Today I reflected on the disordered declarations I used to make every morning while in my eating disorder.
I would spend hours scrolling through fitness instagrams. Updating myself on the latest health trends, finding exercise gurus to follow, and pinning vegetarian recipes.
I would go to sleep with all this newly-found inspiration on how to be thin and active.
It felt exhilarating to create a flawless routine for myself. Thinking: “this time it will work. If I follow this plan, I will never have another unhealthy craving. And I will never want to stop exercising.”
Oftentimes, I fell short of my goal. My motivation to work out would inevitably dwindle, and I’d eat things that caused severe guilt.
I failed yet again. Somehow all these beautiful women I read about could do it, but I wasn’t good enough to keep up.
My personal eating disorder often included binge/purge cycles that crept in about a week after I implemented my strict diet and exercise regimens. And I aways wondered, with such intense self-loathing, how could I allow myself to get to this point, again? What am I doing wrong?
“I just have to try harder,” I would think, as I scrolled though more Pinterest pages and found new ideas on how to tighten the reigns on myself.
I’d spend a long time reading and pulling tidbits from everywhere: what women ate, how they exercised, how much water they drank, how they kept their motivation.
Another night’s sleep would pass in anticipation that… “tomorrow I’ll be good.” and “this is the last time I’ll have to start over.”
Years later, in an eating disorder treatment facility, one of the first steps I took was deleting all accounts that fueled my desire to be thin and fit. I could not allow myself to look at anything that made me feel as though image was ‘all-important.’ This even meant unfollowing certain friends. I made a conscious effort, which was very difficult, to not indulge in the health/fitness and diet culture. I had to be really serious about it.
Two years later, I hold true to this. However, I still see fitness models and seemingly flawless women all around me. I do not seek them out, but it is truly unavoidable (especially with social media.)
I do not speak about it, but I overhear conversations pertaining to the subject. How people plan to lose weight. I hear many people confidently boast about their work out routines, and others “ooh-ing and ahh-ing” at their “dedication.”
I know the truth:coming up with ways to change my body is an absolute waste of my energy and time. I am a better person when I am not trying to be like others. I am proud that I want to obsess over the beautiful/unique aspects of myself, and not pick apart my flaws. My core belief is that self-love is all-important.
But that doesn’t change how hard it is to deal with the fitspo pictures that pop up and conversations surrounding food and body.
When ‘Jill’ talks about how many miles she ran today: I hear the remanence of my eating disorder telling me how flabby I’ve become since I stopped putting so much energy into working out.
When my eyes graze the cover of Women’s Health and I see that another actress dropped ten pounds and gained lean muscle, I wonder: why the hell would I give up focusing on what I’m eating everyday.
I noticed today that my declarations, although lessened, have not stopped completely. They are not as loud and intentional, but they do remain in the back of my head. It’s the little voice that says: “maybe I’ll just give up my mac and cheese.”
or “I have to start using my pull-up bar again.” or “no more desserts for the next two weeks.”
I made a couple of these subtle declarations in therapy.
My therapist stopped me. She reminded me that focusing on food is my way of regaining control in some area of my life. And although my eating disorder isn’t as obnoxious as it once was, it’s still successfully convincing me that I have an inadequate body and I need to change.
If that little voice starts to plan anything related to food or fitness, shift my thoughts and start planing other things: such as what do to with my free time. Start imagining the canvas I plan on painting when I get home from work. Or what facial mask I’ll wear while I pick out a color to paint my nails.
Declarations aren’t quite as bad as I once thought they were.
I can still wake up exhilarated to start or continue something. But, let your declarations be constructive and worthy of your time. Let them be soulful and artistic.
Look forward to your current life, do not plan on changing yourself.
“I declare that I will use my experiences to write more” …
I had another rough day yesterday. Good things happened, I snuggled a toddler. I laughed with my co-worker. I went to therapy and I bonded with my sister.
But my overall feelings toward the day were exhaustion and slightly annoyed.
I wanted to write, I also wanted to do pilates. But, I was too tired by the time I got home-after a 13 hour day filled with screaming toddlers and not very nice people.
I was happy to curl up in bed and looked forward to falling asleep to My Little Ponies.
Shit, I left the remote in the bathroom. I was not getting back up to get it.
I covered myself with the blankets and decided to scroll through my phone.
I have a personal Instagram account and a recovery account. The recovery account is always used for good—I follow inspirational badasses that post about body love and all that good stuff.
The personal account I hate admitting—but can be used for evil. I don’t mean it! In fact, one of my goals when I first started recovery was to unfollow anyone who didn’t make me feel good about myself. This involved people that post constant diet/body posts; people that talk badly of themselves or others. And those people that tend to obsess over making their internet lives seem perfect and flawless—not to call anybody out but you know the ones. They make an identity out of their insta-popularity, and want to see how many likes they can get on a new photo of their flawlessly positioned squat.
More power to those people for all the beautiful selfies—but your posts sometimes make me feel shitty about my humanly cellulite ass so I don’t want to look at them.
Anyway, I was scrolling through my personal account and I saw a photo of my friend working out. (These pictures usually don’t bother me, because the friends I follow aren’t disordered: they don’t crowd their pages with these posts, and they don’t make an identity out of it.)
But last night the photo I was looking at triggered me. Mostly because (and I hate admitting this, too) but she experienced an eating disorder as well, and I felt like she was winning. Winning what? God, I don’t know. Can she really have recovery and work out as much as her instagram shows?
God, it really triggered me. I missed the high I used to get when I was back on a workout binge. The lightness I’d feel as long as I was eating only low cal and “good foods.”
I kept scrolling through her page.
Then I started clicking on some other pages: I saw bodies upon bodies of perfectly sculpted humans. Working out, accomplished, smiling, flexing: shit that I clearly am not in this m moment.
I, on the other hand, was drained, feeling bloated from ice cream (that I wasn’t feeling guilty about till this very moment), feeling full. And feeling ashamed of my “recovery body.”
I texted my boyfriend the words that ED was whispering in my ear “fat, lazy, shame, guilt, over-eater, emotional, girly, embarrassing, failure, ugly”
Luckily, I am recovered enough to hear my own voice, as well. And I texted those emotions, too.
I, Tasha, felt: pride—that I listened to my body tonight and laid down instead of forcing a workout after a long day.
Relief—that I don’t have any urges and that I don’t remember the last time I body checked because my goal is no longer to manipulate my body.
And anger—towards this instagram that claimed recovery but mostly shows photos of working out and ED’s old list of “good foods.”
That is not what recovery means to me.
I know I gave into ED last night and looked at a lot of glamorous photos of women.
And I shouldn’t judge whether they are healthy or not.
I know that the part of me getting angry at the damn internet is the part of me that doesn’t love myself. It should not bother me what other people do. Or how other people choose to show recovery.
Maybe I can add more to this article another day, and finish it on a more positive note. But for now, I’ll end it like this. And I do apologize if there’s anyone I offended. But, lord I hope that I can touch someone that stalks those beautiful, flawless people, those flexed abs and happy faces after their killer workout—I hope you read this and take my advice. Stop looking. I don’t really think recovery should be like that, and don’t feel bad if yours isn’t. My recovery is a fucking hot mess. What do I beleive? That there is always something missing on those accounts. Something about their mind, body or life that they don’t want us to see.
By revealing my shitty, embarrasing, not so pretty parts of recovery, it’s the only way I can help other fighters say: “wow, I’m not the only one.”
Who do I want to read this? Girls that I can potentially help? Friends that can validate me and give me kind, nurturing words of encouragement? People that can tell me they are proud of me?
More than just those people are going to read it. It’s out there in the public. My face, my words. And there are people that I am afraid of reading this.
Idealistically, they would respond with empathy or openness. I want people that don’t necessarily understand “ED” to think:
“Wow, we need to change this”
“she’s really brave.”
And then I think: what a load of shit. Maybe a better writer would get that sort of reaction.
There’s a voice that says the friends that don’t understand ED would be embarrassed for me.
Or that the mean people from high school would laugh at me.
That voice is obviously ED.
And ED sounds a whole lot like 16 year old Tasha.
There’s a few things I’ve desperately wanted to write about lately.
One is how scary it’s been going day to day without symptom use. Constantly asking myself, “Will this be another victory? Can I get another week under my belt? Am I possibly done with ED forever?”
I want to express how exciting and unreal it felt looking back realizing it had been two weeks without binging, purging or restricting. And suddenly—its been two months.
Or the way I fear slipping up any moment. Sometimes my fight with ED feels just as hard as day one, even though I have all this recovery behind me.
I want to write about how slow moments can go by when I have urges. Or how grateful I am when I realize I haven’t thought about symptom use all weekend. How grateful I am for the people I surround myself with.
I’ve especially wanted to write about the Holidays to help me get through them.
It’s Thanksgiving break, the biggest food celebration. But also, a very loving, family-oriented holiday.
As a writing prompt, I told myself to sit down and describe what I hoped my life would be like in 5 years. At 30, what would an ED free Thanksgiving look and feel like? That imagery would hopefully inspire me.
And then my fears crept in. My goddamn 16 year old self, worrying what other people think.
God forbid the people I know see what I want for my future. And God forbid they roll their eyes while reading it. God forbid they judge. And GOD FORBID they laugh.
Suddenly, I’m back in high school:
When I was at Renfrew, worrying what others thought was a common theme. We all knew that people didn’t judge us quite as harshly as we thought they did. But we needed each other for that reminder.
And as for those who are judging —do we really need their approval? I don’t like mean people. So why do JUDGMENTAL people need to like me?
But ED (or in this case, Tasha) still pops up. She wonders what strangers will think? What my best friend will think? What my boyfriend will think? What his friends will think? (…She gives me a goddamn aneurism. I never want to have a teenager.)
I don’t always have my Renfrew family to help me back to reality. But I do have all the things they have taught me. I just have to remember to take care of myself. REMIND MYSELF.
So, what’s something I worry about?
That I’m a hypocrite because I have trouble eating a cupcake but preach about NON-DIETS.
I have to calm my inner, younger self down and say:
I am not a hypocrite. I DON’T believe in diets.
I have, however, spent 8 years of my life following strict rules about food. 8 years using disordered behaviors in order to control my body. Because of how long I listened to ED, I find it difficult to eat certain things when my life is feeling chaotic. Zeroing in on what I eat tricks me into feeling good and as if I have everything under control.
To someone looking in, it may seem hypocritical to not want the cupcake. But, I still try my best to eat without the labels, and listen to my body rather than my mind.
If they chose to judge me without asking about ED, then they are choosing to remain uneducated.
Sometimes 16 year old me pops in to say: it’s extremely unattractive that you binge and purge. It’s repulsive and it’s embarrassing.
Well, it’s also a real issue in our society. I don’t think others who experience it are any of the above. And those actions stems from restricting, deprivation and not feeling good enough—to the point where we fill ourselves up with anything we can find.
And my voice will hopefully inspire others to find help and love themselves regardless of what assholes think.
Do these worries disappear? No, but my kind self-talk does calm down the impressionable 16 year old that creates those fears.
See, I’ve discovered that ED is nothing more than the many voices that have influenced my way of thinking over the years. It’s the misguided opinions of others that we have somehow allowed into our subconscious.
But, I am so much stronger than that young girl who believed those thoughts. And I have to constantly remind myself of that. I have thoughts and beliefs of my own to overshadow theirs.
But back to my original intent for this article—which I have completely lost tack of now…
Writing is my sanctuary.
Sometimes it comes easy and I can bang 3 essays out in a day. And sometimes it takes a week to finish a single thought.
Nontheless, writing really is my calling. I know, not because I’m good at it, but because of the way it makes me feel when I do it.
I started this article four days ago and a lot has happened between now and then.
Thanksgiving has come and gone. And for the first time in 9 weeks I used symptoms. It wasn’t on Thanksgiving, which I am very proud of.
That one moment of weakness when my ED took over, does not take away from my many moments of strength during the time that’s passed.
Thanksgiving was fucking hard, man, but I did it. That’s just as important to recognize.
So, today I made a conscious effort to go back to my unfinished article.
It so happens that after a slip, I fall hard on my coping skills. I squeeze them tight hoping for release. I use them up until I discover what triggered me—or to figure out how to prevent spiraling.
And I can’t help but wonder if my choice to stop writing over the last few weeks somehow caused the slip.
Nonetheless, everything happens for a reason. And as angry or guilty as slips can make me feel in recovery—every book and every person reminds me that they happen. And that I will learn what I need from it.
They will happen, until they wont one day.
Just like the saying goes: it is what it is, until it isn’t.
It’s as simple as that.
And since I’ve opened my laptop again: I will follow my fist directive. The one I had prior to the Thanksgiving break.
What do I want in five years?:
Just kidding, I am going to give it some serious thought.
But let me just say–right now I’m having a very hard time accessing that part of my brain.
So, to begin I’ll let you know my rule when taking pictures: either don’t take them at all, or be prepared to take about twenty until I find one I am comfortable with.
I want to love my body, whole-heartedly, I really do. But, having body dimorphic disorder challenges that ideal constantly. Generally speaking, I am doing a great job working towards my goal though.
I have a meal-plan, guidelines about what to eat and why. And I am learning more and more about intuitive eating. I try to listen to, and not judge, my cravings and hunger cues.
I am damn proud of all that. I like that I am no longer afraid of bagels in the morning. I love that I can have dessert during celebrations. And I absolutely relish the fact that I never read the nutritional facts of ANYTHING I eat anymore. I look at the ceiling when the doctor weighs me. And I am making great strides in ED urges–haven’t had a lapse in a while. I should be a bundle of positivity and righteousness. Everything has been going splendidly, right? I should have my socks and shoes off and be chanting in front of a mirror about peace and self-love.
Omg. I look disgusting.
I thought about the night that photo was taken. I was so naive. Seriously, how pathetic? My arm looks fat. My checks are so chubby. Ugh.
I mean, maybe others thought I liked nice. People were talking to me a lot. The important part is that I danced and laughed the entire night—
**looks at picture again**
Oh god, no. I don’t want anyone else to see this picture. I hate it so much. Why can’t I be cute in candids.
Why can’t I be cute like I used to be in photos?
…Like I used to…
^Of course, I’m referring to when I was stuck in my eating disorder. Under complete control of ED.
Do you see how quickly ED can be missed?
My mind immediately thought of an old photo… around a fire, someone took an unexpected shot of me laughing—I was doing the same exact face, scrunched nose, huge smile—but ED made me look so much cuter. And “recovery” now makes me look fat.
These are my harsh words. I feel tempted to erase them. Why would I want to expose such negativity about myself? Especially when I work so hard to show the power of self-love.
Honestly, because it is human to feel this way. It’s human to have moments of insignificance or unworthiness.
But, I also want to share what happens when you face these thoughts and work through them…
I could have easily shut down my laptop. It’s my first instinct. I’m so disgusted with social media sometimes. I could have just said “I hate this stupid photo. Whatever. I just wont look at it again.”
But, what happens when I do that? That image will linger. I’ll be going about my business and I’ll get a twinge of disgust when I look down at my thighs. My body will suddenly be so pronounced, I will feel like the blueberry girl in Willy Wonka. And my urges to eat in order to cope with embarrassment will subconsciously surface. And I’ll binge. Or the pressure to work out will be hovering over me. So I will purge with over-exercising. The point is, without facing these ED thoughts about the picture, he’s going to hang around until I give into his urges.
So I looked at the photo.
I’m laughing, I thought…
YES, and I wish I didn’t crinkle my nose like that. (ED chimed back in).
But, when I crinkle my nose it means I’m admiring the people I’m with.
And that’s what I was doing. I was soaking it all in. MY cousin had just gotten married to a girl that makes him so happy. It was a magical (Disney themed) wedding. My aunt, uncle and mom had been dancing all night—I have never seen them so happy. Rob was with me. He was getting along with my entire family, and everybody loved him. He was looking at me so adoringly. He loves me. He was slow dancing with me, which does not happen often. I was really enjoying my sister’s company—I felt like we were 15 again. I was seriously, genuinely smiling the entire time. In fact, there was another candid taken of me that I actually liked. Probably hours in between both photos being taken and I was still making that same adorably happy face. At least I liked one of them.
OKAY! we are making progress. I am saying kind words about myself.
Alright. Now we can close up the computer.
I still felt like a blueberry. But a cute blueberry, that’s recovering—and I’m going easy on her.
I suddenly realized something.
I opened pinterest and scrolled down to an old folder entitled “vision board.” This was created over two years ago. For those unfamiliar with vision boards, I basically pinned all the photos I wanted for my future. And they were chosen PRE-recovery, so some were quite triggering.
And there it was: the photo I remembered pinning two years ago…
And I remember why I pinned it, too. These two girls are all dolled up at a party:
“I want to go out with my sister, and my friends. I want to be carefree and happy and positive.”
I scrolled down a little more and saw this picture:
“I want to be genuinely happy. I want to smile infectiously.”
Well, hell, isn’t that what I’m doing in this photo? The one that triggered all these self-loathing emotions…
Oh, that’s right, I want ALL of those things (happiness, family, friends, laughter) but I really need to look SKINNY while doing so.
But ED has those values, not me. And ED was the one who choose those photos to pin for my future.
Tasha is the quiet voice underneath it all saying–“No, I really just want the happiness.” ED may have inspired that Vision Board folder years ago, but Tasha controls my actions now, and it was really Tasha who got motivated to write this article. Because I know it’s wrong to be mean to a girl who is experiencing pure bliss in perhaps a not-so-flattering photo.
(By the way, you may or may not agree with the way I looked at my tagged photo. It’s very exposing to announce the judgements I have over myself. Especially when I want to be an example of self love. But the reason why I’ve exposed them is because people tend to judge themselves too harshly. It is human. But I wish it would stop. And if you experience body image issues, social media is a breeding ground for feeling bad about your “so-called” imperfections)
I have to take a deep breath while reflecting on all this.
I really want to love myself.
But It’s still hard to push out ED’s criticism.
However, I know I’ll get there. Because I want it.
I scrolled through instagram for some positive quotes (using social media powers for good instead of evil).
It helped. But then I read an old text from a friend. I saved it because it initially made me cry, and I knew those beautiful words could help me in moments of self-doubt.
I read it over and over. And then I remembered all the kind things other friends, my boyfriend, parents and supporters from Renfrew had said to me.
I felt better. I shouldn’t call myself a blueberry, that’s not nice. And I wouldn’t do it to anyone else.
I’m Natasha, and I work very hard in recovery. I work very hard to love myself. And screw anyone that looks at a photo and judges me for anything less than what I am. Including you ED.
And I hope to look at that photo someday soon, free of ED, and admire my geniune laugher and beauty. Because that’s what I would see if this photo was of another beautiful, strong and happy woman.
Writing is something I have been struggling with a bit lately.
And if I had to blame it on something, it would probably be because my face is now attached to this page.
It was brave removing the anonymous aspect of anonymous blogging. But the more I think about the people who I know finding me, the more I wonder why I did it. First I was excited. Then I immediately wanted to delete the entire account.
I get those evil butterflies, and chest pains even thinking about people from my past seeing it show up on their news feed. My anxiety sky rockets and ED urges usually follow. Which is why I have to finally face those thoughts and spill it all out on the keyboard.
The point of this blog was two-fold: I wanted to reclaim my love of writing, and I also wanted to use it as a coping mechanism. Journaling had always been therapeutic for me, but blogging turned it into more of a hobby. Its like story telling. I have to write, edit, re-edit, post, and hopefully look back and admire my work. I also thought it was a good way to embrace my passion for eating disorder awareness and recovery.
My blog is for me, but it’s also hopefully a sanctuary for other’s with similar experiences.
I really like exposing my imperfections. Perfect is not reality. We have all been tricked into looking at socail media and feeling that twinge of jealousy. No matter how many instagrams have pulled this shit and posted beautifully “candid” and “sculpted” pictures (Kylie Jenner, I’m looking at you) this is NOT REAL. That’s why I admire recovery accounts. That is why I started my own.
The idea of my recovery account being found was always a thought in the back of my mind. However, I figured I’d respond with a “pshh, I don’t care, I’m an open book.”
A real tough guy.
After all, I never try to hide my ED. This makes me proud, as well as extremely self-conscious. I know that others can benefit and be inspired by my honesty, but there are some who can judge me. However, ED is a disease of secrecy and the best way to fight it, is to expose it. If someone asks me where I was, I have no problem saying, “I was at Renfrew, a treatment center for my eating disorder.” I also have no problem telling people I have to eat every four hours and I like to take my time during meals. I correct people when they call things “healthy/unhealthy” and try to always take attention away from what myself or others are eating. I openly dislike any sort of judgement pertaining to weight or diet. Hopefully others view this as a nonchalant approach to life—after all, there are far more important things than how we look or what we are putting in our bodies. As much as I wish that was my only motive, I also know I have to say these things to keep ED at bay. He is a sneaky bastard and if I’m not careful a simple conversation about “eating healthy and working out” can lead me to missing the days where I restricted and over-exercised (or lead me to self-loathing and using food as a coping skill).
Well, someone from work found my blog recently. Which made me start thinking that others have found me, too. This sent me into a panic (so much for tough guy).
I initially felt exposed and somewhat embarrassed. There were a million thoughts running through my brain: “OMG everything I write is so stupid. What if she thinks this is pathetic. What if she thinks this is for attention. I need to reread everything I’ve written. Who else has seen this?”
I had to mention it as soon as I saw her. Her big smile and kind eyes made me feel so much better. She was so loving and accepting and I honestly feel closer to her, not as a co-worker but as a human being, and as a friend.
I know not everyone will react this way. Maybe there will be people who make fun of me. But the people who respect my journey—and the people who can even benefit from it make that the exposure all worth while.
Therefore, I will continue my non-annynomous blogging. Slowly, but surely. My confidence may waver. But I really want to continue this for all the powerful reasons why I created it. And maybe one day, my dream of helping others and ridding ED from society will have started with this single step to expose myself.
Yesterday I woke up feeling happy.I literally had zero anxieties. It was strange. My brain didn’t know what to do.
No anxieties—gave me anxiety.
So here’s a little back story:
I had quite a stressful week.
I had gotten violently ill and had to deal with incorporating food back into my life after almost 48 hours of eating and drinking the bare minimum. This is an extremely difficult task for someone with an eating disorder.Being sick has a psychological effect of wanting to continue to restrict even if the restriction began without your consent. Furthermore, I had to go from Work to Renfrew (16.5 hour days with lots of driving). I made the decision to bail on Renfrew one day which causes me anxiety because I really want to be dependable, but I was putting my mental state first (which typically causes guilt) and I was just too exhausted. I also had to deal withheightening drama, a boss who put an extra load of work on me, and being taken advantage of by co-workers.
Thursday I was able to work through it at Renfrew.
At first, I was having a hard time in my therapists office because I did not want my anger to linger. I felt as though I needed a change in attitude before it devoured me.
I would justify everything as I vented. I’d explain the unfair situation and then say, “But it’s okay because…”
My therapist told me to stop rationalizing it and to trust what I was saying. She told me to get the emotions out without judging them. I rebuttaled:
“I do not want to feed my anger. I don’t like the person I am when I’m going on and on about other people or life being unfair.”
She explained that this was part of the eating disorder. By not talking about it, I am shoving my emotions down and smoothing them over (get it—a direct correlation to what I do with food when I get out of work).
She told me to stick with talking about the reasons why it is unfair.
By removing the judgements (the “buts” and rationalization), I was I able to realize that I can talk about my emotions without being consumed by them. It is therapeutic to spill the emotions out and not just leave them bottled up. I need to either vent to a support or journal in order to recognize why I shouldn’t be treated this way.
Furthermore, it gives me the ability to find a solution. After getting everything out on the table, I can now look at the positives.
Initially, this situation didn’t seem to have a solution which is probably another reason why I tried to cover my emotions up and “just deal with it.”
I want to be compliant, I want to be kind, I want to be able to handle what others throw at me. However, I also want to work to the best of my ability. If I am being taken advantage of, it is not unkind to state the facts and express reasons why I have to say no.
I felt amazing. Venting lifted the world off my shoulders. Being non-judgmental allowed me to forgive myself. And removing the rationalizations eventually gave me solutions.
I continued my day. I was able to be honest with loved ones about my day without crucifying myself for my emotions.
I couldn’t wait for the weekend. I wanted to wake up without any obligations. I wanted sleeeep!
But a complete worry-free Saturday morning? I have to be honest: when I wake up without any worries, sometimes my brain makes up an irrational one:
“My boyfriend’s going to break up with me.” “My mom is going to get sick.” “So and so doesn’t like me.” And then I mentally whip out my Renfrew worksheets. “What evidence do I have to support this?” “If this is true, how will I handle it?” It’s a lot of work calming anxieties.
But I had none. A thought even crossed my mind: “aren’t we worried Rob is going to break up with us…” (ED said)
“No.” I answered.
“Well aren’t you unhappy with your body?” (ED said)
“No, I’m really not. No faking today, I really do like it.” I said.
I got ready and went to Renfrew. Suddenly, in my euphoric moment I realized I didn’t necessarily want to eat. I was feeling afraid of food, like it might ruin my worry-free attitude. Despite the fact that I’ve had no issues with binging and restricing all week.
At Renfrew a memory came up and I went with it…
I was 17 and at the beginning stages of my eating disorder. This particular boy may not remember saying these words; he may not remember the way he looked at me; but 8 years later–the memory was clear as day.
A few friends were gathered around a fire drinking in the woods. I was carefree and laughing, having a great time and feeling good. On the walk out, I jumped on another boy’s back for a ride. The other one was not amused. He seemed offended as he watched my actions unfold throughout the night. Finally, he lashed out. For no obvious reason, he called me superficial. There had been no talk of image or weight during our entire night so I was very confused. He added to this by bitterly saying I was ‘conceited’ and blamed it my body.
(Many people experience their bodies being a spectacle for peers. This boy considered me “thin.” I’d lost weight after being bullied years earlier for being called “fat” by another boy. Don’t you just wish body shaming of all kind would vanish. It clearly has an effect on all ages especially susceptible adolescent minds.)
I was devastated. I shut down. I tried to continue my good time but it was completely forced. I felt really guilty for being happy with my body.
My ‘happiness’ had been labeled ‘conceit’ and according to this boy, my ‘carefree’ attitude was only because I was ‘skinny.’
There are no such things as coincidences. I have been working hard on self-acceptance for many years, and this memory popped into my mind for a reason.
I allowed it to resonate and shared the incident with the supports around me.
I did not manipulate my body to achieve happiness today, but I due to old beliefs, I thought food would ruin my ephoria. I am demeaning myself because being completely content may make others look angrily upon me. Therefore, I can only be content as long as I have an underlying struggle with my weight
I feel uneasy over loving myself.
Is it all because of this one incident? No. But this boy clearly had the same beliefs as ED. And since ED was just beginning to take control of me at that time, that boy validated EDs lies. Lies that were buried deep in my skull until I had the proper education, coping skills and support to dig them up and plant new ones.
Luckily, we had art next and I furiously journaled:
…”you’re only happy because your skinny.” How can this be true? I had cake, cookies, and pizza this week!
I want to exercise to keep this feeling? But I didn’t exercise at all in order to achieve this feeling…
I haven’t restricted so why do I feel guilty for being happy with my body? Do I actually feel guilty that I haven’t been bingeing?
Do I not deserve to feel “skinny?” Because I have an ED? I don’t know if ED even considers this skinny, I’m just at peace with my body?
I hate the way that boy looked at me–like I don’t deserve to be happy. I don’t know if I’m actually working through anything or making any sense, but I hope that writing this down is freeing myself of it…
Happiness is not related to thinness, no matter how many people may hold that belief.
ED gave me a high every time I was happy with my body. But that high was fleeting. It was due to over exercising and restriction.
And I’ve proven many times in recovery that I can experience happiness without focusing on my body or the mirror.
Today’s euphoria was not due to manipulating food or exercising. It was the real thing.
It was due to feelings of adequacy. Feelings of pride that I took care of myself this week. Feelings of contentment for life and love from my boyfriend. It was due to appreciating my kindness both for others and for myself. And my new super-power: venting and finding a solution!
…I was confusing feeling “thin” and feeling “light.”
My ED likes to misinterpret “lightness” as a physical sensation. And often tricks me into restricting and exercising in order to feel “light.” That is why it is a fake euphoria.
I know now that feeling light is a mental state. And food does not affect its ability to come and go…
This feeling will inevitably pass, as do all feelings. But, now I can enjoy it as it comes and not fear losing it because of actions or thoughts associated with food or body.
Being content with oneself is not conceit. It is kindness and we all need to appreciate it when it comes.
Being care-free is a blessing. There are too many worries in life, and when they seem to dissipate for one beautiful Saturday, smile and go about your day, in hopes of it lasting forever. But also knowing, that if it leaves, it will soon return as long as you take care of yourself.
Writing is so therapeutic. However, it can be difficult to get started sometimes. Therefore, I use writing prompts. My favorite one is gratitude.
Not only does it help with the writing process, but afterwards you realize how blessed you are to have so many things in your life.
I showed my blog to a few close friends. One of them asked when I was going to write about her. I laughed, but realized that writing is a really wonderful way to let people know how much they mean to you. It feels good to show people how they have changed your life for the better.
Recovery leaves footprints in almost every aspect of our lives. In therapy, I learned “you can pick your friends.” Recovery gave me the ability to let go of those who treated me badly or affected me negatively.
Loved ones are meant to empower us, to show us our strengths, and to bring out the best in us. They are little angels put in our lives to make us laugh through all the bullshit.
It is really hard letting someone you care about go, even if you know you don’t deserve how they make you feel. Odds are you still love them and have been friends for many years.
But there is a saying: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
So, not only do negative people subject us to abuse, but they influence the way we think and act.
I want to thank recovery for the strength to stand up for myself. I am grateful for the beautiful people I have in my life.
Here are my five people (give or take some) .
Sara/My Best Friend:
I think she is stunningly beautiful and she thinks I’m full of shit but graciously takes the compliment with a little sarcasm.
She is the epitome of a girlfriend. EVERY GIRL deserves one of these friends in their life (and I’m so blessed that you are mine). Even when we disagree, I can sense that she wants to hug me and hurt me at the same time. I know that she will always love me; she won’t ever let me go.
This friendship of 10 years has always gotten me out of the house. She has helped me learn that–yes, I need my nights in, but sometimes the best thing to do is have a night out.
She taught me that sometimes a night out may just mean drinking wine with your best friend. Or bawling our eyes out to a really sad movie that only she would torture me to watch.
I let her talk me into doing crazy things because I know she will take care of me when it all goes to hell (and then, of course, find the humor in it later).
She is the first person to teach me I don’t need to be ‘on’ every time I’m around a friend.
Sometimes we get really deep. We may cry about life’s newest problem, but we mostly realize how life doesn’t change that much from when we’re young: time heals all, we still have to buy our own toothpaste; and we still have trouble making our own doctor appointments.
It took a very dependent relationship to teach me the importance of girlfriends. Depending on one, sole person for happiness is dangerous. That’s why friends are important, too. Never lose sight of how wonderful girlfriends are. The right ones will always be there when you need to vent or cry or bitch.
You need them in moments where you don’t want to shower or get dressed, if even to just nap with. You need girlfriends to belly laugh with faces full of pizza with. You need girlfriends to express disgusting things about yourself and ask if that’s normal.
I truly love you so much and can’t wait to see where the next ten years leads us. Thank you for growing with me. Thank you for all the memories. And Thank you for never letting me go.
I knew him 8 years ago and I never, ever pictured myself being with him. I thought he was handsome, but his arrogance and dirtbag friends made him so unattractive.
Life throws you curveballs though, and I couldn’t be more wrong about everything I inquired about this guy.
Sara, my best friend, got me out of bed on this particular night. I really needed it, and as always, she came to the rescue even after we hadn’t talked for the past 5 months (I had been in treatment—which she didn’t know about).
I pulled myself together, literally shaking as I met up with her and some of her guy friends.
Four guys that I haven’t seen since high school. Ugh, high school.
The guys were really nice to me though. And I was trying to be myself, but my social anxiety was coming down hard. That night I was lucky enough to be surrounded by outgoing people. They each came up to mingle with me which made me feel super comfortable. I was having a really nice time but I was still shaking.
The last guy that caught my ear had a much less abrasive aura (not that the others were rude, but they had strong personalities and some of them were even hitting on me a little). He was just asking me questions, and telling me things about himself. I was impressed with how he could really hold a conversation, not just make small talk. We quietly clicked. I felt like it was just him, I and Sara—all my anxieties went away. Listening to him really soothed me.
He kissed me that night and I walked away thinking it was just a fluke because I suddenly remembered the guy he was in high school. I didn’t want to get involved with anyone from that crowd.
Life hands you things sometimes though, and it forces you to reevaluate past judgements. I had to relearn who he was as a person. It turns out, he is the exact opposite of everything I had thought.
He is the kindest man I’ve ever met. He is compassionate. His first instincts are to help. He is calming and speaks passionately. He is humble and smart and hardworking. From thinking I could never have a good thing to say about him, I now can’t find the words to express how blessed I am to not only have him in my life, but be the person that he loves.
To this day, he puts me in a peaceful state. He makes me uncontrollably laugh when I thought I couldn’t smile. He gets mad when I ask for his stories, but it’s only because I love listening to him so much.
He is proof that there is no such things as coincidences. We meet who we are meant to when the time is right. I have never been so thankful for all the events that led me to him.
Laura is the hardest person to write about. I don’t want to use clichés because it seems insincere—but, they literally all represent our relationship:
We feel each other’s joy and pain. We would move mountains for each other. She is the most amazing person I’ve ever met. She is someone I can turn to no matter what. She is my best friend; my other half; my soulmate.
We met under very interesting circumstances: both fighting eating disorders. We were equally motivated to kick ED’s ass and start living our lives again. Because of treatment, we knew each other’s deepest secrets and worst fears even before becoming best friends.
One of my first and favorite memories of Laura is sitting on the couch with the rest of our “Frew Crew.” Our therapist was standing in front of us all, writing on a white board. She said something that triggered a laughing attack in both me and Laura. Suddenly, we were holding our breath and turning an uncontrollable shade of red while trying desperately to stop giggling. The therapist was getting annoyed and no one else in the room knew what was so funny.
Girlfriend moments like these are the best. What makes these memories with Laura even more powerful is because we always manage to have them while simultaneously working through serious emotional issues: comedic relief through life’s toughest moments.
Knowing each other for only one month, we bonded over the fact that we both ridiculously laughed and cried at the same time. We can go from venting and uncertainty to laughing and ready to take on the world.
One of my favorite things about Laura is her receptiveness in moments of doubt. I encourage her to take on a positive point of view, I remind her of her strength and she genuinely soaks it all in. By the end of a conversation that started with “I need your help,” it ends with “You are so right!” and she is back to being the fighter she always will be.
I want to purposely take on a challenge each time she calls on me to get through her own—just so we can conquer it together. Her successes are my motivation. I don’t know where I would be without her, especially on my journey in recovery. But, beyond that, my life is more enjoyable and fulfilling because I can share it with her.
My work best friend:
Sometimes you aren’t equipped to deal with the crazies that work throws at you. We can control who we surround ourselves with—to an extend. Co-workers and family unfortunately don’t fall into that category. But we can choose who we actually “listen” to. Shannon saves me from the crazies.
Why is this friend so important? She keeps me laughing during my most stressfull hours. We may look like we are losing our minds when we are hunched over, tears streaming down our face, but she’s actually keeping me sane in these moments.
I never thought of the daycare as a place to find friends.
The small chitchat I had with my co-workers always gave me anxiety. Work is a triggering place because I want everyone to like me (the people pleaser in me). Therefore, I hang out with my toddler buddies and hope to leave without any adult interaction.
But honestly, that’s not the best way to live. The hours go by much faster when I am enjoying the time with a coworker. Afterall, these people know exactly what I go through at work! If nothing else, we have that in common and we should make the most of it together. Having this attitude has led me to one of my best friends. She possesses the same kindness, and positivity that I have grown to love within myself.
On days where I walk in with worry lines, she reminds me to smile (or at least fake it till we make it). We praise each other on our work ethic, for our silly little crafts and sometimes just for making it till the end of the day. And as described earlier, she makes me laugh until I cry, which is one of life’s little joys.
I’ve noticed that because of her I sometimes spend more time talking than paying attention to my students (not necessarily a good thing—but the upside is that I am less of a perfectionist at work)
Oh, and speaking of ‘the upside,’ she always reminds me to look on the bright side. “Good things happen to good people” (a saying that my boyfriend also uses).
Family: (I cheated–I grouped family together as my fifth person :))
We can’t choose our family. I always remembered a passage I read in a book:
A little girl was talking to God and said, “I love my family, but I wonder if you tried out any others before you picked them for me.”
I’d like to believe that my family is mine for a reason–as is yours and everyone else’s–although at times we may feel like that little girl.
There is no getting around the idea that your family ultimately sculpts who you are, and I am actually very thankful for that:
First, my sister:
I’ve lived in the same room as her for 25 years. We played together everyday. Waking up to the same mess of Barbies that we left the night before and continuing to play.
One day we traded all that in for make-up and boys. We got ready and gossiped every morning together before going to school. We passed notes in the hallway, we were in the same classes, and we had the same friends. I don’t know how two people could see so much of each other and still find things to talk about.
There was a point when this all stopped—which I realize now was inevitable. We got to a certain age where we needed to create separate identities for ourselves. We had always been identified as “the sisters” and not as two different people, which lead to unhealthy comparisons.
We may not be best friends the way we were as children, but we both already have best friends; therefore, Becky is considered much more than a best friend.
For those who understand how lucky I am to have a sister:
It means having amazing memories together. We have such a strong adoration for each other. She is the best roommate I will ever have. She knows exactly what I’m thinking when I shoot her the “eyes.” She plays my favorite songs at the bar, just like she always has when we were little in the car together. And for the rest of our lives we get to reenact childhood traditions and torture our future spouses with them.
And for those who are not lucky enough to have the sister that I have:
Becky can tell you who said what in what movie and when at the drop of a hat (she’s a hard-core movie quoter). Her one true love is Harvey Kinkle, and she deserves no less than him in her near future. She’ll knock your socks off by ordering an old-fashioned (and genuinely likes them). She’s smart as hell with a pretty face which I think is incredibly rare and impressive. She sings and dances in dive bars, and doesn’t give a rat’s ass who is watching as long as the person with her is having fun (which they always are thanks to her high spirits). We break out into a 40’s type dance duo every time an oldie comes on (and she always spins me back cause that’s the best part). She won’t admit it cause she comes off hard as a rock, but she really does reflect on the words you say to her and tries to be the best person she can be. She’s always searching for a way to find peace and true self-love. She’s a little hippie reincarnated (without the drugs and guru). She forgives and forgets very easily–both a blessing and a curse.
We don’t spend every weekend together, but I still get to rummage through her shoes and help her do her cat eyes. I still get her hand-me-down, and she still gets to wear all my crop tops.
And we will always be proud, protective and bat shit crazy about each other.
I have the best mother in the world. Anyone with the same opinion, I feel very happy for–because you must have had a similar upbringing to me. From day one, my mom has put others before herself. Above all else, she has put her children.
I have my mom to thank for getting me through my darkest days. She selflessly spent night after night consoling me when I was confused, angry and alone. When my eating disorder spiraled, my depression began and my social anxiety worsened, I chose to hide out in my house. She took me on car rides. She patiently waited in there with me until I was ready to enter a store. She took me shopping and took me on walks–anything to make me happy. And all the gratitude and happiness that I possess today is truly thanks to her persistence during those hard times.
She always said, “If I could take your pain and carry it for you, I would.” And I know she meant it. Today I am lucky enough to experience that kind of love for others. I often feel this way when the people I love are in pain and I thank my mom for my big heart.
This leads me to suddenly realize another important lesson my mother’s taught me, “The most important thing one can learn, is to love and be loved in return.”
When I felt unloved, undeserving, worthless and unhappy—my mom taught me what unconditional love was. She always preached about unconditional love. But it wasn’t until I hit my lowest point that I actually grasped the concept. Being able to love people the way my mom loves is the greatest gift in the world. When she is being pushed away, she stays with open arms. When she cannot understand, she asks for a deeper explanation. When there seems to be no answers in life, she keeps the faith.
When I was in treatment, I was living three hours from my mom. However, I received a reminder every morning to be proud of myself. She never, ever wants anyone to feel alone. She is the most selfless and thoughtful woman I will ever know. She taught me to find happiness in giving and of course loving unconditionally. I hope one day to be a mother just like her.
My dad has taught me many things. Above all else are my two favorites:
One is my ability to listen. To give people my full attention and enjoy their company. Much like the heart my mom taught me to have, this is another one of my favorite qualities. The second thing I cherish is the importance of imagination. Fondest memories of my dad include being scared to death—and now I’ve become one of those strange people who enjoy being terrified.
Driving in the car at night on a desolate road, my dad would accelerate and pretend we were the “Chariot” trying to get through a raging storm. One time, he had gone into grave detail and told 6-year-old me he was a vampire. 18 years later I reminded him of this and told him I actually believed it for a while. I also told him that I indulge in this imaginative story telling to my kids at my daycare–and thoroughly enjoy the shoe being on the other foot.
He helped me go to sleep at night by telling me about the chapters he read in his latest Stephen King novel or by having me close my eyes and design our very own Space Ship.
We knew where the bunks were, who was sleeping where, the layout of the control room, the dining room and all the high-tech gear we’d carry with us.
My dad is my biggest fan. He believes there’s nothing that I cannot do, and just like my mom, never lets a day go by without making me feel loved. Because of him I never wake up or go to bed without giving those I love a hug or kiss or simple ‘I love you.’
He taught my sister and I how to dig for treasures at flea markets and garage sales. And that material things aren’t what makes people happy. Thanks to my dad, I’m a simple kinda girl. All I really need is a little imagination and adventure.
The more I write about the 5 people in my life, the more I realize that I am both consciously and unconsciously attracting the same kind of people into my life.
I really suggest that anyone reading this goes through this exercise themselves. I hope you realize the beautiful people who you have in your lives. Focus on the positive aspects of your loved ones and let go of anyone that isn’t serving you and making you a better person.
I continued a recent instagram post (Just_Do_Today ) due to the unexpected progress I have steadily been experiencing.
I was weighed last night at Renfrew. My therapist kindly covered the numbers because last week I told her I don’t like looking. “Please move your hand. I don’t want to be afraid of the scale anymore.”
I briefly looked and stepped off. I was surprised. I was disappointed.
But 5 minutes before this weigh in, I was completely content with my body. So why would I allow a meaningless number to change that now?
Fuck you ED. I now knew the godforsaken number and felt as though I had taken back control.
Did I love the number? No. But I’m not afraid of it anymore.
It’s my dad’s bday today and he wants to go to a buffet for dinner (ED thrives in these places).
Knowing this, my mom asked if I wanted to bail. But these are the little things ED takes away from me–an evening with my family, sitting around laughing and bonding. Since I don’t have the funds to buy an extravagant present he deserves, I really want him to be surrounded by his family in his favorite restaurant. He would appreciate that. ED, you are losing your grip on me. I am taking my life back. Food does not control me. I control my life.
This morning I woke up with nagging anxiety. I grabbed my journal and asked myself the questions that my therapist suggested when these fears come up.
“Do I have plausible evidence to support this worry?”
Answering this usually lessens the fear’s intensity. I realize how unlikely it is to happen. Instead, the feeling is being triggered by something similar happening to someone else, or old insecurities playing out in my brain.
But sometimes I have a hard time disputing that I’m experiencing a “gut feeling”…(although, 9 times out of 10 these fears are simply caused by anxiety)
That’s when I ask:
“What would I do if the worst case scenario actually happened?”
I wrote about the strong woman I am, and how hard I fought to become her. I’ve worked too hard and too long to crumble under an undesirable circumstance. I can do one of two things: work to prevent it–and if that is impossible, repeat to myself that “Everything happens for a reason.”
From waking up with worry lines, I was now driving to work with a mile wide smile. As I realized this, I turned the music up and sang a little bit louder. I touched the rosaries hanging in my car (I am not a very religious person, but this action has always represented my gratitude for the current situation and trying to have complete serenity for my future).
I haven’t always gone to my journal when I should. Especially when my irrational worries arise. I can’t ignore the little twinge inside me that tells me it’s the right thing to do. However, I’d convince myself that another coping skill will suffice. This”easy way out” sort of thinking usually leads to symptom use because I’m not dealing with my emotions. Then ED will slither his way into the rest of my day. The importance of picking the right coping mechanism was something I specifically remember learning at Renfrew! At that time, I’d never dream of ignoring the twinge that told me the right coping skill to use–I was so thankful for it! And since then I have lost sight of it’s importance.
I wondered why it is so much easier to do “the right thing” while I’m in Renfrew.
It has now been two full weeks without symptom use.
I have used the proper coping skills when I needed them. I have tackled planned and unplanned challenges (two big ones listed above in my Instagram post). I have been practicing very kind self-talk.
Finally, I’ve managed to take back control of situations ED has been hopelessly controlling before entering back into treatment.
Last night at the buffet, I repeated “slipping up is not an option” over and over again to myself. Regrettably, this is a line that hasn’t always worked in the past. But, last night I took it very seriously.
Why do I feel so much stronger in treatment? Is it truly because I’m surrounded by women that think and feel and fight the way I do? Is it the accountability of having to check in multiple times a week? Is it because I am forced to make myself a priority on these days.
I still worry about messing up. And I worry about discharge day. But, I have to take it one breath, one moment, one meal at a time.
I spent last night drowning in self-pity. I was angry, embarrassed and ashamed of my eating disorder. I called it “disgusting.” Why did this have to happen to me; why is it still happening!?
That’s crap. I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself.
I’m not saying it’s not okay to fall apart. Everyone has hardships, and crying about how difficult it is does not make someone a weak person. The difference here is that I was questioning my life and judging an uncontrollable illness. Of course I do not want an eating disorder, but no one knows what cross they will bear. It’s ok to cry when life gets rough, but I was only focusing on the bad.
I was angry. And I’m torn about that emotion because everyone tells me I should feel angry sometimes, but why? Feeling anger is a slippery slope. In this case, like many others, it assigns blame. “Poor me” because of what so and so did. In this case, my ED. And who was I blaming for having an ED? Life? So I was angry at life? That’s not okay.
Today I woke up, initially embarrassed for having fell apart to my boyfriend. What if I lose Rob over this? I started to panic. Then I remembered my dream last night:
I was dating someone named Kevin, but had been calling him Rob for the duration of our relationship lol. He never corrected me because he thought it was cute (weird) but even dream ME knew it was because I’m only in love with one person and it’s Rob.Believe it or not that’s what made me realize I need to stop drowning in self-pity and pointing fingers at life for what it dealt me. I needed tough love.
What if I lose Rob… What if this….What if… What if… What if…
What do I have right now in this moment? I have a wonderful boyfriend that loves me. I have my family. I have the experience of treatment behind me. I have overcome mountains and tackled many fears I had about life. I am thankful to continue down this road with the knowledge I need when things get hard. I have my emotions and the ability to express them: laughter, adoration, gratitude, pride, generosity, compassion, love.
(Below is a tattoo I got– my grandmother’s handwriting to remind me of what I have)
What about the emotion of Anger? I only need anger to show me when I am being treated unfairly. But, that’s a very specific purpose. It takes two seconds to make that sort of realization. And then I can let go of the anger.
Without anger, I could not recognize that a co-worker acts the way I acted last night every single day. She self-pities and what-ifs and convinces me how hard she has it. I really believe that surrounding myself with someone with these beliefs had an effect on my psychology.
I started questioning if she was right about life. I didn’t know how to react to her opinions..
“I should feel bad for her. I’m a bad person because I judge her sometimes. I want to yell “cut it out, it could be worse!” … Does that make me apathetic? MaybeI would be just as ungrateful in her situation. I wasn’t dealt her hand in life. What if these things happen to me and what if I can’t handle it. Is something going to happen to me now…
STOP. Rre-evaluate this situation:
Anyone can drown in self-pity.
Let’s take someone else, perhaps with a similar situation (there are many people who have gone through hardships in life). And yet they wake up everyday and manage to smile. You would never know all the things they go through. They genuinely ask others how their days are going. They appreciate the big things: like what family they may have left, a roof over their heads. They take notice to the small things: like the beauty outside, the laugher of others. They may cry and breakdown, even get angry sometimes, but they always pull it back together. Empathizing is okay, but pitying someone is not. A strong person will appreciate compassion, but will never ask for pity.
And so, if my co-worker is asking for pity I have every right to walk away from the situation. She is reminding me of old fears about life. But I don’t like the person I am when allowing those anxieties back in! I don’t want to be afraid of life! And, I need to gently remind myself, that does not take away from my compassion as a person, but merely adds to my strength as a fighter.
Today, I gave myself a pep talk when I woke up. I know my situation isn’t as bad as I made it seem last night. But I had built up a lot of very real emotions inside me: frustration, confusion and (fleeting) hopelessness (have faith, always find your way back to it in lost moments). Therefore, I forgive myself for the breakdown. Today, I have to go to work and face the person that is angry at life and I don’t want to. I cannot just walk away from her (I’ve tried).
I made the realization that perhaps she influenced my way of thinking because it reminds me of old habits and anxieties.
I don’t want to have any pent-up anger, and I really don’t want to be surrounded by that way of thinking especially if I am clearly affected by it.
I don’t want someone talking about life as if it such a bad place. (I have to live here too!) I am grateful for it, and anyone can be, even those with hardships.
I am a stronger person after last night. And in choosing strength, I have to let go of badmouthing life and myself. I will not be embarrassed or ashamed for how I acted last night—I am human. But, I can commit to change. I am stronger today. And I am grateful for everything I have in this moment.
I was sitting in my car outside of work, sobbing. My mom was in the driver seat watching me fall apart.
We both knew I needed to get out and go to work. I was already late. We knew I needed to pull myself together.
But every time I wiped my tears, more would come. I was exhausted. Before finally getting out of the car, I said
“I have to do something different…”
I’ve said those words countless times over the last few years regarding my Eating Disorder.
That morning, I had binged and purged relentlessly. It was ongoing from the night before. And this had been a cycle I got stuck in for the last 3 months. I hadn’t experienced a lapse this bad since the dreaded act had crept into my life 6 years prior. (My ED started with restriction at 17, but I didn’t realize my diagnosis until the binge/purge symptoms started at 18)
(At 18): I would count the months at first: “Wow, 8 months later and I still have an eating disorder. I need to do something different.”
I’d buy books, I got a job, I went to therapy.
Before I knew it, I was counting each year that passed: “My twenty second birthday, and I still have a problem. I really do have to do something different.”
I went through new therapists, I went back to school, I was put on medication.
(At 22): All my efforts seemed to be paying off. I didn’t restrict for days on end anymore. I didn’t stay in to binge and purge on nights my friends were going out. I was experiencing milestones with my anxiety and accomplishing goals that I set for myself with my body.
I began to go days without binging and purging. Pretty soon I was going weeks—
2 weeks to be exact.
I would eat healthy and exercise during that time. But as soon as those two weeks were up, I’d slip back into binging and purging. It was a vicious cycle that I felt tied to. Each time I climbed out of the binging and purging, I would say THIS IS IT: THAT’S THE LAST TIME I PURGE. I didn’t anticipate another lapse. In fact, I worked my ass off to push through that 2-week check point. Why couldn’t I do it? I wanted recovery so bad.
Finally, Halloween 2014 (The evening that started my 3 month tailspin)
I felt like I had accomplished my goal. I was still purging, but only on rare occasions.
I could keep some of my “unhealthy” foods in my tummy (that is, if the guilt didn’t force it back up)
I was very close to eliminating the binging (which is the part of my ED that I hated most of all).
And I wasn’t restricting (I didn’t go days without eating and only replaced some meals with a very hardy protein shake).
I looked in the mirror October 31, 2015. I was in my Princess Leia costume and I looked great. I had finally reached my goal of lean muscle and losing weight—oh yeah, right, and recovering, too.
Then I ate dinner.
I ate a salad. It caused indigestion–“why did I use all that dressing!?” It caused bloating–“I should have picked something that digests faster!”
(Looking back of course, the real reason my stomach hurt was related to how little I had been eating those last few weeks. The acid from the dressing hurt my stomach because I had recently purged. And I’m sure some of it was mental, and some of it is unknown. Stomach problems are magnetic when it comes to having a relationship with ED).
Relax, it’ll pass–I said to myself. Fighting for recovery was really important to me. I hate ED and all the things he makes me do.
The boys are on their way to pick us up.
“Crap! Do something to get rid of this feeling… Exercise!”
I started doing crunches with weights until I could feel my abs burning. Adrenaline coursing through my veins as I kept thinking: “I have to look good. I have to look good.”
I stood up and that indigestion/boating feeling was still in my stomach.
“Fuck it, I’ll just do it this once. I’m wearing a belly shirt in public, after all. And I really need to go through with this. Wearing this costume is one of my goals.”
I purged. But, I promised myself I wouldn’t do it again (as I always did).
I was so proud of my body. And yet, still insecure. I had to keep body checking and I absolutely HAD to wear stockings because my thighs jiggled.
Fast forward to crying in the parking lot. Halloween was the last time I actually felt good about my body (if you even call that feeling good).
I thought I was on the brink of recovery. The scariest part is how well I THOUGHT I was doing at that time.
That night spiraled me into 3 months of binging and purging—which was, without a doubt, a godsend. If I didn’t feel the helplessness I experienced through this horrific lapse, I would never have realized how sick I was. My thoughts were consumed by ED. And most of my eating disordered actions were completely ignorant to me. I was only working to rid myself of the obvious symptoms (binging/purging and starving myself). But, I was still tied to the symptoms because they gave me the easy out when I needed to feel good.
And I would have never finally said to my mom: “I need to do something different… I want to go to treatment.”
I wish I could take you step by step thought what treatment did for me, and all the things I learned. It truly granted me freedom. And although I’m not ED free, I have the tools to combat him.
“I have an ED, but I don’t really restrict. I eat,” I thought as I entered treatment.
“I want to lose weight and my eating disorder makes it very difficult for me because I end up binging and purging and messing up all my hard work. This place will teach me how to lose weight the healthiest way.
I’m not like the other girls here. They will need to gain weight because they can’t see how thin they are, but I’m definitely at a healthy weight and my weight loss goals are realistic”
I was weighed by my assigned nutritionist immediately.
She told me that I was a ‘healthy weight’ (I was a little disappointed even though I anticipated that. I just wished I was thinner). She wanted me to stay at that weight.
I started to panic. “Are you kidding, I’m in an eating disorder facility. If I don’t need to GAIN weight, then I’ve clearly failed. At least let me lose weight so I can be happy.”
But I want to be subordinate. I want to be here. How do I put this?
“I was really hoping I could lose, like, 5 pounds.” I said meekly (and I was compromising)
She clearly saw how bad I wanted recovery. And I wasn’t asking for anything crazy.
She looked at me for a little while. Her response, so simple:
“When you get there, would that be enough?”
She sparked a chain reaction in my brain: the last 6 years of my life all mapped out by my weight
**(I’m using ridiculous numbers. There’s no need to put real lbs. The actual weight is not the focal point. Focus on how much and why these numbers fluctuated over the course of 7 years.)**
When my ED started, my goal was 12 lbs. Then, after a brief celebration of accomplishing that, my goal became 8 lbs.
Binging and purging among other things sent my weight up a bit,
Feeling disgusting and ashamed, the goal is to lose X amount of pounds.
I exceed that goal. But I wasn’t as unhealthy as when my ED started. I totally know how to eat and exercise to lose weight without starving myself. I could be a pro.
Now I’m back to my goal being 12.
Binging and Purging sends it up,
Goal weight: 14.
And so on and so forth,
Reflecting on that, I’m staring back at my nutritionist as she waits for an answer. And to be perfectly honest: “No, it wont be enough.”
You see, all this time I thought I wasn’t restricting. But, while I was attempting to “recover” by myself, I had a conflicting goal of desperately needing to lose weight.
I was asked in an interview before treatment: Do you restrict? To which, I responded “No.” What the interviewer should have asked was:
“When was the last time you ate white bread without purging?”
—“7 years ago”
“How often do you accept sweets?”
—“God, never. Unless I plan on purging after.”
“Can you eat just one cookie?
—“I can have the INTENTION of eating just one, but it will inevitably turn into the whole box. So, I’d rather avoid them, as well as many other foods.”
“Do you have a “binge/puge” list of foods and an “everyday” list of foods?”
—“Hmm, yeah, I guess I do. But the binge/purge foods don’t count when I’m talking to others. They are all accidental mess-ups.”
“If you eat anything outside of what you deem ‘healthy,’ what is the result?”
— “The inability to stop thinking about food. Perhaps purging. And endless guilt.”
“What’s usually the deciding factor when you are choosing a meal at a restaurant?”
Those are just a handful of ways ED tricks us into thinking we are not restricting. My answers don’t necessarily have to mimic yours, but if you suffer with ED you will see similarities.
Alas, the mysterious cycle was resolved. What caused the binging and purging episodes as I attempted recovery by myself: restriction!
The best decision I ever made was going to treatment (I’m sure I will write a whole ‘nother article on that: I could give you 1,0001 reasons why I’m forever grateful to Renfrew).
It taught me so much about myself: how to shut down ED, how to have real confidence, how to counter the idea that ‘I need to lose weight,’ and most importantly how to be a badass in this fight for self-love and recovery.
And although I am still working on these things, I have the knowledge and coping skills I need (and amazing people who can relate to me in ways I never thought possible).
I love writing, sometimes I don’t know what to write about. I decided to go on this tangent because I want to share the love I have for those who experience the struggles/successes that I did and do. The binging and purging is an obvious issue that we usually want to put an end to (but never be ashamed, it is an illness that many share, and your story will inspire others to work towards recovery, even if you are still in the process of ridding it).
But the constant body checking, and fear of being fat/undesirable;
The (short-lived) satisfaction of reaching a number on the scale, as well as the worthlessness you feel when going above that number;
The tiny high you have when your reflection rewards you, and then having it ripped out from underneath you after a simple meal or night’s rest;
Competing with yourself to eat less than the day before;
Using ‘nutritious’ drinks, or the lowest calorie meal to fill the hunger you feel. Or ignoring hunger cues completely (especially when out and about, distracted with friends);
The lingering sting of comments made by peers about your image, comparing yourself to others in the room, feeling judged each time you do or don’t reach for food.
Life isn’t meant to be lived in this way.
No mirror or meal should be feared. No person should be adorned for their bones or shamed for their body.
Life is short and meant for so much more. Let us work towards that together.
And I am so grateful for every moment of my journey (all 7 years of it—even the struggles you may be going through now) because it got me here. I know what I want out of life, and I am here living it.