Recognising my edges

So today I was in the library from 10am to 6pm. I’d had a bad night’s sleep but have a Tuesday deadline. I took yesterday off and while I kind of regretted it when I realised how much work I had to do today, I also know that taking one day off a week is necessary for my health. 

I got about halfway through my work, which means I still have a day’s work left, but only tomorrow morning to do it in as I’m covering for someone at work tomorrow afternoon. I had yoga scheduled for 7pm and debated whether I should go or stay and work. I also had date night with my boyfriend afterwards and wondered what the consequences of cancelling that would be (pretty crap I imagine as he we haven’t really had any quality time lately). 

Old me would have stayed in the library, cancelling yoga and date, skipping dinner and staying up till all hours. This would have resulted in me being thrown for the week, starting exhausted and never catching up. I would have seen this as worth it before. Truthfully I would have considered it my only option, not doing this wouldn’t have crossed my mind.

But now, I’m learning to recognise my edges. I’m learning that I’m not invincible and that being able to pull all nighters and skip meals doesn’t make me a better, more dedicated, hardcore student. It means I messed up my time management somewhere along the way (I can pinpoint three different times I procrastinated over the last 2 weeks- sigh) and that I need to find a sensible way to deal with this that still allows me to keep myself together, to sleep and eat. 

So I went to yoga, I set my intention as recgognising my edges and didn’t try to push through. It was a lovely gentle class (it’s restorative yoga so lots of props and blankets and fairy lights and soothing music, perfect for a Sunday evening). I came home and had dinner with my boyfriend. We sorted through our Christmas decorations in preparation for getting our tree next week. I went to bed at 9 and read for a while and now I’m heading to sleep.

The work still needs doing, it hasn’t gone away, but I have renewed myself for facing it tomorrow. The alarm is set for 5am but I will be fed and rested and calm. My edges are not my limitations, they’re just my limits, and staying within my limits means I am a healthier happier person. I’m no longer ashamed of not being able to push through. 

Goodnight all, I hope you’ve managed to be kind to yourself today too. 

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Food and resilience

My counsellor said I was looking well this week. I covered my face and moaned of course-who with an ED wants to hear that?- but she immediately said ‘that doesn’t mean fat, it’s important for you to be able to hear this without it meaning fat’. I asked her what she did mean then, as all I associate with that statement is ‘you’ve gained weight’ ‘you’re bigger’ and other ED voice phrases. She replied ‘you look like you’re doing okay, that you’re coping, your face is bright, you’re here in the room with me – it’s different to other sessions where you have looked defeated, still working hard, but defeated’. When put that way, I guess she was right. I replied that I felt resilient at the moment and she said what a wonderful way to feel.

I do feel more resilient as of late. There are some home things going on that are just tough tough tough at the moment (which are about other people so I don’t want to write much here), but I am facing them, taking it day by day, looking after myself while looking after others. It’s hard, and it’s reduced me to tears a couple of times a day for the last while, but I can pull myself together and get on with things. I faced up to some difficulty university stuff. I stood my ground against a colleague even though she didn’t like the outcome and yes it upset me but I felt it and moved on. I’m not avoiding things like I usually do, my resilience is being shown in my accepting things are happening, changing what I can and trying to cope with the rest.

I can do this now because I am not hungry. I’m not starving like I was. I’m not cold to the bone like I was (it’s winter, so I’m cold, but not the horrible can’t warm up my blood kind of cold). I’m not sleep deprived (I still rarely sleep a night but I don’t wake up at 4am totally wired-and hungry). I’m not running on empty and always go go go because I’m afraid to stop.

I nourish myself. I eat enough. As a result I sleep better, I have energy to make good decisions about looking after myself, I get fresh air without it being related to burning calories, I can have a bath to give me space to think, I can manage difficult conversations, I’m in touch with my friends, I am doing my laundry and other boring life tasks.

Being resilient is so important, but no one talks enough about how much it is related to food. Getting the core physiological stuff right (eat, sleep, move) lays the foundation for all the other things in life. Want to be in love? Eat enough so you can feel it! Want to get more study done? Eat enough so your brain can function! Want to be able to multi-task at work? Eat enough so you can sleep and have energy for the day.

I’m not saying other things aren’t important, of course they are, but they need to come after getting good nutrition. Food won’t solve everything, I’m not suggesting that, but it does need facing if talking therapies, self-care, medication, mindfulness and lots of other approaches have a hope of working. It has taken me so long to realise this.

I know it’s not that straightforward though, that if we all with EDs could eat fine then we wouldn’t be in this mess, so it is crucial to get some of the other stuff started too, but viewing  healthy eating (for you- whatever that might look like)  as a solution rather than just a necessary evil might help with some of that.

I thought food was the enemy, I can’t believe I’m rambling about how it might actually be the answer!

PS: feel free to remind me of this when I’m next moaning about food and eating!!!!  Let’s see how long this positive viewpoint lasts!!!

Better in than out?

I’ve been having a bit of struggle recently with some negative talk. I was at a run training session yesterday and I was clearly slower than the rest of the group. I was okay with this, as the other runners are generally faster than me, and I’m still coming back after (another) injury. I’m slowly building my fitness back up and I’m okay that this is going to take me time. I asked to amend the session for myself so that I wasn’t always so obviously behind, this was a sensible suggestion which after a few reps the coach agreed to.

However, I then spent the rest of the session justifying to people that I really was okay. I got told to ‘be more positive’ and ‘ignore the negative self-talk’ and ‘be proud for trying’. It’s so frustrating though- as I am proud of myself for trying and for being realistic about my abilities. I don’t think my talk was all negative- I was saying things like ‘this is hard for me at the moment, can I start further up to even it out?’ or ‘I just find sprinting so hard, good thing I never want to be a sprinter’ or ‘I’m not built for running fast’. I was told to think positive and to not engage in negative talk as it will just bring me down.

Except- I spent years keeping my negative talk in and that didn’t work so well – I ended up  miserable and ill. I have finally found my voice to be able to say when things are hard or that I’m not quite doing okay, but actually people don’t really want to hear that. I’m discovering that it’s a hard balance between what to keep in and what to let out.

In general I am  fairly positive person, I’ve been described as annoyingly optimistic before! – but I do feel frustrated that I’m slower than others, that I’m larger than others and that my PhD is taking me longer than others. Not speaking these words don’t make these thoughts go away, but I can see that my friends want me to not feel this way and don’t think saying it out loud helps.

Maybe I just need to think about the context in which I’m saying things, and that actually if I am okay with how my running is at the moment that my talk should reflect that and I need to pay more attention to what I say. I don’t think I’m quite ready to go around saying I love my body, but my running is something I can be okay about. I’m pleased I can run injury free, I’m pleased I’m back training, I’m pleased I can run with my friends again. This is what I need to be saying, and maybe then I can convince people that I really am okay.

This was a bit rambling sorry but just the thoughts going around in my head!

Not my pain

The last few days (maybe weeks) have been rough. I myself am doing fairly well but there are other people around me who are not- and it’s them who things have been rough for. It’s not my place to blog about it- they are entitled to their privacy of course-but there is a little bit of me that finds it hard to just sit back and watch. 

I have invested so much energy the last while in helping myself that it’s easy to forget that not everyone can, that other people can suffer and not want to take the same path I am. I was one of those people once- not wanting to share/talk/whisper anything about what was going on in my head. I have no judgements, they need to do what they need to do, there are where they are, but I just wish I could magic away their bad times and make everything better. I wish I could take their pain away but I know I can’t.

The best thing I can do is keep to structured eating and keep myself well so I can be there if I ever am needed. I can’t control how others feel, but I can control how well I am. So even though their sadness make me sad, I still have to keep moving forward. Just another lesson for recovery I guess!

Normalising over-indulgence

Tonight I ate sweets. Quite a lot of sweets, of the mini kind (stupid left over halloween sweets – I’m getting them out of the house tomorrow whether my boyfriend likes it or not!).

It was definitely a lot of sweets, and I definitely wasn’t hungry for them. I ate the first few for the taste of sugar, and then the next few as crazy ED brain goes ‘binge binge binge then you can purge them and that will purge dinner too then everything will be right with the world’.

Then I stopped. I could feel myself eating them in a way that was harmful to me and I gone beyond enjoyment. A small amount is a pleasure, but it’s a fine line before I do it in a way that makes me feel crap about myself. So I stopped and then had to deal with the full feelings that came.

I have over-indulged. But that’s okay. That happens sometimes. It’s a normal thing that occurs for people every now and again. I could purge, and believe me there’s a large bit of me that wants to, but then all I’m doing is teaching my brain and body that over-indulgence requires purging. And it doesn’t- this is a revelation to me! I over-indulged….so what?! I will digest it, this is not my everyday diet, I won’t balloon, it makes no difference to the good work that I did with the children today, or the nice date night time I had with my boyfriend, or the afternoon I had planned with friends tomorrow. I am not a bad person because I over-indulged. Even if you’re reading this thinking ‘oh I would never do that’ that’s fine-but it doesn’t make you a better person. What we eat or don’t eat has nothing to do with our contribution to mankind.

I am normalising my over-indulgence and I am going to bed on another day where reason triumphed over ED. Night all!

 

Today’s reason for being healthy

I was at a conference today and I asked a question – which is totally unlike me as I normally feel like the stupidest person in the room so I would never open my mouth (in other situations you can’t shut me up, but in academic ones I go shy!)

Anyway, the lovely man answered my question and then afterwards the head of a research group affiliated with the topic of what I asked came up and gave me their card (at what point in life am I grown up enough to need a business card?! I can’t ever picture that!) and said they’d like to meet for a coffee sometime to chat further if I was interested! 

I’m definitely going to contact them, I have no more smart things to say but it’s a topic I’m interested in (families) so why not?

If I were as unwell as my ED brain would have me believe is a worthwhile goal I a)wouldn’t have been at the conference b) wouldn’t have been brave enough to speak up c) might have been less approachable – if I looked visibly sick then people may presume I’m, well, sick and d) would be worried about what the lady thought of me when she came up to me. 

It was an interesting reflection for me. On one hand I want to look ill, but on the other hand I see people who look ill and I think they’re probably very smart competent people but they are clearly in the throes of a serious illness that must affect their competency somewhat.  Now I know of course that you can be seriously ill and not look it (*puts hands up*) but this is about my drive for me to look like I have an eating disorder.

This was one time when I didn’t want to have an eating disorder. This was a positive real life event that had nothing to do with my size or weight. 

Today’s reason for being healthy is because it frees up brain space to focus on my career. Seems like a good one for the list I think! 

The problem with success in ED recovery

In general, I love goals. I love challenges. I love the whole process from planning for them and setting them to  hopefully sticking to them and achieving them. I love the kick I get from pushing myself in a certain way. Success with goals makes me feel good.

However, I’m realising there are good goals and not-so-good goals.

Good goals have been saving for a holiday, remembering friend’s birthdays, training for a marathon, learning to knit and the like. Not-so-good goals include restriction, weight loss, excessive exercise etc.

Good goals make you happy and help you grow as a person. A focus on the not-so-good goals resulted in, for me,  a chronic eating disorder.

When it comes to eating disorder recovery, that’s when it gets a bit tricky. Suddenly I have to flip all my not-so-good goals into good goals. Restriction becomes structured eating, weight loss becomes weight gain/maintenance, excessive exercise becomes moderate exercise with limits. At the same time I have to flip my mindset into believing that achieving these new goals equals success. The success now isn’t training for a faster time, it’s learning to skip a session when tired. The success isn’t weight loss, it’s weight stability. The success isn’t skipping a meal, it’s adding carbohydrates to lunch.

The problem is, these successes don’t feel like successes. I’m putting in as much effort and they’re the cause of plenty of stress, which normally would be worth it for the end achievement, but it just doesn’t feel like that right now. I know the bigger picture is health, recovery etc. but day-to-day they feel like failures. Part of me knows they’re good things to be working on, but an equal (if not bigger) part of me is screaming that I’m a failure for not doing enough exercise, eating too much etc.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense! I can’t quite write it how my head sees it. Hoping some of you will understand! How can I convince myself that going against everything ED made me believe is actually success?