Monthly Archives: June 2016

Talking about it (something we don’t do enough)

This entry is dedicated to all the people who dedicate their lives to talking about it

AD, LV, AW, JS, KD

Thank you so much for all you do XO 

So, if you remember from my first blog post (which was a couple weeks ago, so I don’t expect you to), I explained that one of my main reasons for starting this blog is because eating disorders are not talked about enough. There is not enough awareness of them in the world and they tend to be a very secret thing, something the eating disorder thrives on.

I was in body image group the other day  and we did a very difficult but important exercise. We had to write out positive things about our bodies whether we believed them or not such as, “I love my stomach” or “My thighs are just the right size” and read them outloud in front of a mirror (AWKWARD… Thank you JS :)). Basically the whole idea and point around this exercise was that if someone says something, repeats something, or even talks about something enough they become more aware of it. It becomes more fact and becomes more known and that is what needs to happen in our society with eating disorders.

 

Today I basically wanted to talk about the lack of “talk” surrounding eating disorders. I went to Vroman’s a few hours ago and asked the lady working there if they had any books on eating disorders. She responded with a confused, “Ummmm” before telling me to follow her and we ended up in the tiniest, most miniscule section of books I have EVER seen in my life. Deep in the psychology section, mixed in with numerous books about depression, addiction, bipolar disorder etc. was a tiny white placard with neat black writing printed “Eating Disorders” and on the shelf sat 13 different books to choose from. “13!!” I said it so loud making the guy next to me jumped a little bit. I understand there are a lot more than 13 books written on eating disorders in the world, but the fact that this huge bookstore with rows and rows and sections and sections and genres and genres of books has only 13 books on a disorder that plagues countless men and women and has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness*, I honestly just could not understand it. No wonder it is so easy to hide in the dark with an eating disorder. Why would anyone want to come out and express their struggles with something that many consider vain or shallow? Why would anyone want to show their pain and suffering when many people consider them weak or say their disorder is “non-existent”? This is a big problem with not talking about it. When we don’t talk about eating disorders people can’t possibly understand. That isn’t their fault, they’re just not educated. I wasn’t educated when I first got diagnosed and I have an eating disorder. I could tell you the nutrition facts off the top of my head on any product you showed me. I could recite ingredient lists and calorie amounts, but I didn’t know anything about the voice inside my head that was doing this to me.

A couple of Saturday’s ago we were talking about the myths surrounding eating disorders and oh my gosh were there so many. The stigma surrounding eating disorders is incredibly sad, hard to break, and can be very triggering for those who are victim to it. When I went to my school for our Spring Musical, an event I had been looking forward to going to for a while, I was walking through the lobby when I heard a comment, “Are you sure she had anorexia? She doesn’t look that skinny.” A knife to the chest to say the least. In order to have an eating disorder you have to be skinny… ummmm I am so sorry but no! This is a very common belief among many people and probably the most common one that I have come across. And the reason for it is that we don’t talk about what eating disorders are or what they look like. Eating disorders are not super skinny people or just girls or just teenagers. There is not one race, one socioeconomic class, one gender/sex, one age range, one weight, or one family background for someone to struggle with an eating disorder. People from all races, ages, shapes, and sizes can struggle for an eating disorder. There is common misperception (thank you again, society) that only people who are incredibly skinny have eating disorders, and if you do not look that way, well, you do not have one. Society has contributed so many negative perceptions and stigmas around eating disorders (and other mental health issues) and has relied on the fact that people are too closed off to talk about it.

So, I am starting the conversation. I guess I am actually helping the conversation continue on and become much louder, and stronger, and more powerful.

Fighting eating disorders is not an easy process and by having people who understand makes it all that much easier!

PS. Picture at the top are the books that were in Vroman’s

*NEDA https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders

Dear Body Journal Entry: 04/01/2016

I have been debating whether or not to post this for a while now. Obviously if you are reading this, I have decided to post it. This is me being incredibly vulnerable. To be honest, this blog is me being incredibly vulnerable but I am doing this because I am tired of being scared of what everyone thinks of me. Being vulnerable, open, honest, and 100% me is the only way I will be able to love the real, authentic me. This is a letter to my body where I apologize and just express the regret of everything that I did to my body and that my body went through. So, here it goes.

 

My Journal: Dear Body 04/01/2016

 

Dear Body,

You have been broken down and beaten up but still fought on. You have been deprived and neglected but still continued. When I think about you and how I battled you for so long and played my little trick, I feel sad and I feel as if I have betrayed you, I know I have betrayed you. You have given me so many memories and so many second chances. You held on tight when it was easiest to let go. You put my two legs on the floor and pushed me off the warm bed in France and carried me to school everyday as you shivered to keep you warm. I haven’t thanked you or at least given you the thanks you deserve. Thank you, body, for protecting me when I didn’t know how to protect myself. Thank you for allowing me to run, jump, laugh, and discover. Thank you for keeping me strong enough to make it back to America. My dear body, I have been so consumed with hating you that I have never told you how much I love you. I love you because you are the strongest body I have ever met. Because you have carried me from the mountains to the ocean (literally). Because you stuck with me and always stuck it out with me. I love you because you have taken the most hits from me but still continued on. No matter how many times I broke you down, you still built me back up. Dearest body, I am so proud of you. You are so wise and you knew what was best for me even when I didn’t. You took a storm of hate, pain, and neglect, yet still persevered.

Dearest body, I am learning to love you because you are MINE and that needs to be good enough for me.

Recovery: The Scariest (and most rewarding) roller coaster out there

This entry is about my perceptions on/what I have learned about recovery. I just want to explain my reality of it – not 100% great, not 100% awful.

 

My Journal: Recovery Blurb 04/20/2016

 

Recovery goes up, down, backwards, and forwards. When I first heard this in my Monday night support group in my first week of recovery, I had NO clue what they meant. Now, I completely understand what they mean. It is truly a roller coaster.

There have been phenomenal days when I am so motivated, my recovery voice is booming, and I feel so confident and strong. There are the other days though where I feel as if I’m going to have my eating disorder forever (cue black and white thinking here), and I hate everything about myself. The lump in my throat has turned into a boulder, and all that I have learned about the pain that my eating disorder caused, has vanished. But hun, that’s life and that is what I tell myself. I am supposed to be living my life, but I wasn’t actually living with my eating disorder, I was kind of just existing. I was honestly just a zombie or a robot, programmed to count calories and plan out exercise sessions. That is not living, it’s not even breathing (when I could actually breathe or wasn’t passed out). It was such an out of body experience that I could not even grasp during the time I was deep in my eating disorder. It was painful, hey, it is painful. But this is life and I want to be able to live it. That is why I go through the backwards to get to the forwards and I embrace the downs because I know the ups are coming too.

Thoughts on the ED

As you might have been able to tell from the title of my post, this is a section from my journal. I was reading through my journal the other day, as I sometimes do because you know, got a lot of free time, but I found this little “blurb” that I thought was interesting. This was written during a time I was really struggling in my recovery and my thoughts have been adjusted and reframed (thanks CBT 🙂 I now am finding my “replacements” etc. but anyway, here it is.

 

My Journal: 03/16/2016

My eating disorder is kind of like an appendix. It’s in you and it’s there and it starts to bubble and it kind of explodes or bursts into a big mess and needs to be taken out. It’s not a necessary part of the human being and with it taken out, I am not really losing anything big, I am just losing something detrimental to my life. Right now, my eating disorder is my identity and I am scared to lose it, even though it is slowly killing me. Like the appendix, it doesn’t really need to be replaced with anything but I just think it does. I am scared to lose the eating disorder because I might not feel whole. I am worried about what will replace it when sometimes the “replacement” is already in me.
I don’t know if that made sense at all but something that has helped me through my recovery is analogizing my eating disorder to “tangible” things. For example, the appendix can kill us if it bursts and we recognize that so that the patient will survive. But with an eating disorder, a lot of victims don’t recognize they are suffering, in danger, or even dying. I know I was oblivious to the fact my eating disorder was killing me, but I  continued with it anyway.

Dealing with triggers

Triggers. What a big topic. There are paragraphs, essays, even books on this topic because this is such a big topic. I couldn’t talk about it all in one blog post so I will give the “shortish” version.

 

For someone who is going through recovery for an eating disorder and then has to reintegrate back into the world is incredibly difficult and comes with a host of what people call “triggers”

Each person entering and following the process of recovery has their own unique and individual set of triggers. “In much of the eating disorder community, trigger is used to describe things that are upsetting and can lead to eating disorder behaviors. It is common to hear a patient speak of being “triggered” by specific foods, situations, and interactions.”* This definition, I feel, simply describes the meaning of a trigger. There are many different types of triggers one can experience. Many common ones include seeing one’s weight, shopping, parties/scenes with lots of food, certain comments about appearance, diet talk, the eating habits of others etc.

Ok, enough clinical talk, I don’t have a degree… yet, hehe.

 

Deep in my eating disorder and even at the beginning of treatment I was apparently triggered by a lot, but I didn’t even realize it. I would buy my friends food just so they would eat more than me, I tracked what my family ate along with what I ate, and if anyone talked about someone with a good body it propelled me into constant conversation (more like me listening to) my eating disorder voice. My first few weeks in recovery, I would feel so ashamed if I ate my food quicker than the other girls, if I finished my meal, if I chose a more “challenging” snack etc. Actually, my eating disorder felt ashamed and guilty. I wanted to be the best anorexic out of all of them and I know, I know that sounds kind of sick and twisted but that is just how much my eating disorder manipulated my mind. My eating disorder made me detest certain people because they were “skinnier” than me and I didn’t even take the time to get to know them as a person. To say it simply, I was triggered by so much which then affected so many relationships and made it difficult to go out. But, along with the eating disorder thoughts that once plagued my mind, my triggers decreased as well. Through the three months I have been in treatment, I have discovered the plethora of triggers that I never thought would bother me and as I learned about them, I learned how to battle them.

 

Triggers are an incredibly difficult thing to deal with. To be quite honest, they absolutely stink. I mean, as if it is not hard enough already to be fighting the own “little” voice in my head, I know have to fight outside forces as well, hell am I tired! Honestly, there is no “How To” on how to not let triggers be a both or an outline and exact plan on how to decrease them, but there are some things that I did, that helped me.  I believe one of the biggest triggers in eating disorders, or at least for me, is being around others that are struggling with the same thing. Seeing girls that are skinnier than me, eat less, exercise more makes my skin crawl.

 

The person who makes it furthest in their eating disorder ends up gone and never actually gets to live a life. I viewed all these girls as competition instead of humans. I viewed all of my now closest friends as people that I had to beat. I had to be sicker than them, skinnier than them, eat less than them, and why you ask? Well to be completely honest, I don’t know. It seemed perfectly rational back in the depths of my eating disorder, but now I look back on it and just think how absolutely ridiculous I was being. Of course I didn’t see it then and it is still difficult for me to channel my rational mind when I am surrounded by a group of people that are talking about dieting or when people talk about how little they’ve eaten. But the biggest thing I have realized is that I have been in that spot. I might have triggered others at one point and look at me now, I am struggling. These people that are participating in diet talk etc are struggling just as I once struggled. They are not holding these conversations around me to trigger me instead I should look at it as something that I relate to and identify with. I guess what I am trying to say is that I have learned these people are human beings just as I am. Now, not saying I am 100% over all triggers, I just now have an idea implanted in my head to help me get through each triggering moment, of which there will be many because that is the process of recovery and that is the path I have chose to continue on.

 

*Eating Disorders Glossary

http://glossary.feast-ed.org/5-psychology-and-therapies/triggers

Question 1: June 1, 2016

Question: Why is it so hard to get rid of an eating disorder?

My friend asked me this question the other day as I was explaining my idea to her about having a question/response section on the blog where readers can ask me any questions they want and I will respond to them and post them in the response question. ANYWAYS… here is my response to this very important question that is very hard for many people to understand.

To be completely honest, before I fell victim to my eating disorder and even entered recovery I wondered why it was so difficult to go through treatment for a mental illness such as an eating disorder. I have perceived in today’s society that there is such a stigma surrounding eating disorders and mental disorders in general. Eating disorders in particular are rarely talked about. I remember researching eating disorders when I was about to start recovery and I found a lot of pro-ana (pro anorexia) sites, a few quotes, and a bit of research. I know that our society is progressing and we are starting to be more open about mental disorders but to be completely honest, right now, the stigma surrounding eating disorders sucks. When people don’t talk about a particular topic, how is anyone ever supposed to learn and understand what the whole idea is about? I mean, I knew nothing about chemistry before I started talking about it in sophomore chemistry class. I then became educated, learned the rules and basics surrounding the subject of chemistry and to be honest the same can be done for eating disorders.

I swear I am getting around to answering the question, just bear with me. I am going to be completely honest, there are some moments when I don’t know why it is so hard to “get rid” of an eating disorder. It is not like an illness where someone can take a couple antibiotics or lay in bed for a couple days and they are all better. I have heard from too many people who think that this is the way it is. I go to treatment and as soon as I am eating the food, I am ok. I am all better if I am weight restored or I can all of the sudden eat a cupcake without having a panic attack. Nope, that’s not it. I so wish it were that way. I wish there was a magic medicine to get rid of the eating disorder, or a formula that worked for each and every person. An eating disorder is so much more than just an incapability to eat food. It is something that plagues its victim from waking to sleeping. It is a cover up for a much bigger and deeper problem. Some people deal with repercussions of sexual harassment, verbal abuse, emotional abuse etc. It is a way to cover up and cope with all of the underlying issues and that is one of the biggest reasons why it is so hard to recover. Once the eating disorder is gone, you are forced to deal with all of the problems that lead to the eating disorder in the first place. It is so incredibly painful to be losing something that was considered a “best friend”, and then have to gain weight, and then on top of all that, have to deal with the emotions and the painful past that might have contributed to all of this.

As detrimental as an eating disorder is to one’s health (physically and mentally), I have experienced my own personal inner struggle with recovering from my eating disorder. My eating disorder gave me everything that I could have ever asked for. It gave me the body I thought I wanted, it gave me what I thought was strength and confidence over others, and it took away any problem that could have confronted me because of the numbing pain that is brought. But, as I have learned through recovery, these were all false “gifts” that the eating disorder bestowed upon me. The eating disorder is the most manipulative, mean, cruel thing I have ever encountered in my life. I can’t even see it so I don’t know who to talk to when I am trying to fight it. An eating disorder plagues the mind. It makes it impossible to see what the body actually looks like. The distorted perceptions and ideas are so detrimental to the uprooting of the eating disorder.

There’s a quote saying, “You can miss something but not want it back” and that is exactly how I feel about my eating disorder. I know I really really don’t want my eating disorder back, but it is hard to actually KNOW that I don’t want my eating disorder back. It is so hard to get rid of an eating disorder because a lot of the times a victim doesn’t even want it gone. How are you supposed to get rid of something that you love or that you think you love? It’s really, really hard, but not impossible. It is day after day of saying no to the voice in your head. Meal after meal of just picking up the damn fork and putting food into your mouth. It is thought after thought racing through your mind telling you how worthless you are and not knowing how to stop them. They are there in a power struggle every step of the way until years later into recovery they finally give up and the person battling it keeps fighting on.

A day in the life of & other thoughts

I get many questions from my friends and family members inquiring exactly what it is like to live with an eating disorder and then have to fight through recovery. In treatment we dedicate entire days to help our family members and other loved ones understand what it is like to live with an eating disorder and what exactly goes through the mind 24/7. So I guess I could give you a quick “run down” on what it is like.

 

I am a morning person, always have been, always will be (I hope 🙂

I wake up each and every morning at 6 or 7 am and that is when the voices start. I only get peace when I am asleep, but it has been getting a lot easier through treatment. I fight to access my rational mind through my breakfast preparation and then as I eat the food I just put together. I use the wondrous coping skills of Netflix (currently watching Hawaii 5-0, highly suggested or even more highly suggested… Scandal!!!) I take my puppy Cooper for a walk and then come back for miscellaneous activities such as journaling, knitting, writing for this blog, catching up on school work, looking for a summer job etc (see, I am kind of just like a normal teenager!) and then it is off to treatment!

 

I am currently in PHP (but soon to be moving to IOP!) which means 7 hours a day 6 days a week of treatment (at least it’s not residential). Each day we have miscellaneous groups such as CBT, Process, Body Image/Mindfulness, Discharge Planning, Yoga, and so much more! I try so hard to listen to each and every word the therapists say during the groups but it is so hard when there is this voice in my head screaming at me, forcing me to think about my next meal or what food I will be eating and when. I don’t want to think this way, it is just that I don’t know how to stop these thoughts. For those of you who understand what this constant waking to sleeping struggle is like also understand just how draining this process is. Even if I am eating, or I am weight restored, or I am not having behaviors, I am still having those thoughts (as of right now, I am working to get them to go away). Eating disorders don’t go away just like that. It takes time and it takes healing. Recovery is a powerful, overwhelming, painful yet beautiful process, that is why I go to treatment each and every day. That is why I wanted to create this blog. I am hoping it will help me process certain ideas, talk about a rough day, but also reach out to others that are struggling too.

 

Back to my day… before I entered treatment, my day was spent in my room; shakily counting calories, planning my next workout, panicking and feeling guilty about how much I ate or how much I will be eating. Now, I laugh as I prep my lunch, play games as I eat my dinner, and head into the next group with few feelings of guilt or anxiety (usually). I used to cry everyday because I had eaten or because I had failed my eating disorder, but I cry now because all I want is for it to be gone. I talk with many of my friends that I met in treatment (there will be a post about all of these amazing people later) and just the pure frustration that the eating disorder instills. It is honestly just so frustrating and infuriating to live with an eating disorder. Like I said previously, my mind is always focused on my biggest fear. Imagine being arachnophobic and having to be surrounded by spiders 24/7. My eating disorder is scared of food and I must be surrounded by it 24/7 for my health, that is so incredibly frustrating. During any sort of down time I frantically search for a coping skill to occupy my time. I have filled up 200 pages worth of journal, watched 11 seasons of 4 different shows, 21 movies, driven to the beach just because, cleaned my whole house at least 5 times, and cooked probably more than a professional chef does, all to take my mind off of my fear.

 

As I go through each day of treatment, I recognize each day is different. There are many days where I am the most confident person on the planet and it is as if I don’t even have my eating disorder but there are many others where I feel as if my eating disorder is my identity and will be for the rest of my life or that it will be just me and Ed forever… BUT it won’t. It can’t be. I had a life once with no eating disorder and I will get back to that point again with the help of the amazing people in my life. Recovery isn’t all bad or all tears. I have met some of the most amazing, kind, and beautiful people and I thank God for them each and every day. I have learned more than I could have ever imagined. I am thankful for recovery and this process even though it is a long and tiring one.

 

Love to all!

 

For my loves,

JD, JF, CL, KG, RC, EM, IT, GV

 
“Surround yourself with people who get it”