It’s always something

Body image. It’s killing me.

Okay, not literally…yet, but it has made a good effort in the past. And the crazy thing is, I never thought I struggled with how my body looked. Yeah, yeah, I know…obviously I had to dislike something to develop an eating disorder, it really wasn’t like that for me though. I used to see those cliche pictures of a girl looking into a mirror and seeing a body reflected that wasn’t accurate at all, and I’d roll my eyes. I became exasperated with how the world saw my predicament.

Until I started looking through the eyes of the world.

I hate to admit this, but many of my actions have come from caring too much about what others think, or caring too little.

I started comparing my body to other women, and wondering why my jeans didn’t fit me like theirs did, why they had clear skin and I didn’t, why they were so at home in their bodies and I wasn’t…and why am I typing this in the past tense? I still do this, every day. I criticize every little “flaw” I have, and then I turn around and preach self-love. I see the hypocrisy, and I’m sure you do too. I’m really struggling with this, with wanting to look different, even though I don’t really want to. I think these thoughts and I have no idea how they were ever introduced into my stream of thoughts.

These thoughts are a huge roadblock to me, because when I really look deep into my heart, I see the root. The twisted gnarled root that is holding all of my negative thoughts and beliefs in place. I try to blame the growth of this huge menace on instances in childhood, on never feeling or being told I was beautiful or perfect. I know the truth though. I know that I don’t value myself, my life, enough to get past this. I see what I’ve been through (which in some cases has been self-inflicted), and I wonder where I even got the notion that I wanted to recover. Some days, I feel like the only thing keeping my head above water is other peoples expectations of me.

I can look at myself with my logical mind, and see a woman who is “getting back to health”, some days I even feel OK when I catch my reflection. Most days, I avoid my body, looking away when I do catch a glimpse of myself. I know I have work to do, and I don’t want to do it. I can’t bear thinking about eating more food. I can’t get over how hard it is for me to plan meals without panicking. I’m told it will get easier, after all it has gotten easier sometimes, hasn’t it?

I want to tell someone who will understand, just how hard this is. What hell my mind is all day every day, how much I hate myself. No one understands, and so I keep to myself, hoping this hatred against my body, my very being, will disappear. I want to get angry, and rage. I want to figure out why these thoughts keep invading my mind, and how to stop them. I want to fight, but Ed is telling me I can’t. And the next logical step is to talk back, to do the thing Ed is telling me I cannot do…until Ed tells me my waist is already too big, my acne is flaring up because I’m not eating healthy foods, my thighs are too big and I begin to believe his lies again.

I’m sick and tired of this cage. Of sitting next to my husband who is eating a delicious lunch, and feeling helpless, like I have no power over emotions and my lack of courage. Of feeling hunger, and reminding myself that I can eat in a half hour. I’m sick of feeling beaten down by something that doesn’t even have a physical presence, unless you count me. I still believe I am not Ed, I’m just trying to figure out who I am without him.

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Fear Foods

I know I have referred to “fear foods” here before, and I’m not sure I have ever explained what exactly this term means to me. I’ve been thinking about fear foods a lot lately, because obviously I still struggle, and often it’s on a day-to-day basis. Also, because my dietitian asked me to make a list of fear foods and bring it to our next appointment. I’ve been putting it off, as talking and thinking about the method to my madness is uncomfortable for me in many ways. Writing is a healthy way to get my words out of my brain and onto a page, so thanks for reading, even if it’s just out of curiosity!

So. What is a fear food?

To me personally, a fear food is any edible item that causes me to feel anxious or uncomfortable around. Often, these items are “combination foods”, such as casseroles, pasta dishes, homemade desserts…the list goes on. Another oft feared category for me is anything I know to be high in fat or calories. Sometimes the “food” I fear can be simple, like milk or juice. Pizza and ice cream used to be my biggest fear foods, causing me to beg my parents to let me have something else for a meal…even though I absolutely adore the taste of both of these so called “junk foods”. Now, I eat ice cream nightly (a carton lasts me about 3 servings, thanks to my husband’s generous portions) and pizza is my favorite meal (I lost out on a lot of teenage pizza eating, OK?). 

So why do I still have fear foods? Because I’m not fully recovered. Because I haven’t done that work yet, and because I’m stubborn. There are still foods/bevereges that aren’t favorites and yet a body could benefit from, such as: milk. I don’t “like” milk, but my body could use it. I also don’t like milk because of my little phobia around liquid calories. That’s where this fear food gets tricky. Because I hold one opinion and Ed holds another, and though I try to deny it, I am hearing Ed a little bit. Milk doesn’t appeal to me, and I’m afraid to drink calories, so there’s no drive behind the instruction to drink milk, not like there is with pizza. Tell me to eat more pizza, and I would.

What I wanted to dig into deeper is the emotions behind my thoughts and actions, because I think they are directly linked. So I asked myself: “what is the first emotion I feel when I think about having a glass of milk set in front of me, and being expected to drink it?”, and my answer is: defiance. Which honestly, is the first emotion I feel when being told to eat anything. I also feel anxiety, making my chest tight and my stomach queasy. I’ll often begin to imagine drinking it, maybe even taking a sip. 

These emotions and feelings are uncomfortable, and easier to avoid than dwell on. Fear foods are easier to avoid than to dwell on, and the last stage for me, to dealing with a fear food, is body image. I still view my body as something to shrink, not something to nourish and care for. I yearn to look at my waist and not fear it expanding. It makes me uncomfortable to pull on a pair of jeans, and see a muffin top forming as I button them. And so I avoid what I fear, because somehow doing that will make my days easier.

Ask and you shall receive

I’m not sure when exactly I realized that I have deep rooted pain and beliefs, though I am sure my curiosity and mindfulness expanded by leaps and bounds when I began therapy. I began seeing a therapist as a young teen, and I didn’t really see the point in telling this lady, who had no reason to care about me or listen to my stories, about my problems and thoughts.

Unfortunately, this frame of mind stuck with me for a long time, through several therapists. Eventually I gave up on the mental side of things, along with the physical and nutritional parts. I don’t look at this as time lost though, because I can honestly say I was not ready to open up and learn anything about my thought processes and beliefs at that time. It took years of going back and forth, for me to finally get to a place where I was getting up and showing up.

Finally, I felt “ready” to open up and tackle my inner demons. I see now, how I had to wait for not only the right person to help me with this side of things, I also realize just how starved my brain was.  All of a sudden, things began clicking and I saw connections where before, I thought there were none.

A few weeks ago, I was prompted to take a closer look at my relationship to myself. I think this has come about gradually, the ability (even the option) to stare my problems in the face. It’s not easy, and I am by no means “good” at it. Sometimes you must do things you are not comfortable with though, right? That being the case, I am uncomfortable a lot of the time. Often, I can’t put my feelings or thoughts into words. This can be frustrating, because in therapy, I desperately want to become a person who knows herself better. It’s difficult to carry on with tough stuff when communicating is a weakness!

So, I voiced my concern that I felt a huge roadblock in my recovery: self worth. Or, more precisely, self love. I have known for a long time that I don’t get along well with myself. Internal battles are raging at almost all hours of the day, I often choose to drown them out by distracting myself or pouring myself into mindless activities.

I’ve been attempting to be a little more focused when it comes to my wants and needs, and I immediately made a connection last week and this week that I think might shine some light on at least one aspect of my self worth/ love:my ability to ask for what I want, need, desire or hope for.

I found myself observing situations that were so simple, yet for me the scenarios were bringing up some realizations. I heard my little brother voicing his needs and wants. I observed family asking for simple things, and I was aware that this is something I rarely do. Then, I recalled situations where I have been asked for something and been able to provide it, and the sense of helpfulness that gave me. Not deprivation, helpfulness.

I’ve looked back at several instances throughout the past few weeks, and how I handled them. I’ve looked back at the times I remember thinking I might be a more fulfilled being if I had asked for: (fill in the blank), and I recall feeling a little bit deprived, because I desired something that was readily available to me, and yet I lacked the self worth to ask for it.

I deny my own needs and wants, in an attempt to push down the feelings that might come up. Feelings associated with me not being deserving, worthy, or needed. In this way, I tell myself silently that I am less than, and I often end up depriving myself in a small way. Am I afraid I am taking from someone more worthy than me, if I request this one small thing? Am I doubtful of the outcome? What would happen if I actually voiced my want or need, and it is denied?  These are all questions I am trying to answer bit by bit.

I can recall this process repeating itself over and over in childhood. This mindset, or belief, did not pop up out of nowhere, it has been a part of me for longer than I can remember. From holding back my wants as a girl wanting to fit in with my peers, to offering someone else the last slice of pizza when I’m still a tad hungry, I am now acknowledging this hurdle. And just like the tennis net I attempted to jump over when I was twelve, I’m sure I will get my foot caught the first time I try to turn this around. It’s going to be painful and I might get a little disoriented, but to continue on this trajectory will only hold me back in the long run.

Needs, wants, desires, I see you. I see all of the times I denied you. I hurt because of you, and I wonder at my actions and what could have been if I would have just spoken up. I see how connected you are to the path I have taken, and I am going to commit myself to voicing my opinion, my needs, my thoughts.

Emotional eating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solutions that lasted, only if I followed his plan.

Eagerly, I signed up.

 

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

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

Hungry for purpose and meaning.

Ed told me hunger was weakness.

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

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

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

This meant not eating foods I used to love.

Keeping to myself and staying quiet.

Not rocking the boat.

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

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

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

Eating food made me feel guilty.

Food was scary, and not allowed.

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

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

And then they turned into a nightmare.

 

When I ate, I felt.

Not as much as I used to, but some.

Mostly I felt negative emotions.

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

I felt loved, cared for, safe.

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

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

I hid from food, like I hid from everything.

Dulling the pain and sadness I felt was a relief.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

As I ate, I grew. And grew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Sometimes, I mindfully refuse food, as a punishment.

So I pause and look deeper.

I question my actions, and ed’s voice. 

And I feel.

And it is because I am a highly emotional being.

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

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

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

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