open and open and open. It needs to fill that mouth with food. Safe foods, forgotten foods, new and exciting foods. Filling foods, light foods and heavy foods, fruits and vegetables, fat and fat and fat, breads, carbs, noodles and rice. Sugar and salt and flour and mix it all up and fill it all up.

It needs no mirrors or scales. No reminders of what it is or was. It needs a fresh start, a clean slate. It needs no recent history.

It does not need judgement or criticism. It needs an open mind and love love love. It already knows how to be mean and critical and all too judgmental.

It needs gradual change. Nothing too sudden or rash. It is skittish and needs a gentle hand guiding it in a new direction. It needs time to change and time to decide that “yes, this is OK”.

It needs guidance, and lots of it. Someone to observe and intervene, to be bold and say “this is not a healthy behaviour”.

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Love vs. enable *UPDATED VERSION*

When someone asks what they can do to help me, I have no idea how to respond. I know that there are people out there that love me, care for me, don’t want to see me suffer or die. I know my situation scares them and frustrates them. So shouldn’t that be enough of an incentive to get better? Shouldn’t I just be able to eat and not be in the danger zone anymore? I wish. Often, these thoughts lead me to the conundrum of enabling versus loving. What is the difference in this case? I’m not really sure, because my eating disorder is cunning. Anorexia will take any situation it is given, and turn it into something that it will benefit from. It may sound cliché, but it’s like that mouse in the “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” book. This disease is not going to be happy with just one cookie, it’s gonna want more and more. And this applies to all sorts of scenarios.

You might get me to agree to a plan, you might suggest something that I feel capable of, comfortable with. Or, you might say the words “therapy” and “hospital” and I will cringe and curl up in a ball. You’ve lost me. I totally understand how the most logical approach to my situation and a “cure” would probably be some sort of therapy and treatment from an institution. At first, I agreed. I mean, where else do you turn? But from past experience, I now know that those things aren’t going to work for me. And if I am forced into them, then they really aren’t going to work. I have to want healing and help. I can’t be told to want it, because then it’s just someone else making a decision for me, but not doing the work. It’d be like if I decided you should become an expert at astronomy, and I signed you up for all of the classes and bought you all the books, shipped you off to a school and told you “see ya when you get there!”. You might feel like you should try, because after all, someone took the time to set this all up for you, and hey, maybe this astronomy thing isn’t so bad after all. But soon enough, you’re probably going to get frustrated, and angry that someone made this life decision for you, and you will stop working so hard (if you ever were) and slowly you will give up hope that you’re going to get any kind of award besides a big fat ‘F’ because that’s what you are, a failure. Ok, but back to what I was originally talking about…how can someone love a person with an eating disorder, but not cross that thin line of enabling them? Of course no one wants to see someone struggling, and lots of scenarios and outings in this life involve food. That makes me happy and sad at the same time. Happy, because hopefully I will soon be able to join in on the communal meal. Sad, because for so long I have avoided them. I have missed out on enjoyment, happiness, that fullness…

I want to let people help me, but it is so easy for me to go from being me, to what my dietitian has begun to call “Ed”. The fact that this disease has a name, has become somewhat personified, is a good thing I think. Especially with a name like “Ed”. I don’t particularly like the name, and I don’t particularly like Ed as a “thing” either. In fact, I hate him. It’s hard for me to differentiate between the two voices in my head. There is the real me, and there is Ed. And Ed tells me to eat less than I should. Tells me to avoid food at all costs, unless it is the usual little snacks and bits that I am comfortable with, but only at certain times.

To me, the logical me; enabling is letting me choose a certain meal because I know that it is the “healthiest” and lowest calorie option. Loving would be reminding me that my choice is wonderful, but maybe I could think of a side to go with it that I think would be yummy. Enabling is hearing me say I don’t like a food, and just taking me at my word. There are lots of foods that I used to eat on a regular basis, but I just don’t remember because that was ages ago. One thing I hope to get better at is not being afraid to try new foods, or even old foods that are somewhat new to me. Loving might be to push me a little and say that maybe I just don’t remember liking it, would I be willing to try it again? (At this point I might pull out the card that has me saying that no, I can’t try it, what if I hate it? Then I’d have to eat the whole thing and feel so, so guilty when I could have chosen what I know I like and been happy…this is me saying that, yes, that could happen, but life is full of choices. We try to make the best ones, and when they don’t pan out, what do we do? We get right back up and keep on walking. It’s just food.) There are so many more situations where loving and enabling come into play. Of course we’re gonna want to make people feel comfortable and loved…but sometimes Ed is there where he shouldn’t be, whispering lies in my ears.

This is me speaking honestly here. Feel free to be open if you are having a difficult time with knowing if I am actually talking, or Ed is. I have a hard time knowing too. One thing that is certain though? I had a slice of peanut butter toast, 2% milk, and a banana for breakfast today. I would never ever drink milk if I (…Ed..?) had say in things…but I did it, and guess what? I’m still here, I didn’t have a panic attack and to my surprise, it actually tasted good! Be cranky with Ed, I don’t like him, and I hope those around me will help me find ways to kick him out of my brain, which he has come to call home!

There is no “normal”

I’m sitting here mulling over what I want to write. I guess I’m a little sick of myself at the moment. Just fed up with my antics and how I treat people, how I treat myself. I try not to be self-centered, for years I thought of myself as selfless…but you know what? That’s as far from the truth as it gets. I am so focused on myself and what is going on with me, me me. But the funny thing is, no matter how focused I am on myself, I don’t actually pay attention to what my body and self are feeling. Sure, sometimes an emotion takes hold or I feel tired or hungry or bored or whatnot. But I have become quite adept at blocking out anything that really matters. I have developed strategies to avoid feeling anything wholly and completely.

I multi-task. I numb myself to life by escaping through a book. I turn off my inner signals for food and nourishment and rest because I don’t want to feel uncomfortable or…good. It’s like I revel in making myself suffer. So how can I get out of this rut? There are people out there that write and speak about first loving yourself and then you will have the ability to love others. I’m not sure how I feel about this idea. Yes, I believe that in order to have the ability to love, one must first be loved. Yes, I think that having compassion for yourself is a good thing, and being kind to your body and soul probably would assist in a person being able to do the same to those around them. But how far must this “self-love” reach? Can it simply be taking time for yourself? A little treat here and there? Or does it have to be as complicated as accepting all of your flaws and failures, pointing out what you like about yourself, to yourself, letting yourself feel good, letting yourself have what you want within reason, adoring your body?

The more I read and delve into stories about women and eating habits, I realize the majority of women seem to have some issue with food and body image, whether it be as big as an eating disorder, or as small as hating the color of your eyes. Women just seem to have this preoccupation with how they look, and no wonder. At every turn, there is a model or actress that looks pretty darn flawless. Diet tips and beauty regimes fill the pages of a plethora of magazines and internet headlines. Young girls are developing eating disorders and body image problems earlier and earlier. I have found myself contemplating how this thought pattern is even developed. I know when I was younger, I was not privy to the gossip magazines and television ads that girls nowadays are. The one commercial that sticks in my head is one that played after Arthur, for Juicy Juice, an ad campaign encouraging the consumption of a sugary liquid, which I would have happily indulged in, but made do with store “Old Orchard” frozen concentrate mixed in a pitcher. I wasn’t taught to dislike my body, to fear weight gain, to pinch my thighs and worry about whether or not they were thicker today than yesterday. Nope, actually I was just as surprised as everyone else when I was diagnosed with and eating disorder. I literally had no idea what anorexia was, or what it looked like. How did I know what to do then, to restrict and weigh and run? A genetic predisposition? A vitamin deficiency? The brain can rewire itself, yes. But how are the symptoms and actions implemented if the person doing the things doesn’t even know what they are doing?

If you really think about it, the whole body image thing is really weird and scary. Sure, I can recall people commenting on how tall and thin I was, even before I had an eating disorder. My mom dabbled in a diet here or there. Sometimes she would limit our sweets, or tell us to wait until after dinner. Sometimes as a joke my dad would snag a cookie from my plate when I wasn’t looking, and gobble it down while I protested, sometimes tearfully…but he would always replace it with a new one. What is a parent to do? Tiptoe around in fear that their child will develop an eating disorder because of one or two tiny comments or paying attention to nutrition? No. I don’t blame my eating disorder on anyone but myself. Not even society or media can be blamed for my issues. I caused them, I’ll own them. How does one learn to hate oneself, without anyone teaching them?

So what is “normal”? Where do we cross the line? When does healthy become unhealthy? Obviously something is wrong when an obsessive pattern occurs, such as restricting for days on end, exercising excessively, measuring out portions, eating the same foods over and over (especially low-calorie ones), skipping meals with regularity, counting calories. How can we protect the future generations from foibles such as the ones I am facing? I don’t know. Educate them? Perhaps…but then you run the risk of instructing them on how exactly to develop an eating disorder!

What are your thoughts on body image issues and what women (and men!) face every day? How can the sickness and obsession be remedied?5f4a0adef422e1c59671ce08a581f6b4