Simply having a wonderful Christmas time…

I remember every year when I was a child, crying myself to sleep on Christmas night. I was sad that all of the hype was over. I was feeling down because the year was about to come to an end. Like most kids, I wanted to grow up and be independent. Get my driver’s license, and find a job. But I think I was also very aware of how fast time was passing. Each year that went by meant I was yet again, one year older. Last year I cried on Christmas too. If I cry this year, it’s going to be tears of joy. This Christmas season, this year has brought nothing but blessings, even if some of them were in disguise. I have nothing to feel melancholy about, except the fact that the magical season is over until next year.

Last year, I tried so hard to steer clear of contact and avoid food. I spent a lot of time on my own, and was totally out of it. This year, I felt so present. I loved playing with toys with my little niece, and hearing her adorable voice instruct me on what to do. I shared so many laughs and jokes with my whole family. My mom made a delicious Christmas dinner, and we took a portion of it to a family in need who has really made an impression on my heart this season.

Everyone in our family was around me this year, except for one of my sisters. It was so good to go to a Christmas Eve service with everyone. I have everything I could ever want, or think to ask for. A wonderful job that I wake up every morning excited to go to, lovely friends; old and new, a treatment team that is dedicated in helping me recover, extended family that lives far and near, a little brother that brings joy and laughter to every moment, good books, and all of the necessities that life involves.

I have always loved Christmas, but I think I loved it this year the most. I received many gifts, and I am thankful for all of them, but the one I am most genuinely thankful for is my health. So many people have walked beside me on this journey, and so many continue to. That in itself is a gift. Though I spent many years thinking otherwise, I have come to be able to believe that I am someone who matters. I matter. You matter. What a time to be alive.

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Moving towards acceptance

So many people say it is important to feel comfortable in the clothes you wear in recovery. In fact, it can be a form of self-care, making sure you are wearing something that doesn’t accentuate a part of you that you aren’t ready to face yet, or something that doesn’t show off your new rolls and pudges. You might not believe me, but I can feel my slight muffin top. Sometimes when I walk, my butt seems to be going everywhere. My chest is bigger. I have a belly button now…Yeah, I did before, but now my stomach isn’t flat as a slab of cement, and I can see the indentation of the button on my belly, clear as day. My thighs look huge sometimes. It’s hard to feel these changes, and see them, and not relapse. And then, sometimes it’s easy.

Some days I feel like I am growing into my “new” body quite well. I marvel at how much healthier I feel and look. I enjoy not having people stare in concern at how thin I am. I caught my reflection in the mirror at home one day, and paid special attention to my knees, something I have hated for some time now. Yes, I hate my knees. They are scarred, from (you guessed it!) falling when I was a youngster, and skinning them. They also have a habit of turning in a bit. They’re knobby. I hate them. But when I saw my knees in the mirror, I laughed. They looked kind of cute and pudgy, and I think I am starting to like them. Some days I feel like I am getting huge. And then, one day when I was feeling quite average, and like maybe I am at a good weight. I was walking past a mirrored pole in a clothing store and happened to see a slim girl standing beside me. Oh! That was me..? Wow, I sure was skinny. Perspective. Honesty. Reflection.

There was a time in the throes of anorexia when I could hardly wear jeans and a t-shirt. I couldn’t wear a bra, because it rubbed my skin the wrong way. My jeans always felt too tight. My shirts fit me wrong. I don’t think I was at my lowest weight at this point, but I was definitely not in a goof place. I still get little reminders of my discomfort now and then, when I put on jeans and they fit too tight. Or today, when I walked to my car and I could feel my belly rubbing against my shirt. At this point, I think the only way I could wear clothes that were completely comfortable, would be if I wore a nightgown all day long. And it’s not like this is an issue that arises all the time. But it is something that I am struggling currently, feeling comfortable in my own body. Someday, I hope to be at a place where I can look in the mirror and like what I see. I don’t want to be conceited of course, but there is a fine balance…not hating what you see, not being obsessed with your looks. Acceptance.
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Indicator light

I hopped into my car and turned the key in the ignition, watching the dashboard light up and all of the dials come to life. As I backed out of the driveway, I happened to glance down at the temperature controls of my car, and I noticed a light on that typically wasn’t. The airbag on the passenger side of my car was off, because I had my heavy purse, and a few other items on the seat. Why is this significant? No one knows this, but when I was 13 and just realizing how obsessed I was with my weight, I would sit in my parents van, on my way to an appointment or a therapist session, or on a quick trip out to the local Walmart, and I would wait for the “passenger airbag off” light to appear on the dashboard of the van. One day I had noticed that the light came on, and had looked in the manual to see if there was a way to switch the airbag on again. When I flipped to the correct page I read that the airbag turns of automatically if weight lower than 60 pounds is on the seat. Something in my mind clicked. The light could never go out as I was sitting in that seat. I wouldn’t let it.

Now, years later, I can’t believe I was alive then. I know at one point I weighed myself and I was at 98 pounds, before Ed took over completely. For so long, I was resistant to the thought of ever weighing more than that. Ed said 98 was enough, if not too much. I became so addicted to exercise. I lied about how much I walked and ran. At one point the doctor I was seeing said that some moderate exercise was OK, that walking slowly could be good for my mental state. But I was so adamant that I get my walk in that I made sure it happened every day, rain or shine. When it was winter, Ed told me to walk outside, no matter how cold it was. My mom was worried though, so she told me to call the local time and temperature in and if it was above freezing, I could walk outside. Otherwise I had to walk on her treadmill. I hated walking in the cold and the rain. But Ed told me to do it, and so I did it. I would run. I would exhaust myself to the point where even Ed was a little worried about my heart giving out. Sometimes I would wake up from a deep sleep, sure I was having a heart attack. Others, I would be walking and imagine what would happen if I just collapsed. Who would find me? How long would it take?

And as you probably know by now, as if the addiction to exercise wasn’t enough, I was also watching what I ate. I looked at every nutritional fact label, even those on water bottles (perhaps God had decided to add calories to water now!) because it was such a habit. Now that I have partially climbed out of the hole that I dug, I can appreciate the idea of exercise in moderation. Sometimes a walk sounds delicious, stretching muscles and moving around. But I know that it would be all too easy to overdo it, so I will have to be careful, once I recover fully. I think it has been super important in my recovery, to see that just because I don’t exercise, it doesn’t mean I will balloon into a hippopotamus. I think it has been more beneficial to me mentally not to exercise this time around. I love feeling like I have an excuse to be lazy! I don’t know how much I weigh, (but I do know the “passenger airbag off” light would not be lit up!) and frankly, I don’t care. No one has mentioned a “goal weight” or when I can start exercising again, and I am happy with that. I think my body will naturally begin to work towards health, as I give it the nutritional tools it needs. And eventually, my body will be right where it should be.

Be here now

I heard my heart beating. I felt the valves open and close. My pulse was steady. My hands, connected to my arms, wrapped around my waist as my body twisted slightly to one side, stretching my back muscles pleasantly. My body responded easily to the actions I asked of it.  I wondered if this was going to help me heal.

You would think that in a room full of thirty or more women, I would feel self conscious. That as I followed the instructions, I would curse my body for being the wrong shape and size, for not understanding how to move into the correct pose. That I would worry that the women around me would be judging me. Thoughts of not being “good enough” crept in a few times, but somehow, every time this happened, the instructor would softly say to the whole room something like “you are worth finding this out”. Yes, I thought, I am worth finding the  most comfortable pose.

I was so tense. I am so tense. I found myself clenching my arm muscles, lying in a stiff way. Once I realized this, I slowly allowed my body to relax. “You’re safe here. Relax.” I told myself. And I did. This room was full of women who had stories. I don’t know what they are, but they are all just as valid and real as mine. These women may not have arrived for the same exact reason as I did, but they were all here to heal, relax, and restore.

One of the things the instructor said near the end was “be here now”. I so need to learn how to do that, to genuinely live in the moment. To not jump to the next thing, when the current moment has barely begun. This was my second attempt at trying yoga in my life, and this time, I wasn’t berating my body for how horrible it felt. I felt good. I felt like I could do this. For myself. This practice was very relaxing and we were focusing on breathing and I felt calm. I’m excited to see where yoga will take me in my path towards healing. Maybe this will be a tool to fight Ed. Perhaps this is one of the bigger things I can do to cut through that tough, scaly armor he seems to wear like chain mail, and reduce him down to a tiny version of himself.

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Oh, hello again

I realized this morning that I may have come a long way, but I still have work to do, and lot’s of it. The situation that brought on this thought was my husband offering to cook for me. He wanted to bring me breakfast in bed, and said he would like to make me French toast. I’ve had plenty French toast over the past few months, so that wasn’t an issue…Well, actually it was. I often have breakfast at my parents house, with my mom preparing the food. I don’t observe exactly how she makes it…but I know the gist of what goes into the meal. This morning when my husband offered to make French toast, I could see in my mind’s eye, Ed. Ed has been sleeping a lot these past few weeks, but he must be all caught up because this morning I heard his voice loud and clear “He might make it differently than what your mom does…he might use more butter. He might add milk to the egg.” So I asked if I could have peanut butter toast instead. “Do you have jelly?” I asked. Ed was hoping the answer would be no. “I think so. I think I have a few options.” My husband answered. Ed panicked. “Hmmmm…how about peanut butter toast?” I asked. “French”. I groaned. Ed told me I should have peanut butter toast and a banana. That way I got a fruit taken care of for the day. (This is a typical breakfast I was “prescribed” by my dietitian when I first began seeing her. She has given me much more freedom now, so if Ed would shut up I could just explain to him that I could have fruit with my French toast too…). Finally I shut my mouth, and even though Ed was still able to speak a bit through the gag I put on him, I drowned him out by reading a bit while I waited for breakfast. In bed.

What happened after all of that fighting between Ed and I? I ate the French toast. It was delicious. And the only reason I am still thinking about it is because I’m writing this. Otherwise I would have moved on with my day. That is a huge improvement from the symptoms I had before. 6 months ago, I would have obsessed over this meal for ages. Maybe it would only last today, or perhaps the agitation and anxiety would carry over into the next. I would “punish” myself (though I didn’t necessarily call it that…but that is what it was) by restricting at other meals throughout the day.

I am so thankful that I have a husband who fights Ed with my, even if he isn’t privy to the ongoing dialogue. I am also thankful that my husband takes the time to make me breakfast in bed, because it’s “fun” and he knows it’s not something I typically get to do. This guy is the one who got upset when I was in the depths of my battle, and I was giving up. He knew it. And he pleaded with me to get help. At one point he left the room and sat down on the bed in our bedroom. I crept in and apologized, and told him I would take help. But we both knew I didn’t mean it. This is the guy who doesn’t really like vegetables, but knows I am in the adequacy phase of my recovery, and trying to get more fruits and vegetables in, so he bought some little single servings of frozen broccoli and cheese. This is the guy who got regular mayo on my sub sandwich, when I requested lite, and asked me to also get meat on it. He’s the one who bought a muffin from Kwik Star and told me it was my “fun food”, much to my horrified (Ed) delight (me), and then proceeded to ask me throughout the evening if I was “thinking about the muffin” until I laughingly said “should I just eat it?” . Between him, my parents, my sister’s, and my in-laws…I have a great base of support here at home. And I know there are others out there, extended family, friends, and strangers, who are there to give me the accountability I need. I feel so loved, and so blessed.
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