ED rules

Somehow I have made it to this point in my treatment/ recovery without really having to address ‘ED rules’. Inadvertently I have addressed some of them which had a more direct impact on my meal plan and weight e.g. carbs, eating times etc. and I guess both me and my counsellor figures I had got through this challenge and am living quite ‘rule-free’.

However, I am now at the stage where I am fairly compliant with structured eating so we are working on episodes where things have gone a bit awry and I’ve lapsed into behaviours such as restricting/ bingeing/ purging (vomiting and over-exercising). These are waaaay less frequent than they were, which is great of course. If we take a week to have 42 opportunities (7 days x 6 meals/snacks) I’m on approximately a 60-70% success rate. Ideally though I should be getting through some weeks at 100% and reducing these lapses but it’s yet to happen.

When reviewing my food diary in the session before last, my counsellor was trying to figure out why I’d restricted at certain points, what was the reason behind missed meals etc. I explained these blips with the usual reasons such as ‘hadn’t been shopping so didn’t have anything suitable in’ ‘only had a banana left and I’d already eaten a banana ‘oats are not safe anymore because I binged on them’ ‘was going out for dinner so was anxious about calories’. My counsellor, being the expert that she is, shut this down pretty much straight away and told me this was just ED spouting rules at her and she didn’t need to listen to it until we were going to tackle it, so she tasked me with writing a list of ‘ED rules’ before my next session.

At my next session I arrived with quite the list (I won’t share them here because I don’t want to be causing any ED comparisons!). She read through the pages (yes, plural) and just looked up at me and said ‘Well no wonder you haven’t recovered more if you still have these in your head’. She seemed a bit perturbed that I had never been challenged on some of these before by other therapists/ nurses. This is probably partly due to the fact that I have squirmed my way out of tough things with previous therapists (e.g. food diaries, weighing etc.). When they pushed me on this and told me I had to comply to stay with them I just quit -in fact that’s how this blog started! I think it also might that when being treated as an outpatient no-one actually sees me at mealtimes, and as I have always successfully restored my weight maybe it hadn’t seemed necessary. While the thought of addressing these rules is terrifying (picture me in the session sobbing I JUST CAN’T EAT FOOD ON A PLATE AT HOME WHY DOES IT MATTER WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO RUIN MY LIFE!), I can see that the fact that I had that reaction is exactly the reason why I need to start challenging them!

A part of me wants to argue that it doesn’t seem necessary because I’m at a healthy weight, but then the rational bit of me knows full well that you can still be very disordered whatever your weight. Would I say to someone else that those rules are fine? Even if they weren’t affecting my behaviour I need to address them so they can stop infecting my mind. Most of my rules read like a history of diet approaches and mentality, and if that ethos still has a place in my head then I will never be free. I need to get rid of the weeds and the roots.

So the time has come to face the fear. I have two rules to tackle this week: teaspoons and plates – I’ll keep you updated on my progress – but anyone that might be triggered feel free to stay away – and anyone that is reading this thinking ‘hmmm yeah maybe I do have a few rules that I’ve never addressed’ then I’ve my fingers crossed for your progress too.

 

 

This isn’t what I wanted for my life 

I go to bed tonight with a sore throat, a heavy heart, wet eyes and bleeding skin.

This isn’t what I wanted for my life. I thought I was stronger than this right now. I thought if I kept fighting it would be okay.

I know this is just a knock. I know it’s a bad day, a bad night. I know I will wake up tomorrow regretful but renewed. I know I will keep going, but right now I can’t help but think that this is not what I wanted for my life. It doesn’t matter though, what I think tonight, what matters is tomorrow morning getting up and facing it all again. 

I will wake up in the morning and face it all again because that is what recovery is, step by step, day by day. What you do everyday matters more than what you do once in a while, and everyday I shall try. 

Tonight will pass and tomorrow will come, at least I can be sure of that.

Late to the podcast party

I have just discovered podcasts. I know I know, I’m so behind the times, but I just never really got what they were all about until fairly recently. My mum had been recommending some but I was like ‘argh I don’t know how it works on my phone’ and mum quite rightly said ‘if I can do it you can’ – which is so true as my Mum is so lazy about getting on with technology stuff!

I’ve discovered some really good ones mental health-wise and I really feel they have shifted some of my views and beliefs and have been really positive for me, so I thought I would recommend some here and hopefully learn about some new ones from any of you reading!

I’m loving ‘Don’t salt my game’ by Laura Thomas. She a registered nutritionist but her podcast are not just focused on food, she interviews a variety of guests and there generally fun episodes, but also quite informative about a range of topics e.g. anxiety, body positivity, exercise, feminism, health at every size. She’s really passionate about calling society (esp. social media) out on its BS and promotes scientific evidence, so she’s never going to talk about some crazy fad or money-making health scaremongering. For those of you in the UK who watched ‘mind over marathon’ she was the nutritionist associated with this programme. These podcasts have really inspired me to challenge some of my ED beliefs and I can feel myself getting angry at an illness and society that tells me I have to be thin, that thinness is superior, that restricting food is a strength or a talent. Our bodies are our bodies, they are superb machines that know what they need to stay well, and will do a good job of that if we stop fighting them. I’m trying to learn how to #embracethesquish as a result of some of the discussions on this podcast.

The other one I’m enjoying is ‘Eating disorder recovery podcast’ by Tabitha Farrar. I started listening to this one around Eating Disorder Awareness week when she did some great episodes for adults with eating disorders e.g. relationships and sex, money, loneliness. These are issues that don’t often get addressed in eating disorder sites, blogs literature etc so it was interesting and relevant to me as a 30-something year old. She recovered (fully) from a restrictive eating disorder so there is a definite bias towards this in terms of discussion/ focus, but as restriction often plays a part in bulimia/ EDNOS it is relevant to those disorders also. She advocates that full recovery is possible but it’s bloody hard work and can’t be achieved without eating and gaining weight. This is so true so a very important message to be putting out there, but she recognises that the process of doing that is horrendous, so she’s realistic about things.

One more I have gotten into is ‘Bryony Gordon’s it’s a mad world’ which is focused on mental health more generally. She started off the podcast with an interview with Prince Harry which is pretty cool, and then the second episode she talks to a director of NHS mental healthcare services, who then became a patient in the mental health system herself which was fascinating.

I feel like I’ve learnt a lot over the past few weeks with my new podcast obsession, I play them when I’m doing chores, in the bath or as distraction during mealtimes, at night, basically whenever! I went through an intense reading phase at the beginning of the year and now have replaced that with podcasts it seems! I’d love to get some recommendations from you guys for other ones I could try- mental health wise or more generally!

PS: I’m also listening to ‘my dad wrote a porno’ and it is a sure thing to make me laugh out loud – it sounds random but worth looking it up!

Why am I running? What are my reasons to run?

So today I ran a marathon. Eek. I’m a bit worried about announcing that to the world (or WordPress!) as most of you know that marathons and EDs don’t mix.

But I have to explain. This time last year my friend asked me to pace her around Belfast.  I had just had my not-a-marathon experience and was unsure if I’d ever reach the distance again but said if I was well I would. I was well before Christmas, then the break up stuff happened and ED stuff got harder but my running remained slow but consistent so I agreed. I said I would help get her to the start line, and to half way and we’d see after that.

What happened was that we ran strong together until mile 22 and then i started to struggle. She said she’d wait for me but I was very clear- this was her run, her goal was to do her best, my goal was to help her do her best. I let her go saying I would catch up but after a little while I realised I really wasn’t well enough for it. For a mile I agonised over knowing I was going to miss an hour marker, but then I just felt so sick I had to stop, and I thought to myself, why am I running? What are my reasons to run? 

No. 1 was to get my friend to the start line, to the half way and to mile 20. I did that.

No2. was to enjoy the training and to not let it make me feel bad. I did that.

No. 3 i couldn’t think of a number 3. Those were my reasons why and they were great reasons. I had met my goals, and now needed to show off what I have learnt about being kind to myself, about being okay with not meeting my ridiculous expectations, about being able to enjoy the moment. 

So I slowed down, and finished 13 minutes slower than my friend, and 3 minutes slower than I would have liked. But I crossed the finish line thinking, who cares? I did good today. People can think I’m making excuses all I like, but it was better for me that I slowed down than I pushed through. I have shown I can learn. 

Yes this journey through ED is taking me far longer than I would have liked. Yes I feel like I’m taking all the detours. Yes I doubt that I will get there. But I will keep on trying and I feel damn good about that. Today I ran a marathon, not ED, not self-hate, not self criticism, just me and my feeling great about me self! 

Recovery after so many years is a long and winding road, but as long as I’m still on it and facing the right direction I figure I have got this. 

I have got this.

And now sleep! Zzzzzz 😉 

Learning the difference between can’t and won’t

I had a really challenging session with my counsellor a couple of weeks ago. She asked me how my motivation levels are, which she always starts with I guess to gauge where I’m at. I’d had a rough couple of weeks and there had been some discussion of discharge to give me a break as I was struggling mood-wise. At this session though I was ready to keep fighting and told her that I was committed, that I trusted her and I would do what was necessary to make the most of this opportunity with her.

She asked me how often I had been weighing myself. I said, sheepishly, a few times a day. She said that I needed to get rid of the scales or limit that to once a week. I moaned but I can’t” and started to launch into all the reasons why. She stopped me though and said you can it will just be hard so you won’t”. Harsh, but true. There is no real reason why I can’t do that except that it will make me feel anxious and terrified, and the fact is that I can’t recover without going through a period of feeling anxious and terrified.

We then moved onto meal planning and that I need to be following the meal snack meal snack meal structure with no excuses and need to be planning it the night before. Again, I said “I can’t” and gave my reasons why. She interrupted me though, as she has heard all these excuses before and told me “you can, and this is the only way you will recover, so if you’re deciding you won’t then you need to think about the choice you are making”. Again, harsh but true. I’ll say at this point that my counsellor knows her sh*t and she has been very tolerant and understanding, and will offer whatever support I need for recovery, but she is very clear that she won’t collude with my eating disorder as her job is to help me recover. This is exactly the type of person you need by your side in recovery.

She was was right of course, I can meal plan. I can take 30 mins of everyday to sit down and write out my meals for the next day. I can choose going to the supermarket over watching netflix. I can run less so I’m not too exhausted to cook. I can add carbohydrates to each meal. All of this is within my control, but it involves acknowledging that sometimes I just won’t. 

Eating disorders are a b**ch of an illness. It is not fair that I have one and it is not fair that I have to fight through the terror to get better. But it is a fact that I have to go through that terror if I want to come out the other side, and I do want that. I want a life free from ED. So I am learning the difference between can’t and won’t, and being firm but gentle with myself as I do that.

A day to myself

Yesterday was the first day in months that I had no plans. I had to be home to wait for a delivery and it forced me to arrange my day to be at home. 

It was bliss! I woke up early but lay in bed reading. I did some epic spring cleaning- I washed two sets of curtains, I cleaned the grouting in the bathroom tiles, I washed the windows, I sorted out cupboards, I cleaned my cross country shoes, I had washed clothes that had been building up. In between this I had two naps and watched two movies! 

It might sound like a horrible day to others but cleaning really does soothe me, and it was great to get things checked off my to-do list, and to wake up this morning to a sparkling house! 

Eating wise it wasn’t great, despite being relaxed and having a lovely day I purged three times and binged/purged in the evening. Bulimia is back with an avengance but I’m aware of this and prioritising my recovery, I took out my self-help manual and have started the first module again, and wrote out my pros and cons for recovery and am going to food shop today to get me started for the week. 

I’m away again the next two weekends and can already feel the anxiety building up, but this is a lesson that I need more days like this as they really do help. In fact I’m going to schedule some in the diary right now! 

Hope you all had lovely Saturdays too. 

“It’s not a safe food”

I had a very honest moment with my friend today. She bought us ‘breakfast muffins’ for breakfast this morning. I looked at them and had the immediate panic of do I a) refuse and it be awkward 2) eat and purge 3) eat and try not purge 4) eat some of it and then panic about eating the rest 5) eat some of it, then binge later as the resisting was too much, and then purge….. and so on and so on….

She noticed my face and asked if I didn’t like them – I was going to say no but before I could, I admitted that I did. She said have one then – so I said I would have a small piece. She said no have a whole one and before I knew it I was saying ‘it’s not a safe food’.

She asked me what that meant (aside- imagine a world where safe foods/ danger foods do not exist!What?!) and I paused and then admitted- it’s the kind of thing that I would eat 10 off and then need to be sick. She looked shocked. I guess understanding it in theory and me saying it out loud is different. She asked me should she not eat such stuff in front of me, or not offer it to me. That made me sad, as while that would avoid the issue for now that is not real life. I told her that me learning to eat just a little is a good thing.

It was sobering to realise that purging is so shocking to some people, and yet so mundane to me. I don’t want purging to be part of my life- or at most the smallest part as I can make it. It was mortifying to admit out loud that I would binge (although I still avoided using that word) but it was important too.

I am not a lesser person because I have binged. I am not a lesser person because I have purged. I am doing my best with what circumstances I find myself in. That is all I can do at any one time.

But I do want to take this moment to say to any of you that is ashamed of your binging and/or your purging. This is an illness. It is not a weakness. I am not judging you – because judging myself would not be helpful. It is not our fault we have the urges, but it is within us to change things. Sufficient consistent eating, everything in moderation, self-care, reaching out…we are worth it.