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.

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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.


 

Hello, Goodbye

This year has given me so much. Joy, pain, tears, happiness, sadness, laughter, love…the list goes on. 

Last year at this time, I was searching. And this year, I am searching still. This doesn’t mean I haven’t grown or learned, it simply means I haven’t found my peace yet.

It’s hard for me to picture another year come and gone. I often struggle to see beyond the present, and yet I never feel like I am fully living in the moment. My brain is often on overdrive, most of the time with worries or food related stress.

I can’t remember what my expectations of 2016 were. I’m sure among them were “recovery”, “loving myself more”, “spending more time with those I love” and of course, “reading more books”.

Recovery didn’t happen. Healing, yes. Recovery, no. In fact, as I write this, I feel less recovered than I have in a long time. I know full recovery takes as long as it needs to. I am trying to be patient and kind with myself, and yet am finding more questions than answers.

Loving myself more was a great intention to have, I think. I once had a conversation about the belief that one must love themselves first, in order to truly love others. At the time, I had no argument for either side, and as I’ve grown, and given more permission to myself to be curious, I am coming to find that I truly don’t love myself, though I do love others. I have often struggled with love; accepting and giving (mostly accepting), and am learning how detrimental this can be in recovery from an eating disorder. I am excited to see what loving myself might look like, and though it is frustrating, I’m trying to believe it might be possible.

I think I may have succeeded with spending more time with those I hold near, though I may not have been as present as I could have. Much of the dark side of anorexia for me is held in the isolation and removal of myself. I know I spent many days holed up when I could have been spending time with others. I am learning to accept this as a fact, and preparing myself for a more flexible approach in the future. Some day, I hope to have a better excuse for not showing up than “I was scared of the food”.

The one expectation that I fulfilled completely was reading more books. I’m more embarrassed than proud about this though. The more I read, the less time I spend in “real life”, though I hold the opinion that reading keeps me sane. I plan to continue to read as much, if not more, in 2017; hopefully integrating piles of self-help and biography titles into my shelves.

I don’t usually make resolutions for the new year. So this year, I am making intentions. Below are the 3 intentions I hold for the new year. All of them are things I can do every day, and yet they are challenging in lots of different ways:

  • To live presently
  • To tame my expectations
  • To learn more about myself

 

Do you carry resolutions or intentions into the new year?  I’d love to hear advice, feedback, and experiences!


 

 

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.