When your eating disorder makes you a crap friend

A friend of mine went through a bad break up last year. Due to stress she lost a fair bit of weight. She then started focusing more on her running due to needing a distraction. As a result she is now teeny tiny and a much faster runner than me.

I am so ashamed to admit this but I am really struggling with it. I can’t help but compare myself and be jealous of her. She is one of the sweetest loveliest people who has done nothing wrong and yet I’m finding it really hard to be around her. I want to be thin. I want to be fast. But I know that takes more willpower and dedication than I have right now. And I know for me it means being ill. I’m not sure if she is being healthy with it all, she claims she is but I haven’t spent enough time with her to really know as I am avoiding her.

I feel like it’s lose lose for me – if she is ill then she’s done better at her eating disorder than I have as she is thinner than I have ever been – and if she isn’t ill then she has managed to be thinner than me without needing to have an eating disorder.

I recognise what I’m saying is awful – I am fully aware of it- and I know I am being a terrible terrible friend by avoiding her – but it’s hard to explain how crap I feel around her.

It just strikes to my deepest darkest parts of my soul and the fire of shame that I have spent years with disordered eating and never ever been really really thin. I can read all the quotes and post about different bodies but I just feel like mine failed me, and I failed at anorexia. I feel like I won’t ever be able to move on if I can’t get to that point just one time, but I also don’t think it’s possible for me.

If it’s that hard for me to lose weight then I can’t have anorexia, my ‘voice’ just mustn’t be strong enough and maybe I’ve just been pretending all this time. Maybe I’m just an example of years of failed dieting rather than restriction and recovery.

All I know is I just hate my body right now and hate how crap a friend I am being all because of the size of a waist and the speed of a mile.

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What I think about when people talk about calories

Two people separately today talked to me about calories. It wasn’t the usual ‘oh no so many calories in that we better not eat it conversations’, they were both conversations about how it’s best not to focus on calories and how it’s a shame people do and how it’s easy to get caught up in it. They were kind of conversations about how some people can obsess too much and complaining about how calorie labelling in places can be off putting etc. and that we should just be thinking about how all types of food can make us feel good.

So, quite healthy talk about being healthy really. All fine there.

Except all my brain was thinking is that I look healthy enough for you to think it’s acceptable to have a conversation with me about calories and food choices. These aren’t the kind of conversations that people have with people with anorexia. Previously people never would have talked so easily about food with me because I conveyed (through body and attitude) that I was not easy about food.

The fact that they do now think this is okay could be a good thing, maybe I come across as sorted and okay and yeah I can breezily discuss the calories in the snacks provided, but all my brain is thinking is ‘i am no longer thin enough for you not to avoid a food conversation with me’ and man it really sucks. It shouldn’t but it does. Because actually I’m not breezy about the calories, I know exactly how many are it in and how many I can have and where it fits in my allowance and what I’ll be burning off and when and why I’m allowed this and please ED brain just be quiet for one moment….

I moved these conversations on as soon as I could but the thoughts have stuck and I had to try really hard to not let it ruin my day, but amazingly I did manage it.

The ED is still fighting, and I am still learning. Recovery continues.

Feeling betrayed by recovery

Things are pretty cr*p at the moment. My PhD is hard and horrible and my deadline is stretching further away from me as the more I do the more I realise I have to do, and all within the context of me not really knowing what the point of the project is or what exactly it is I’m trying to achieve (aside from getting some semblance of a thesis together so I can get it the hell out of my life). I’m gaining weight and it won’t seem to stop and my body image is rubbish. I’m trying to get back to running but I’m slow and it feels awful and therefore I’m not getting the positive experiences from it as I used to. I don’t have time to see my friends so I feel guilty about that all the time, but really I’m quite happy not having to be around other people and have to pretend to function. I’m tearful a fair chunk of the day and it’s lots of effort to not start crying at inappropriate times.

I feel like I’ve been betrayed by recovery. I thought sorting out the food stuff and gaining the weight would mean I would be better able to manage life and enjoy it. I thought it would help with my mood and stress. I trusted my counsellor that gaining weight and changing behaviours was necessary and a positive step. And yet, here I am just obsessed about food in a different way, still hating my body and feeling more out of control than ever.

I know this is probably a phase and it will pass, but it still sucks while I’m in it. I bought into recovery as being tough but worth it, and it’s really hard when you get to a stage where actually it doesn’t feel worth it. I honestly think things were better when I has the bubble of my eating disorder to protect me, at least I felt I was managing some aspect of my life. I can’t seem to make my counsellor understand how I feel about this, she keeps dismissing it and it is so frustrating, so I have no one to be honest with about this.

Sorry for the negative rant, I just needed to let it out.

Some days I could really do without having an eating disorder

Today is one of those days.

I have taken a a day’s leave to work on my PhD, which I guess actually is point one. If I hadn’t have needed to take a period of leave to pause my PhD while ill a few years ago I would still have PhD funding and not be working full-time while I try finish (PhD students can’t access sick pay- you can imagine how well that works given the high rate of mental health difficulties in postgrad students – insert eye roll emoji here…), which would mean I wasn’t using holiday time intended for resting working on my project of doom.

I had a counselling appointment this morning and obviously while I am incredibly and eternally grateful for being able to access services through the university (one up side of student life I guess), it is an hour out of the small amount of time I have to work.

I then came out of the session feeling exhausted, sad and frustrated. I’m doing so well in lots of ways, I really am firmly on the road to recovery, but I am still using behaviours every now and again and it’s painful to unpick them and figure out what happened and what I could have done differently. And when the words ‘that’s just self-control and I can’t help with that’ get spoken in a conversation about eating too many chocolates, you know I’m going to be left feeling sh*t for the rest of the day and definitely need a post-counselling moment in the bathroom to regroup and make it look like I haven’t been crying before I go into the office.

Then I arrive at the office and I’m faced with my snack. To eat or not to eat? Surely if I need to develop self-control I should be practising not eating, but the rational bit of brain knows that probably wasn’t the intended outcome, and certainly not about carrot sticks. So I eat the damn carrot sticks, and then feel cr*p that 30 mins later I’m already hungry again and it’s nowhere near lunchtime.

So, 5 hours from waking I’m already feeling a but defeated and sad and I haven’t even started on PhD work yet, which is also a guaranteed activity to make me feel awful about myself.

Somedays I could really do without having an eating disorder. I could do without the mental drain that it entails and the effort involved in staying well. I could do with the over thinking and the looped thoughts of food, body, exercise, willpower, weakness, shame. So much shame. Sometimes I just want to feel p*ssed off that I ever got this illness.

But I also know the only way out is through, so I have to keep on going through this to get to the point of not having an eating disorder. So I will keep on keeping on. But sometimes I just need to allow myself a little rant! So here it is!

Bridesmaid take 6

I am bridesmaid for a friend tomorrow. It will be my 6th time being bridesmaid which when I’ve been ill has been variations of nightmares, but this time it feels different.

I got the dress 4 months ago and it was loose on me. I debated the smaller size but I knew I was gaining and was afraid so I bought it to ‘grow in to’ and take in as necessary. It just about fits now, it’s tight around my rib cage but does zip up. Really it’s fine, I just prefer slightly too big clothes in general. I only just tried it on at the weekend as I didn’t really want to know if it was too small (hello denial).

So the dress fits and with that comes lots of emotions about having gained weight. The funny thing is though is that I am far less anxious about this wedding than any previous ones. So what if my arms are larger than I want them to be? So what if people notice the weight gain? There are more important things in my life now.

My counsellor asked me to bring my plan for how I was going to cope with food while away and honestly I hadn’t thought about it. I hadn’t thought about it. Previously it was all I could think about! But she’s right that I need to be mindful and to plan ahead as I still need that structure.

So I prepped my meals for travelling today but tomorrow I’m planning on eating a sensible hotel breakfast, getting something for lunch as ceremony not until 2, then having canapés when served (getting some crisps (!) from bar if no veggie options) then starter and some of main course of wedding meal (depending on size and what it is) with a sandwich at the dancing break (wedding will go on until wee hours, night snack will be needed!). I may have some dessert if I feel safe, and will factor in a couple of glasses of wine.

I know planning seems a bit anti-fun and at some point I want to be able to just roll with it, but in order to set myself up to be able to avoid behaviours this is just where I’m at. Being sensible with this means freeing up brain space for enjoying the rest of the day.

I’m cautiously optimistic that I might actually get through a wedding weekend with no behaviours and no tears- watch this space!

Recovery and regular size bananas

So yesterday I was in the supermarket and I picked up two bananas and thought, hmm they’re a bit small, so broke off a larger two from another bunch and put them in my basket.

As I put them in my basket I had a flash of amazement. Let me tell you why…

For years banana was a no go fruit. It didn’t even go in the ‘fruit’ category in my crazy food system.

Then slowly I started introducing them and spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about them.

Gradually they became a core feature of my diet and I ate them everyday without panic.

Then I got challenged to eating two of them in a day e.g. one for breakfast and then again for snack and it seemed like the most ridiculous idea anyone had ever come up with. But eventually I tried it, and if needs be, I can do it.

While I thought I had cracked the banana drama, it then became apparent I had banana size issues in that I always had to pick the smallest bananas available, and that I had a banana size limit and would walk away without them if they I deemed them too large. Along with this I realised I had a rule about never breaking up bunches of bananas to get the number I needed, so my generally-managed OCD got a look in too.

So I tackled these rules too and without really noticing, bananas lost their status and their power over me.

They became a food that I sometimes like to eat, that fill me up (if of a decent size) and are yummy and versatile.

So yesterday my sane self looked at some bananas and thought ‘they’re not enough for me’ and put other ones in my basket. I am not less of a person because I chose larger ones. I am not weak because I get hungry. I AM making a good stab at recovery. I HAVE come on more than I ever thought possible. I am just a girl buying bananas and getting on with her lovely life.

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.