Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wake up

When sleep feels like the only safe place.

When dreams are nowhere to be found.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something intuitive tells me this could be a breakthrough.

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

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

Maybe there is something unvisited deep inside me.

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

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

No wonder I had no friends.

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

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

Nothing holds much interest, besides sleep. 

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

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

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

I know better days can and will happen.

I know this too shall pass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Focus 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting through the day. Focusing on that next step.

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

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

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

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

First snow

I woke up to a world covered in wet flakes.

I felt at peace and safe, eating surprise cinnamon rolls and drinking hot coffee.

I was thinking of a handful of years ago…

When the snow meant shoveling, something I wasn’t allowed to do.

What a little devil I was about it. How my mom probably wanted to shake me, make me see.

Of course I wasn’t allowed to shovel. I was a tiny bird, teetering on the edge of the nest. I was a danger to myself.

I would get so angry! At how unfair it was, that my sisters could do this chore, and not me.

Looking back, I see how trivial it was. How annoying and childish I was, and at times still am.

After all, it’s only snow. (After all, it’s only food.)

How often this term has run through my mind. “Ugh! I know it’s only pizza! Why am I so afraid?”

Or more recently: “It’s only food, it’s only eating at “normal” times”.

Sometimes the words we use can be beneficial in one statement, and detrimental in another. 

It can be helpful to remind myself gently that it is in fact “only food” or “only exercise”.

And it can be piercing when someone thinks they are being helpful by saying these same words, and instead, is discounting my struggle.

I remember how I’d cry and throw a fit about not being able to do something “normal”. 

How I’d despise my sisters for their ability to do whatever they liked, whenever they liked.

Snow brought out the worst in me.

I remember how I’d anxiously call the local “time and temp” number, to report to my mom how cold it was.

How mad I would get over the windchill, when the temperature was above freezing.

Below freezing meant I really shouldn’t go outside at all, let alone walk my paper route, or the dog.

I am free now. Free to shovel and walk and breathe in icy gusts of wind.

This knowledge brings me a sense of peace. And also, thankfulness.

Because I know how easy it is to slip back. And I don’t even like shoveling, how ironic. 

Knowing I am free is also a scary thing, because I am only holding on to this freedom with the strength I once used to tear myself down.

On that Sunday morning of our first snow, I spent a bit of time focusing on my past, and I also dwelt on the present moment.

Savoring a warm house, a kind husband who takes such good care of me, hot coffee, a beautiful blanket of snow outside my windows, and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. (Let’s just say it’s been a long time since I had cinnamon rolls for breakfast.)

I’ve been reminding myself that I must do the thing I think I cannot do. I know I can do it, it’s the doubts and can’ts that hold me back.

I can

So what do you do when you’re afraid? You face your fear head on. With the facing of this fear comes power and a peacefulness that tells you that this is the right choice.

Yesterday was a day of “I can’t” and “I won’t”. I fought and fought, yet nothing changed. I fought a war in my head, and in my body.

I know I’ve been slipping, and I know I’ve been hiding. 

Thanksgiving morning came and went. I slept in until noon, and only left the house to run a few errands. A cloud of shame and exhaustion followed in my footsteps.

I was torn, knowing that I was giving in when I made excuses and closed my eyes. I avoided dinner, and ate my “safe” foods, asking over and over again: why me?

My head is full of questions and my heart is full of answers, and yet the two never collide. I feel as though I am in a dream, and I honestly cannot see beyond this minute, this second.

Two days have passed since Thanksgiving. I am slowly forgiving my mistakes, and trying to make better choices.

I realized I have an appointment with my dietitian on Monday, and I considered calling to reschedule. I also have an appointment with my therapist.”I can’t handle two appointments next week!” I told myself.

I can.

Today, tomorrow, and Monday I am determined to use my skills for good. I know how to cope best by using Ed. Today, I am looking to my true self, whoever that may be, and choosing compassion. I am doing all I can to drown out Ed.

I wrote down countless quotes last night, building up my backlog of encouragement. I may feel weak, but I know I am strong.

I woke up today with a sense of determination and love. Today, I will choose to be kind. Today, I will nourish myself. Today, I will listen to my hunger.

I am struggling. And I have been.

Recovery and ambition comes and goes. Today I am reminding myself that I can. And even though I didn’t meet my own expectations on Thanksgiving, I am showing myself today that I can make progress in other ways.

Yes, I made decisions on Thanksgiving that I am not proud of. I like to think that I learn from my mistakes, and I have a goal now.

My sights are set on Christmas. I may not find the traditional Christmas meal as tasty as pizza or a burger, and that’s ok. I can eat a meal with my family in the name of tradition, personal goals, and celebration though, and that is what I hope to do next month.

The skills I am using to get there are compassion, accountability, self care, and nourishment. Any and all thoughts, words of encouragement, and prayers are greatly appreciated.

The battleground

I woke up today with a question tugging at my mind…why do I hate myself? 

I closed my eyes and lay in the bed. Trying to sort through my thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

I imagined a battleground. Though there were others milling around us, I knew this fight had to come down to a war between me and Ed.

I saw Ed rushing me, sword thrust forward for a harmful blow.

And then…

I saw me. I was wearing chain mail and little leggings and a long sleeved top. I was on my toes, ready and waiting. And I saw myself block Eds attack and slash his throat.

I didn’t see the aftermath. I know how this story ends though. 

I win.

I have to.

Yesterday I had an appointment with my dietitian. I knew the day was coming when I’d have to seriously get back on track.

Holidays are looming, and I’m so scared. Because last year felt like a dream. I ate and celebrated. I even had a slice of pie.

This year I already feel the struggle. I gave some power back to Ed. He sweet talked me into unlocking the padlock on his cage, and though I have some armor on, some tools in my belt, Ed is so sneaky.

He tells me I don’t have to eat a meal just because everyone else is. That I don’t really want that food anyway.

This past week has been tough. I’d like to blame it on my hormones, and though I’m sure some of my emotions are being dictated by that, I know I have to take some of the responsibility.

I don’t feel good. And I’m really struggling with knowing who I am. I don’t know who I am supposed to be, and I am afraid.

Why do you hate yourself?

I countered this with the query: do I hate myself? 

If I don’t fully know who I am, how can I really, truly, hate myself? 

When I asked myself these questions, I listened to my heart. 

My heart answered that I don’t hate myself. I hate how Ed makes me feel, and I am afraid of finding my true self.

I am not constantly thinking negative thoughts about myself, rather, if you were to approach me and ask me how I really felt about myself, deep down? 

I’d say I don’t really like “myself”.

I’m realizing how many of my emotions can be connected to fear. I am afraid, no matter how much I try to convince myself that everything is ok.

I am constantly reminding myself that I am safe. I am constantly feeling like I am in danger.

This leads to anxiety, which causes me to think of food, instead of really feeling my emotions. I drown out the feelings of fear with concentration. 

I count more, I question more, I listen to Ed more.

It’s “easier.”

Than what, you ask?

Than feeling my true feelings.

However,

I know what I need to do.

I know how I need to do it.

My heart is beating a million times a minute. As I crest the grassy hill, I catch the first glimpses of Ed’s army.

I remember this place.

I tighten my grip on my sword, and square my shoulders. 

It’s time for war.

It’s the milk

Sometimes it can be hard for me to be totally honest on this blog. I’m not always sure if my progress is relevant. However, this past week I had a “proud moment” and wanted to share it.

To get you allll caught up on the situation:

I’ve had a phobia of liquid calories for almost as long as I can remember. I know it’s not logical, and it’s one of the fear food categories I know I will need to do a lot of work on.

So….

This week I decided to challenge myself. One night I skipped my snack, and I made a deal with myself, kind of using the “if/then” method of flexible thinking backwards. 

I told myself that if I didn’t have my snack that night, then I would try some almond milk in my coffee the morning at work. 

I know that might sound pathetic to you, however, to me it’s the equivalent of being phobic about spiders, and then telling myself that to get over that fear I should touch a spider every day.

So the first day was hard, especially because I felt a little sick after sipping on just a half cup of coffee or less. This got me to regretting even trying the vanilla almond milk in my coffee in the first place!

Then I changed the rules, in a good way. I know myself better than anyone else. So I know I have an all or nothing view of the expectations I have of myself.

 I know that when I take a bite of food, I have basically just comitted to finishing that food. I know I avoid liquid calories at all costs, because they cause me to be uncomfortable, and why feel discomfort if I don’t have to?

I gave myself permission to toss the coffee if I grew tired of it, or it became old and cold. I ended up being very caught up in the coffee/milk before drinking it, and when deciding I had had enough. I kept sipping it even after it had become tepid, I was so “attached” to the coffee and the all or nothing mindset, that it was hard for me to jump over that last little hurdle.

Once I threw the old coffee out, I didn’t stew over my consuming it (or lack thereof). It felt nice to confirm that I could face a huge fear and stressor without using behaviors after the fact.

While this is a small victory for me, and I am still obviously working through my feelings and emotions, I wanted to share this story with you, to really illustrate the effects of small events and their impact on someone in recovery. 

Facing things like this is stressful, because even approaching the idea makes me begin to feel uncomfortable. However, I am going to choose to sit with my emotions and feel them. Because, as my favorite saying goes, This too shall pass.


Cultivation

I’ve been going to bed with a headache.

Maybe it’s my new glasses?

I have a feeling that it’s not.

I look deep inside myself and see a little girl, curled up in a ball.

Waiting.

Waiting for strength, wisdom, and truth.

My mind is a bed of dirt.

My memories and experiences are artifacts.

Digging the trowel in is difficult, and I know it will bring some pain.

What I find in the loamy earth intrigues and saddens me.

All of these things over time have collected and formed who I am.

I touch each found item, marveling at the way it changed me.

Pain, love, beliefs, people.

And who am I?

I have a hutch where I go to gaze upon my life thus far.

All of the trinkets and pieces of myself others that have been laying forgotten in the soil.

It is the only way to heal and receive answers.

I am afraid. And curious.

Some days it is difficult to face what I find.

Accepting my story is an ongoing process.

I look at my collection of experiences, memories, pieces of my life.

Some of the items aren’t pleasant. I acknowledge them, and thank them for the growth they offered.

Every moment has its place. Every coincidence set in place before I could ever conceive it.

I am a conglomeration of time. Moments and years.

You cannot judge a book by it’s cover and you cannot measure a life’s worth by accomplishments made.

I am finding my place. I am discovering peace.

Like. Care for. Fancy.

I began to write in this blank space, and the first words that I typed were pretty sad.

I realized I was writing about how hard everything is and how I’m struggling.

And the words my therapist spoke came back to me, about how powerful words are. About how the way we narrate our stories matters.

I could write about how my day is dragging and I’m tired of fighting and I just want a group of strong women to talk to because I have so many thoughts and questions.

I could write a hopeless post about how I don’t feel like I’m moving anywhere and how my heart is so tired.

Instead of focusing on all of the things I feel like I am doing “wrong”, I’m going to try to put a different perspective on things.

Yes, I’m tired. I’m also exhilarated. 

I’m learning so much, I’m packing my bags with tools and new ways of thinking.

I’m becoming more aware. Of the words I speak, the actions I make, of my own voice.

All of the little changes are adding up.

Limiting beliefs are being ripped away, leaving space to be filled with curiosity.

I’m trying to put everything into perspective. I’m learning to feel and be unafraid.

I was so out of it, for so long. I often look in the mirror and study my face, not quite recognizing it.

Reading Brene Brown and finally understanding her words fully.

Questioning the language I use around food. Why is it always “need” for me?

 I have to need food to deserve it. I have to be light headed, tummy grumbling, diet soda sipping hungry, to even think about asking ed for a bite.

This is what I became, a girl, shackled to a monster. He told me I didn’t need anything.

So I set out to find a new word, in its place. I chose 4. 

Like. Care For. Fancy.

These words are pleasant, even fun! Asking myself “would I care for more” instead of “do you need more?” sounds much less threatening.

Words hold emotion and power. 

I never realized before now, just how much.

Muscle memory 

Last Sunday was bright and beautiful. I woke up late, as I enjoy to sleep in when I have a day off. 

I slept a little later than I meant to, but with sleep, I trust my body. It used to be that, as with food, I fought tooth and nail against my inner clock. I would force myself to stay awake even when a nap seemed logical or like a nice idea. Naps were a waste of time, and I didn’t need them.

One of the things I’ve really come to appreciate, for healthy reasons, is sleep. I nap if I feel like it now. Some days I don’t “feel like it” and nap anyway.

Getting back to my point- last Sunday was amazing because I got a lot of sleep. And because I went for a run. I also ruined my favorite pair of running shoes, but that’s kinda besides the point.

I went for a run! If you’ve been following my story at all, you might either be confused, or you might be doing a happy dance on the inside…a run?!

Yeah, the correct reaction would be a happy dance. People, I haven’t intentionally exercised in months. I think the last time was in the early Spring. Obviously, I’m not keeping track. 

Not keeping track…

What a thought. For so many years, I exercised whenever I could. If my family was going out of town for the day , I had to go for a walk before we left. It was exhausting and it kind of makes me sick to think about. My brain was full of numbers. Minutes I “had” to exercise, calories I was eating, time left in the day.

Sunday, when I set out for my run, I felt so good. I had no route in mind (a must for my previous, teen self) and I had an iPod full of podcasts. I began walking, thinking I’d go where my body took me. (Also, if this turned out to be a failure, at least I was being my good, multitasking self and feeding my brain a constant stream of words).

Well, the podcast thing just wasn’t working. I had walked a few blocks and was bored already. I craved movement, and not in a punishing way like before. I turned on some music, Broods I think, and my feet tripped to the beat

“hallelujah, I’m free, I’m free, I’m free ”

And I was free.

I ran out of joy, I ran out of peace. Out of rest, and caring for my body. Hallelujah, I’m free.

It was only until a few days later that I realized: I ran and when I was tired, I walked. When I got home, I sat down for a while and relaxed. And the epiphany…my brain can heal

It almost brings me to tears to think of it. I ran! And when I got done, my first thought wasn’t about how many calories I had burned, or what I would or wouldn’t eat. It wasn’t about having to do this again tomorrow. 

It wasn’t about obsession. 

And maybe you’re thinking ok, big deal. And maybe if I had never been on this journey, I would too. The thing is, I recognize this as a huge leap for me.

When I was first told I had an eating disorder, I felt so alone. At the time, I didn’t use the Internet a whole lot. I read as much as I could about anorexia, and many of the texts were probably outdated. One thing that I remember very clearly, is the belief that I better heal and get my act together before my teen years were over, as my brain would stop having plasticity and the capacity to change (in my mind) the minute I turned 20.

New research and studies on the brain have come out, and given people like me hope. Healing is possible.

My run is a perfect example of the new research being legitimate. Like my dietitian told me last year,  imagine the pioneers. Their wagon wheels made ruts in the earth that can be seen (in places) to this day. This is a perfect metaphor when talking about the habits and rituals I held for so long. My brain is a lot like the dirt those wagon wheels cut into. My actions and thoughts for ten years left big indentations in the healthy parts of my brain. Over time, these pathways might heal, given the proper thoughts, adequate fuel, and cessation of harmful behaviors (as much as I’d like to say I’m there, I’m not quite yet). Some day they might become like those wheel ruts: old trails I walked frequently at one time, but must search to find the scars of now. 
I’ve seen many subtle signs of healing happening. This revelation is the most prominent so far though. And I surely didn’t get here fast or easily. I see a long road ahead of me. Recovery is hard, and I know I have a lot of work to do still. It’s breakthroughs like this that give me the courage and hope to continue and keep moving forward.