I don’t know how to recover

I was due to start some body image work with my counsellor yesterday. I have gained enough weight and kept it stable for long enough that body image work is now an option. for me. I was both terrified and excited. I am feeling horribly uncomfortable in my body right now. I’m trying to ‘deal’ and barely managing it. It’s that pervasive ‘can’t look in the mirror, need to try on a zillion outfits generally ending up in tears in front of the wardrobe, self-harming due to a photo’ kind of feeling. I keep telling myself I’m ‘over-evaluating weight and shape’ but the rational voice isn’t making a dent.

So I went to my appointment and we went through the usual reporting behaviours etc. I admitted I’d purged a few times over the past fortnight since my last appointment. My counsellor responded with ‘it just has to stop’ and that there is no point in doing body image work until the purging is under control. Apparently I can’t work on accepting my body until I stop behaviours.

My counsellor is amazing, so I trust her that this is the way to do things, but man, I am struggling to see the sense in not helping my accept my body due to the behaviours that are occurring because of the fact that I can’t accept my body. It just goes round and around. I understood this with weight gain, there’s no point in learning to accept a body that is only temporary until the weight stabilises. But my behaviours aren’t due to weight. I know binging and purging will only make me gain weight, and I know purging after normal sized food is more likely to end up with me eating more overall.

I understand the behaviours need to go but I honestly do not know how to do this. I said this to her and she seemed to really think I can. I really wanted to believe her but I don’t think she really understands how ingrained the purging and the binge/purging is. If I’m not restricting, I’m purging, and I have been doing this for more than 20 years now. This is the way I live my life. I have never been able to conquer it without resorting to restriction.

She set me the challenge of 4 weeks of no purging. I told her how incredulous this was and she told me that I just have to do it and that I know how and I can do it I just have to follow through. I was sceptical initially but by the end of the session really committed to trying. I want to get rid of this more than anything in the world and I am willing to give it my all.

So today I felt full after lunch and distracted with a walk. I ate crisps that weren’t planned and I distracted with a nap after work. I ate a healthy meal with a friend and observed the feelings of eating more than her. Then she showed me a photo of me from a race that someone had posted online and bam the urge to purge was there. I distracted by sitting down to do some phd. I got stuck with PhD and the urge grew stronger. I repeated and repeated to myself that it was just an urge and that it was not my rational brain (thanks, ‘brain over binge’). I did everything I should have and yet, there I am a while later purging my dinner and crying in the bathroom.

It wasn’t about undoing any calories, it was about trying to survive the feelings about my horrible grotesque body and my stupid brain that is stuck with my phd. It didn’t help, as I still feel bad now, and even worse as I failed to last even a day. I feel pathetic but I’m also really frustrated as I don’t know how to make my counsellor understand that I can’t ‘just stop it’. I honestly do not know how to recover, and I’m so scared that I can’t make anyone else understand this. She is meant to be my ally in all of this but right now I just feel so alone. It’s not about not wanting it enough. I want to be free of this horrible demon so so much, but I genuinely do not know how. I don’t want to the person that can’t even go one day, but in the moment I seem to have no power.

So here I am, failing again and struggling to see how I will ever stop ending up back in this place.

Advertisements

Driving with my button open

I bought new jeans last week and today is my second time wearing them. After about 20 minutes in the car I could feel the waistband pinching in to me so I opened the top button to give my belly a bit of room. My first feeling about this was disgust, that I have gained so much weight that now my jeans are too tight for me. That I’m a worthless, useless human being who just can’t keep her weight in check. These are the same brand of jean I’ve worn for the past few years so it’s not the jeans, it’s just me and my ginormous horrible belly.

Thirty minutes later with a coffee, and some time to reflect, I’m kind of laughing at myself. So what if my jeans are a bit tight? In this moment I only have a couple of options – one, deal with it and open my button when they’re feeling too tight – two, wait and see if they loosen out a little after a few wears – three, accept that I need to buy a bigger size and buy it now and suck up the wasted money or four- keep getting upset about it and let a stupid jean button dictate my life.

What a crappy option number four is. My life is far to big and full for that kind of attitude now. Who cares if I open my button when I need to? (don’t worry, modesty wise I have a long t-shirt on!) Who cares if I wear a size bigger? I want to be the type of person who accepts their body for what it is and doesn’t buy into the thin ideal. I want to show other women and girls that any body is okay, that size does not equate to worth. I can’t do that if I’m crying in my car about my top button being open.

So I’m going for option one today and in time might consider buying the next size up if needed – this feels terrifying to me – but it is a sensible solution to what is really a small problem in the grand scheme of life. Like seriously, do I want to live a life where I have to blog about the size of my jeans?!

Still learning…

 

 

 

Where I’m at

I need to break the block of writing here again so here is a list of random thoughts that are not really intended for anyone to read.

  • I gained weight to the highest amount I have ever been and I cannot cope with it. I am at a healthy weight but I can’t bear to look at myself and feeling myself in this body brings me to tears or self-harm frequently.
  • I cancelled an appointment with my counsellor two months ago and haven’t been able to bring myself to reschedule as I didn’t feel like she really understood the pain I felt at being this weight.
  • I followed this with three weeks of full on bulimia i.e. planned binges, repeated binge-purging. It felt liberating and to be honest, enjoyable, until suddenly it was not and I stated cancelling plans, got quite sick and cracked two teeth in the process.
  • I am now in the process of getting back on my meal plan and trying to acknowledge binge urges and see them just as neurological junk.
  • I would like to lose weight but it is not happening and I am trying to not fall apart due to this.
  • I have come off my anti-depressants with the help of my doctor as I felt they were making me apathetic and were no longer helping with the mood or the binge-purging anyway. I’m pleased with this decision as while I am a bit more tearful I am also being more pro-active about using other strategies to support my mood.
  • I was in a new relationship and things were all going well and we were making plans, then last week he suddenly decided he wanted a break as I didn’t have enough time for him. I’m really sad by this, but equally I can’t magic more time out of thin air and have to look after myself too.
  • I stopped running over winter as part of tackling my exercise compulsion, but in hindsight it led to quite a low mood over the winter and I won’t be experimenting with that again. It also contributed to the weight gain so you can imagine how I feel about that. I am back running now but I’m slow and unfit so currently trying to deal with the voices in my head about that.
  • I started a new job and it is great. I am still doing my PhD and that is not great.

So overall a mixed bag, lots of negative re: ED and mood, but I am present and engaged and taking ownership of it, and importantly I know I will be okay, and that bit of hope is enough to keep me swimming, however hard it might be.

“The man who is swimming against the stream knows the strength of it” 

Woodrow T. Wilson

What awareness do we want to create? EDAW2018

It’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week which brings with it inevitable reflection for many of us who have experienced EDs. It’s natural for us to want to use our own stories as a means of creating awareness. This can be very useful, but it is worth spending the time thinking about how to do it in a constructive way and think about what kind of awareness our actions might actually create.

  • Posting an underweight to healthy weight before and after picture reinforces the misconception that you need to be underweight to have an eating disorder (you don’t)
  • These pictures are also likely (but not always) to be ‘most dramatic’ for those with anorexia- this reinforces the idea that anorexia is the primary/most common eating disorder (it’s not)
  • These pictures don’t create any awareness that EDs can be experienced by those in larger bodies (they can)
  • Even pictures of people of moving from ‘small’ body to larger body, or ‘regular’ size body to larger body or ‘large ‘body to larger body (basically all combinations!) suggest that EDs are just about bodies and weight (they’re not)
  • Giving details of weight, severity, calories restricted etc fuels the comparative nature of EDs for those still suffering, and could suggest to someone reading that you have to be eating a certain amount, or weight a certain amount or have experienced certain symptoms to be concerned (you don’t – EDs present in all sorts of ways)
  • Glamourising severity (however determined) may make people who developed EDs but received early intervention which worked and prevented them developing more serious presentations more reluctant in sharing their story. This therefore undoes the work that EDAW is trying to achieve- we need more stories of how early intervention worked, not less. Severity is not a badge of honour, recovery is.
  • Discussing the illness without discussing recovery does not create any awareness of how difficult recovery is, and how much support might be needed from family/ friends/ general society. Tell people about what helped, about how structured eating was necessary, about how talking about behaviours such as binging/ purging reduces shame, about how you need accountability from your support system, or whatever it is that is helpful for you. Try not to make this only food focused. 
  • Similarly to above, discuss what helps in terms of services. Being inpatient is one kind of treatment, please don’t equate this to severity and glamourise it. Discuss how you found a knowledgeable GP/ primary care doctor (after a few goes probably!). Discuss how regular appointments helped keep you on track. Discuss how recovery can be messy and stop and start. Discuss how voluntary organisations provide additional support (e.g. groups) not available elsewhere. Discuss the self-help literature which helped (and not those which might harm). And if you haven’t received any of this – discuss how this is frustrating and ask how you might be able to contribute to change. 
  • Equating recovery with muscles/ strength (i.e. photos from the gym or at home) again equates the illness with the body only, and suggests that the primary benefit of recovery is a muscular figure which diminishes all the other amazing benefits that come with recovery, not to mention the fact that many people don’t want to, or can’t achieve this physique.

Eating Disorders are horrific illnesses, those of us suffering and those caring for us know that. This week is an opportunity for us to share that with the world, but with that comes responsibility for what type of awareness we create. Please think carefully.

Okay morning rant over! I’ll also link to last year’s rant! When the before and after don’t look so different

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!