dfjlk;safaskldfjdsa;fkja

The Face of Functional Anxiety

I remember when I was first hospitalized, my favourite high school teacher came to visit me.  She came several times over the months that I was in there, but I remember that first visit specifically.

She hadn’t seen me in years.  Not decades, but it had been a solid two years.  And two years before, I was graduating high school, and looking towards a bright future.  I was heading off to university for the first time, and I had enough scholarships to cover my expenses for first year for sure, with the possibility of a good number renewing the next year, so long as I kept my grades up.  I had a 96% average (stupid physical education just kept bringing me down!), and was looking towards a science degree in veterinary medicine.  I was the class valedictorian.  I had a plethora of extra curricular activities. The skies were nothing but bright for me.

Except for that dark cloud… the one that no one ever noticed.  The one that had been there for so long that it was simply a part of my normal, when in reality it was anything but.

When she turned the corner into my room and laid eyes on me for the first time, I remember the shock.  I remember the look of dismay and fear in her eyes.  The look that was initially there, but quickly covered up by professionalism and compassion.

She wasn’t expecting to see a human skeleton.  She wasn’t expecting to see a shell.  She wasn’t expecting to see a broken person, whose future had once been so bright, now just scrambling to hold it together and stay alive long enough to put together all the pieces.

I remember talking to her.  I was too sick to retain a lot of memories at that point.  There are large chunks of my life that I to this day don’t remember…  I can pinpoint a moment, usually an ingrained memory of this time period that is only recognizable by the emotion I was feeling at the time: terror.

I remember that I went to my Grandma’s right before I was hospitalized, but I don’t remember being there.  It’s a black chunk of space.  It’s like I can remember up to a certain point, and then it’s as if someone just used a ____________ and wiped the slate clean.  The only thing I remember is the terror that struck me when I stared at the menu selection of split pea soup.  I remember I was there because I remember reading split pea soup on the dinner menu at the retirement home.  And I remember the terror I felt because she didn’t have wifi for me to calorie count.  That’s it.

I remember staying at my aunt and uncle’s just before that because I was too scared to be home.  I have photo evidence I was there from a selfie I took, although I don’t remember taking the selfie at all.  But I do remember the breakfast before they drove me to Grandma’s.  I remember 5 cheerios, a peach, and a handful of almonds.  I can picture the plate perfectly in my mind, and the terror I felt while staring at it.  Just as perfectly as I can remember myself scraping the whole thing into the trash can and covering it up with tissues (save 3 cheerios.  I ate three cheerios), when no one was looking.

So I don’t remember everything.  But I remember the terror on her face when she saw me.  And the shock.  And I know that I told her everything.  I know I told her how difficult it had been, all the crap I faced growing up, the late nights staying up till 4 in the morning when I had to get up again at 7.  The fact that school was my sanctuary because I dreaded going home at the end of the day at 3:30.  The fact that the only thing that got me through some nights was some intense prayer, and the reality that I got to escape again for 7 hours the next morning.

I don’t remember telling her, but I know I did.  Because I remember her response:

“I had no idea.  You always seemed to have it all together.  You had everything figured out.  You were so together and collected.  I had no idea all the stuff you were dealing with.  I had no idea you eventually weren’t even living at home for the last couple years of high school.  I guess it proves, you can’t judge a book by its cover… I just can’t believe that underneath the exterior, the inside was so torn up.”

The amount of times I’ve heard it:  I had no idea.  You never told me.  You had everything so together.

It’s the face I deal with every day.  It’s the untold story that lies beneath.  It’s that dark cloud that seems invisible to everyone else.  That dark cloud that only I can see, but is so normal that I forget, it’s not supposed to be there.

Functional Anxiety… or rather High-Functioning Anxiety.

I read an article that explains it all so much better than I ever could, but regardless I’m going to try.  I do however, urge you all to give the article a read, because it is SO enlightening, and so relatable to so many people, if you struggle with any kind of mental illness.

I’ve had so many conversations, in which when I finally let down the wall a little bit, it’s perceived as a relapse.  It’s perceived as a greater amount of struggling, or like the therapy and recovery process is not going well.  It’s perceived as not working.  The reality is, perhaps it IS working, because I’m finally getting too tired to hold the wall up.  My shell is cracking, and I’m allowing myself to trust you enough to let you in.

It’s like in Harry Potter ( 🤓🙌🙌), when unless you’ve witnessed death, you can’t see the threstrals.  Well, up until now you haven’t seen my head, so you can’t see my cloud.  But if I remove the veil, you can see just how dark of a place it is.

What is functional anxiety?

It’s a mask.  It’s an illness that is so pervasive and sneaky.  It’s a shroud of diligence that keeps you alive and moving in your life, treading water, not sinking but not swimming.  In limbo… but limbo appears normal.

What does it look like?

It’s in my movements.  You see it as productivity and energy, a strong sense of drive and priority.  You see it as high standards, and dedication to getting jobs done to the T.

What you don’t notice is those subtle movements that give it all away.  The shifting of my feet as I stand.  The wiggling of a foot as I’m sitting down.  The plethora of scars that litter my legs from picking at nicks and scabs.  The amount of times my hands wander up to my hair, and how often I have to wash it because the constant swiping makes it oily.

It looks like me holing myself up in my room when working on coursework and staying up until all hours of the night to study or get a project done.  It’s reading and rereading every page, every note, and trying to commit it all to memory.  It looks like studiousness.  In reality I remember nothing, because all I can see in those moments of trying to learn it all, is my inevitable failure.

You can see it in my words… in my frequency of using “…” to end a thought.  Unwilling to commit to a period (“.”) because of the finality of it, the inability to change your mind.  Because, what if that thought was wrong?  The amount of times I say, “I don’t know.”  The amount of times I commit to something with, “maybe”.  My initial excitement over something spontaneous, the invigoration in my whole body and soul, shrouded by a flash of panic in my eyes when something out of the ordinary changes my plans.

It looks like me standing in front of a coffee shop or ice cream parlour menu for inordinate amounts of time, because for these two things that I enjoy so much it isn’t a simple decision.  My brain is confusing choosing an ice cream with buying a car.  The commitment is unequal, but it must be just as perfect.  Every decision I makes dictates my fate, not my moment.

It looks like busyness.  Always doing something.  Refusing to rest.  It looks like a lot of yawns, covered up by diet coke, from a 4 or 5 hour sleep.  It looks like a bike ride, or four.  Racing, running.

What does it feel like?

Filling my life with breaths of fresh air as my feet or my wheels pound the pavement, and feeling the rejuvenation that each blast of air circulating through my body brings.  Racing, running, flying, always moving because it feels that by moving I can outrun my thoughts.  I can leave them behind me in the dust.

It feels like a progressively worsening throb right between my eyebrows. Like shackles and chains holding me down, pinning my arms and legs to the place I’m in, both mentally and physically.  It’s the claws of a lion digging into my shoulders and neck, slicing further and further into my muscles and nerves while I try vigorously to free myself.  Constant rotation of my head, rolling of my shoulders, massaging them with one arm, or both.

It’s a sinking rock suddenly falling into my stomach, and subsequent trembling of my arms and hands when something changes the plans.  When I’m put on the spot.  When I’m surprised.

What does it sound like?

A sudden shift, a dramatic outburst.  A cloying frustration with a simple question.  A nasty sneer, with an occasional swear word.  As if I’m arguing, but with an unknown person.  A calm conversation that suddenly becomes heated.  As if you’re interrupting a conversation, but I’m not talking to anyone you can see.

You are interrupting me.  You’re interrupting the train of thought in my cloud.

It sounds like nothing.  The world is quiet.  I am quiet.  I am silent and non communicative.  You hear nothing.

I hear:

You are nothing.  You are worthless.  You are pathetic.  You are lazy.  You are a pig.  You are a terrible friend.  You’re a terrible girlfriend.  You’re selfish.  You don’t deserve to be loved.  You are unloveable.  You are going to mess it all up.  You’re going to fail.  You’re a mistake.  You’re a waste of space.  You’re a waste of time.  Why did you say that?  Why did you do that?  You’re so stupid!  They’re going to hate you.  What if they hate you?  He’s going to leave.  Why should he stay?  Why would he want to?  You’re boring.  You’re ugly.  You’re fat.  You should be ashamed.  You should feel guilty.  What if it hurts them?  You’re going to get anxious… and then you’re going to quit.  You let everyone down.  No one loves you.  No one likes you.  You bore everyone.  You ruin everything.  You deserve to be alone.  No one wants you around.  They’re just saying that.  They feel sorry for you.  You’re too needy!  You’re immature.  You’re useless.

cae728baf1bff5b755e8085d9c02c0a9

It’s a run to the mailbox.  It’s two trips to the basement instead of one.  It’s a way to channel your thoughts and energy and try to burn them out.  To wear yourself out so much that you don’t have the energy to think.  To wear yourself out so much that the cloud will turn foggy and the thoughts will be quiet.  They’ll turn to a mush instead of such distinct statements about yourself and your worth.  It’s a constant attempt to be better and do better to try and prove them wrong, but their volume never lessens, and their requirements just get higher.

It’s running the line between being productive and procrastinating.  The unimportant things get done because they don’t matter, and it doesn’t matter if they’re done wrong.  The important things don’t get done because you can’t risk doing them wrong or making a mistake.  It’s one extreme or another.

It’s waking up in the middle of the night with your thoughts racing, your chest constricting, and if you’re going through something particularly stressful, feeling your heart racing and wondering if you’re having a heart attack (but it’s just a panic attack).

It’s never admitting to being overwhelmed because it’s a sign of weakness.  It’s never allowing them to see you sweat because it ruins the exterior appearance of control and dedication.  It’s not being able to communicate what is wrong for fear of judgement, and for fear of proving the judgements of yourself to be true.  It’s not being able to admit to how you’re feeling because you don’t want them to see you crack.  And if you voice your feelings out loud, and own them, they become so all consuming and real that you can’t cope with them.

It’s avoiding discussions and arguments because you don’t want to be put on the spot.  You want to have all the answers, and maybe, just maybe, you won’t have one.  You don’t want to seem foolish.  You don’t want to appear uneducated.  You don’t want them to see you fumble.

It’s either telling yourself, “You’re a complete mess!” or to “Suck it up, whiny baby!”

It’s constantly invalidating your struggles by telling yourself to, “Get off your high horse! So many people have it worse off!”

It’s being in a crowd of people but not feeling connected to anyone.  Feeling like everyone would be happier if you weren’t at the party, or at the event, or that they only asked you to come because they felt obligated to.  It’s not answering a text message because you don’t know what to say, and you don’t want to appear boring, because you don’t want to lose one of the few people that you feel like you have on your side.  And then feeling like you’re a terrible person for not replying.

And it’s when things that are insignificant everyday occurrences to many, are the world’s biggest victories to you:

1:  Drinking a latte, and allowing yourself to enjoy it.

2: Saying that you’re frustrated.

3: Taking a break from exercise when you’re sick.

4: Taking on a new responsibility at work, even if it’s just to carry rags to the back room.  It doesn’t matter how small.

5: Only biking for 10 minutes instead of 20.

6: Sitting down for your lunch instead of standing in your kitchen.

7: Laughing instead of crying.

8: Talking instead of isolating.

9: Admitting you made a mistake.

10: Moving on after making a mistake.

11: Eating an ice cream cone instead of a peach.

12: Going out with someone new.

13:  Talking to someone on your lunch break.

14: Admitting when you want to eat out, not waiting for someone else to want to.

15: Showing up for something, regardless of how much you’re shaking at the time, or how much terror you’re feeling.

16: Watching a movie.  And actually WATCHING it, not just going through the motions while your head is elsewhere.

17: Deciding your remote control is more friendly than your tennis shoes.  Or that your tennis shoes are more friendly than your remote control.  It depends on the day.

18: Only skimming the pages instead of reading them.

19: Going out on a Friday night instead of studying all weekend.

20: Allowing yourself to cry on another’s shoulder.

And it’s functioning.  It’s appearing okay, to have it all together.  To be at peace on the outside when the tornado rages within.  It’s not productive.  It’s not powering through.  It’s not MANAGING your struggles.  It’s not even coping.

It’s surviving.  It’s not living.

It’s not being happy.

It’s not being content.

It’s not being at peace.

It’s grasping at moments, at split seconds when the tornado dies down, when the winds aren’t quite as gale-like, and then realizing you can hear the birds chirping.  And taking that moment, that second to exhale.  And to smile.

Because you, unlike those around you, realize:

You’re not at a safe harbour.  You’re just in the eye of the storm.

 

 

 

 

jfkd;afj1

Normal is Disordered: Reframing the Size Bias

Hello all!  How have you been?

My week has been crazy.  It’s the middle of summer, and we’re approaching a long weekend where I live, which is typically the busiest two weeks of the year here.  It’s great for our economy, as I live in a tourist town that relies on the sizzling hot summer months to survive, but it makes work a gong show! Plus, we’ve been having so many issues with people calling in sick, breaking ribs, altering schedules, etc in my department, that that just adds to the hectic nature of summer, and not in a positive way.

I’m one of those people that, when I decide to do a job or am employed to do a job, I do it to the best of my ability… call it my perfectionist/fear of making a mistake or failing bias, but it works quite well in the workplace.  I mean minus the fact that it usually stresses me out more than it should.  The boyfriend always says to me, “You did what you could, and honestly they don’t pay you enough to care the amount that you do.  The way you worry about things is the equivalent that the manager worries about things… and they certainly don’t pay you the same.  It’s not your job to worry about all these things, and it’s not worth the amount that it stresses you out.”

True.  So true.  But I have such a perfectionistic bias!

AND, it translates to my mood, because I’ve been like that for as long as I can remember.  The idea that you only half-assed do things just doesn’t compute in my brain, so when I go to work and see people putting in minimal effort, calling in sick when they are NOT SICK, and/or just not giving a shit or dogging it, it pisses me off.  Like, ridiculously so.  You can ask the boyfriend about this… he’s experienced it personally.  And in his oh-so-logical mind, he says to me, “You can’t let other’s emotions, actions, or sentiments influence you so much.  Just because they’re not doing something doesn’t mean that it needs to impact you.  No one will come back and attack you for not getting something done… it’s their head on the line, not yours.  THIS is why you are so stressed all the time!”

Oh, rational brain, why do you not function so simply!  These things logically make sense, but they still do not compute.  I have a bias… and it is a blessing and a curse.  I find myself SO OFTEN lately playing this game:

Okay, rant over.

At least on that guy… but I’m here today to talk about another bias that’s been getting on my nerves lately.

Yeah… you know the one I’m talking about.  That whole size bias thing.

Side note:  This movie is the best!! I mentioned in my last post how this was and still is my favourite movie of all time.  I’ve seen it a million times and I never hesitate to see it again.  And it’s just so great for those moments where you just need a good quote 😉.

See, I’ve started this new body image/self esteem coaching program, and while I’ve been so reluctant to do MORE therapy, I new I’d hit a wall.  You can’t be okay with listening to your body to tell you what you need in terms of food and exercise unless you trust your body.  And you can’t trust your body until you believe your body is worth trusting.  And you can’t believe in your body’s own worth until you believe in your own self worth.  And you can’t have a sense of self worth until you start to have some self esteem and respect for yourself emotionally and mentally.  And you can’t do that until you believe in yourself enough that you give yourself permission to take up literal/physical and mental/emotional space in your own life.

Long story short:  You can’t hope to be intuitive and move past an eating disorder until you believe you are enough, emotionally, mentally, and physically.  You have to accept your existence not as a hindrance to the world but rather as an asset.

Anyways… it’s pretty intense.  I’m spending more than an hour every day actively writing and working through my thought patterns and body image issues.  And while I’m still trying to get the hang of putting new neural pathways into action and remembering to do things differently than my current rut, at least this delving into exploration gets my brain going and thinking about things both in my past and in my present in ways I haven’t really examined before.

I’m basically one step away from growing out my armpit hair and living in a tree, one with nature…

Actually not really.

But it’s gotten me thinking.  A lot of this work has to do with reframing the way you look at things.  Not stopping thoughts, not judging yourself for having thoughts, but also not giving your thoughts the power to shape who you are and how you live your life in a day to day fashion.  I don’t remember the context, but in my first therapy session I was asked a question to which I responded quite simply, “because normal, nowadays in modern society, is disordered.”

How true is this?  And how screwed up is that?

And by taking a step back from my own life, and my own head, I’m able to observe this more objectively and see this truth in action:

  1. A non-eating-disordered woman I know, talking to my boyfriend who was frustrated with my obsession with thigh gaps, said simply, “I don’t blame her.  I’d love to have a thigh gap.”

    3296f38500000578-3511376-image-m-13_1459089189433

    image source (side note: it’s actually brilliant!)

  2. They build strollers SPECIFICALLY for running with your baby… as if running around looking after your baby was not enough activity for a woman.

    bugaboo-ad-main

    image source (side note: who the HELL dresses like that to go for a run, much less with your baby?!)

  3. Recipes are no longer focussed on flavour but rather on numbers:
    recipetitlescrewy

    Before —-> After

     

  4. An Oreo is no longer a mid-afternoon treat, but rather a workout guideline:

    bwjrypdieaegb0y

    image source (Side note: Who, in their RIGHT, RATIONAL state of mind, eats only one oreo? Unless you’re pairing the oreo with a golden oreo…)

  5. Witnessed personally: A starving hospitalized non-eating disordered woman who hasn’t eaten in over 24 hours refuses to eat food unless it is one of her packaged diet foods from the current crash diet plan being followed.

  6. You can’t walk into a restaurant without being blatantly greeted by nutritional information, that was unsolicited by you in the first place:
    gtres66

    image source (Starbucks… it wasn’t even on the leaflet, but displayed instead)

    breakfast_sandwich_board-490

    image source (Side Note:  This was Panera… and the funny thing was the website the image came from titled it “I’m on a diet and I can’t have a bowl of soup!”.  #modernlifeinanutshell)

Man I could think of so many more options, but this just gets too lengthy.  The funny thing is modern society is screwed.  This is DISORDERED!  I gave you six plus examples of these things that are considered “acceptable” if not “healthful” practices in modern society, WHICH, if I personally engaged in any one of them, would be told I was engaging in eating disordered behaviour.

I’m sorry, but if it’s DISORDERED for me, is it not DISORDERED for everyone?

And where do all these things come from?  It is often lumped under the assumption that you are engaging in these behaviours in an attempt to be “healthier”, but then what is your definition of “healthy”?

If a person who is naturally built larger, whose body wants to be what society would normally deem “overweight”, engages in all of these behaviours, chances are eventually, their weight would still be “overweight”.  Because that is where their body naturally wants to be according to set-point theory! And that person goes to the doctor, for a bladder infection… and the first thing the doctor says is, you need to lose weight if you want to be healthy.

Excuse me, but how is this related to the problem at hand, a bladder infection?  The person didn’t even come there for weight loss advice!

The person says, “Look, I run every day.  I eat lower calorie foods, whole grains, low sugar, and vegetables.  I count everything and make sure that my calories in equal my calories out, but I can’t seem to lose weight.”

Without even running blood tests, or cardio tests, or what have you to determine the actual “health” of the body, we’ve already determined that the person needs to lose weight.

When you yourself go to the coffee shop and order a skinny, or fat-free latte, and claim that you’re doing it for “health”, ask yourself, what does “health” mean?

If you can close your eyes and picture yourself at your healthy self goal, what does that self look like?

Does your “healthy self” equal ripped abs, and a long and lean physique? Do your thighs not touch?  Is your cellulite gone?

Yep.  So let’s stop the delusion.  The issue is not “health”… the issue is SIZE, WEIGHT, and the associated bias that goes along with it.  The idea is that you are worth more if you take up less space.  The idea is that skinny > fat, that skinny people are happier, healthier, stronger, more driven, more desireable, more attractive, more loved, more accepted… basically they’re just more.

They are more, because they are less.

What an oxymoron?!

I remember when I was little, I always had a large appetite, but I was never overweight.  I was always pretty lean.  I used to eat the same amount as the hockey jocks in high school, and one slice of pizza was never enough to satisfy me, even when I was 6 or 7.  People would joke that I eat SO MUCH, and I used to feel pride and joke right along with them.

I used to be a size 0 or 2, and then when I became a 4 or 6, I was actually proud that I was growing and becoming less of a child and more of a woman.

Somewhere along the line, this changed.

Somewhere along the line, whenever I ate as much, or more of than my boyfriend it became less of a joke, and more of a source of guilt, shame, and anxiety, because a rule was created that girls should not eat as much as guys.

Somewhere along the line, if I ate 2 or 3 slices of pizza, it became not about satisfying my hunger and cravings, but rather about eating the lesser amount because a rule was created that girls should (based on observation of others) only eat one slice of pizza, and pair it with a salad.

Somewhere along the line, advertising and the bandwagon taught me that a latte had to be skinny, and that I should feel guilty for enjoying my coffee with a non-sugar-free flavour shot and actual milk.

Somewhere along the line, I learned that cake and cookies should be enjoyed in secret, and that the 8th deadly sin was a love of peanut butter cups.

Somewhere along the line, I learned that “healthy” people swapped their pasta for zoodles, and their rice for cauliflower.

Somewhere along the line, I no longer felt proud of my size 4, or more often 6 frame that was curvy and womanly, but ashamed because it wasn’t closer to a negative number.  Somewhere along the line, I threw out the notion of womanly curves in favour of the teenage boy gangly look that accompanies a restrictive diet and the loss of body shape and boobs… all because somewhere along the line I accepted the notion that two became the new four, and zero became the new two, and six became the new fourteen.

 

We’re a generation that is expected to be able to DO more, while running on LESS.  We’re supposed to get more in touch with our “hunter gatherer roots”, and serve it with an aspartame filled fizzy drink.  We’re confused.  We have too much knowledge, and too little perspective.

Because if we stopped with the high powered craziness for ten seconds, and stopped running a mile a minute, accepting ideas willy-nilly because we don’t have the time to stop and think about it before internalizing, we would realize that none of this makes sense!

You cannot do more while taking in less.  I cannot be on my feet at my job, for 8 plus hours, come home and make dinner, and go for a bike ride afterwards while eating zoodles and diet coke.

You cannot compare the amount of satisfaction you get from a real chocolate fudge brownie, with the “healthy” plant-based black bean, Splenda sweetened 56 calories a piece one.  Yep… one pan later, and I’m just as lethargic as before and my chocolate craving is still there.

An oreo is not equal to 1200 jumping jacks any more than a romance novel is equal to a llama, or my left butt cheek is equal to my elbow.  You can’t equate two totally different things!  Plus, imma enjoy my oreo, but I’m not gonna enjoy 1200 jumping jacks.  That pleasure factor is significant!

You’re going to make more memories playing peek-a-boo with your baby and hearing him/her laugh, than you will jogging with them in a bikini. AND if you’re like me you’ll be much less likely to end up with road rash from tripping over something… although, you might accidentally poke yourself in the eye.

We talk about health in terms of weight… but we seem to not notice that the size bias that is running rampant through all our heads, and the associated disordered notions that accompany it, is making us the most miserable and habitually depressed and unsatisfied generation ever.

We have less patience/tolerance of others, less connection to our hunger/fullness cues, less connection to other people (because we’re too obsessed with diet/exercise/technology), less sense of belonging, drive, motivation, contentment… all because we’re HUNGRY.  And I don’t mean hungry just for food, but hungry for balance and a sense of calm that you can only get when you stop trying to be MORE, and do MORE all the time.  Hungry for all the connection with others and relationships that you’re missing out on because you are never stopping.

And it gets us into a vicious cycle… because we’re bombarded by this size bias and are convinced that we would be happier by being thinner.  We’d be more accepted, more loved, more driven, more motivated.  But trust me, if thinness made you happier when I was literally lying in the hospital on my death bed I should have been the happiest person on earth.  Needless to say, I’ve never been more miserable in my life… except when I was trying to RUN while in this deathly ill state.  I was more miserable then because I was in more physical pain than you could ever believe.

It’s time to address the real issue, which is not your weight, shape, or size.  It is your relationship with yourself, and the world around you.  It is your need to fill only one facet of your life (diet/food, body shape/fitness), and ignoring all the rest.  It is a lack of balance.  It’s the acceptance of all of these DISORDERED notions, as NORMAL.

It’s the fact that you’re allowing zero to be the new two, two to be the new four, and six to be the new  fourteen.  It’s the fact that you’re allowing the calorie count to be the deciding factor rather than your tastebuds, and the treadmill to dictate whether you can spend time with your friends at a coffee shop later.  It’s not make you healthier, and it’s not improving your value or worth.

It’s time to stop buying it.

It’s time to go back to your roots and reframe the bias that you’ve been trained to accept.

It’s time to look in the mirror and instead of condemning your love handles, appreciating your womanly curves.

It’s about making the choice when buying new clothes and having to go up a size, to allow it to be the beginning of a new relationship with another stage of your life instead of the beginning of another crash diet.

It’s about eating an oreo for a snack without reading the label, and then eating another if you weren’t satisfied.  And trusting that eventually you will be, and your body will let you know when you are.

It’s about going for coffee with a friend and ordering a cookie to share, even if you’ve already eaten, because it ADDS to the experience and the memories, not to you your hips.

It’s about changing your vocabulary when it comes to food, taking out all the “skinnys”, “cleans”, “cheats”, or whatever other judgements you make, and allowing only flavours, textures, and cravings to make your decisions.

AND it’s about doing all these things and not thinking you’re being LAZY, LACKING WILLPOWER, or being a GLUTTON for doing them.  

Because normal is disordered… but who ever wanted to be normal anyways?

26f24ef99d6edfc694c4a38b59ec789f

25 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me

Sometimes you just need to take a break from thinking.  I mean, it’s not like I don’t have a plethora of other things to write about, but a good friend of mine once said, “Write the blog you would want to read.”  And while I enjoy writing and reading about serious things, there are SO MANY OTHER THINGS that are just as fun to read.  One is “day in the life” posts, where you talk about what you did in a day, and/or what you ate in a day, another is recipe (YAY!) posts, which will EVENTUALLY make their way on here.  #pipedreams.  Yet another is just plain and simple, get-to-know-random-facts-about-me-style posts that make the faceless person behind the pen (or keyboard) less of an enigma, and more of a real person.  Although being both an enigma and an unreal person is fun at times too.  I mean this morning I took a quiz that told me that instead of being a person, I was a chioggia beet.  Win.  Can’t get to be more random or more of an enigma than that.

This idea was stolen from Jillian, and I had so much fun reading, and relating to hers, I decided to do one of my own!  Let’s see how well you know me!  Peanut butter brownie points to the person who knows the most things!

25 things you probably don’t know about me:

1.) I’m happiest when… I’m drinking the perfect iced latte and am creating something in my kitchen.  Fill my nose with herby smells, and my mouth with the perfect ratio of coffee, to syrup, to soy milk. You got the bestest.

2.) …especially if it … adds in my boyfriend making me laugh at the same time or sneaking up behind me for a hug and a kiss… well, now.  That just takes the happiness up another notch.

3.) I’ve always wanted to… travel to Ireland and rent a little cottage in the country.  Then I’d explore the GREEN and the coastline either on foot or by bike, and sit and enjoy the view from the quiet cottage by night.  Perfect.

4.) My family and I… are super close on my Mom’s side, and are also RIDICULOUSLY competitive and game orientated.  Dutch Blitz, Settlers, or Pick Two anyone?  Just don’t let Aunt Yvonne play Dutch Blitz, Uncle Dave play Settlers, or me play Pick Two… you’ve been warned.

5.) I was a terrible… soccer player.  Dear sweet heaven.  Ball comes at me —> I stare at ball —> I see people running towards me—> I panic —-> Split second decision time results in A) me kicking the ball any which way in order to get it away from me (even if I score on my own team) so they stop running towards/chasing me (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP!) or B) me attempting to kick the ball in part A, missing completely and tripping, falling, and/or spraining something.  Yep.  Gym class in a nutshell.

6.) My first job was… cleaning my grandmother’s house on Saturdays.  When I got tired of NEVER “doing it right” and the process of going INSANE, I got a job as an ice cream server.  I actually loved that, and did it for seven years.  Yes, seven.

7.) I could probably eat baked oatmeal every day. With peanut butter and banana inside, and vanilla greek yogurt on top, please.  Thank you.  12 times a day.  ALWAYS!

bakedoats1

8.) I wish I could… not be afraid of things.  I limit myself so much because my fear always gets in the way.

9.) I was born on the same day as… Cassey Ho.  Back in my stuck-in-the-ED days this would have been pretty cool, because I used her exercise videos CONSTANTLY.  Now, it just annoys me because that time was NOT FUN AT ALL. Plus all her “clean eating” stuff is ridiculous.  No such thing as good and bad foods!!  Ah well, I’m sure she’s a fine person in real life.

 

3ce78c53941e3361473a99400d3ff0f1

Yeah, okay.  Even if this has SOME truth to it, my abs still want cookies, and a slice of pizza or two.  And that’s okay.  Just saying… image source

10.) My all-time favorite films are… The Devil Wears Prada.  Hands down, Meryl you are legend.

brvv9

Also in the mix of pretty close but not quite are Leap Year (for all of you with an Ireland/Irishman crush), The Help (Although not as good as the book), and Finding Nemo  (SO CUTE!).

11.) I do a pretty mean… Steve Martin in The Pink Panther impression.  I also can immitate his clumsiness quite well at times.  And I TOTALLY mean to be doing it at the time… ahem.

 

12.) I’m still mad… that Rory didn’t choose to marry Logan.  Seriously, it just wasn’t right.  Add it to the list of things like Christina leaving Grey’s Anatomy, and Dan being Gossip Girl.  All so wrong.

tumblr_lko3tnbqws1qfrpx1o1_500

13.) I met my husband… someday.  We’ll see when.  Knowing me though, it’ll probably be whilst I was doing something ridiculously accident prone and clumsily.

14.) I always knew I wanted… To live by the ocean, and in a city.  I haven’t gotten there yet, other than a brief stint in Vancouver, which only served to strengthen this desire.  I am THE HAPPIEST person when I’m near the ocean and can hear the earth breathe and the sea sigh.  Not to mention for some reason it soothes my anxiety, and the abundance of fresh shellfish and seafood to cook with is AMAZING!

IMG_2113

Gah… I miss it!  And I need it one day again!  I’ve had a vision of my dream house since I was 10 or 12, and not only are a few rooms very specific, but also it involves french doors leading to a deck with a view of the ocean.  Yep.  I know what I’ve always wanted.

15.) I’m not afraid to… change my haircut, length, style, or color.  I get super bored with it super easy, and while I’m not too impulsive with much else in my life, I tend to always decide on my hair the moment I sit down in the chair and run with whatever sounds good in that second.  It’s super fun, creative, and even the worst ones aren’t permanent.

16.) I make the best… oh dear!  This is a tough one!  I’ve heard I make the best buddha bowls, and those are 100% my own creation the vast majority of the time.  I also have a knack for making Middle Eastern Irani/Jewish food… a lot of that is recipe work and spins on recipes though.  My buddha bowls are often spins on their types of spice mixes and herb combinations.  LOVE MY CUMIN, CILANTRO, AND ZA’ATAR!

17.) I have absolutely no patience for… people who slack at a paid job when there’s work to be done.  You can ask my boyfriend, he’s seen it.  I CAN’T STAND the knowledge that there’s something that needs doing, that you’re getting paid TO DO, and you’re standing around.  If you want to know how to get on my bad side, that’s one of the number one ways to do it.

18.) I always cry when… honestly I have no idea.  I’m not un-emotional by any means, but it takes a lot to make me cry typically.  The easiest answer would be when I feel emotionally attacked and as if my character as a person is being questioned.  Even then I don’t always cry, but that’s the one I’m most consistent at.

19.) I’m a morning person, completely and definitely but I still don’t go to bed before 11.  I mean, for many people that’s early too, but 98% unless I’m totally exhausted I just can’t fall asleep before then.  However, you want to know a surefire way to MAKE me fall asleep, and it’s putting me in a moving vehicle.  I don’t know why, but it can be like 3 in the afternoon and there’s something about it that makes me sleepy.  It’s SO HARD to stay awake for a 2-3 hour car ride!

20.) I spent two years… wearing glasses.  Or rather, it was around two years.  They were really just for reading and when my eyes felt tired, which between grades 10-12 was OFTEN.  AND the unfortunate thing was that this was around the same time that I had long hair and a strong affinity towards headbands, and scarves.  And then I’d tend to match my glasses TO my headbands, which resulted in an apparently old womanly look, revealed to me by my Calculus teacher who one day decided to call me “Aunt Jemima” when I was answering a question.  This doesn’t totally make sense, I just realized, because Aunt Jemima never wore glasses…

But regardless, yep.  After that day, I never wore headbands and glasses together again.

It was actually to correct an astigmatism, but miraculously about a year after graduation I went to the eye doctor because I thought I needed new glasses since the ones that I was wearing were getting so hard to see out of!  Here I thought I was blind, but the optometrist checked my vision and thought I was lying because my answers to all the lenses etc revealed 20/20 vision.  Somehow my astigmatism miraculously corrected itself!  Not complaining!  The other interesting thing is that I can often tell when I’m getting low in Magnesium (ED side effect I’ve battled on and off with) and might need some injections again, because my vision will start to go blurry just like when I needed the glasses.  Found out from the ED specialist that was a slightly rarer but blatant sign of Magnesium deficiency!  So cool!

21.) I wish… I had an unconditionally free pass to all David’s Tea.  Seriously, I spend SO much money there because I’m a tea addict and they make the best and only ones worth drinking to me.  Likewise, an equally fervent desire would be for a Starbucks where I live.  The closest one is an hour away by car, and they’re literally the only ones that make my latte’s and frappuccinos EXACTLY how I like them.  Although, I feel like if that happened I would probably spend WAY too much money there too, so perhaps it’s a good thing…

IMG_4448

22.) At age five, I was deeply in love with… fashion design.  I would draw the most elaborate ball gowns on construction paper (of course right in the middle of the page so you would waste a TON of paper) and then cut them out and scotch tape them to my Barbie dolls.  Two dimension was where it was at!  Then, when I was in the bathtub, I would steal all the washcloths and elastic bands, and wrap them around my Barbies while using the rest of the elastics to create intricate seaming.  You have no idea how many hours my Mom spent brushing out all of the Barbie’s hair after each bath because the water made it all tangled and knotted.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is a mother’s love.

23.) I believe if people were able to cut out JUDGEMENT and ACCEPT DIVERSITY of race, age, culture, size, shape, appearance, language, opinion, and religion, the world would be a better place. Honestly, what other people do/think/say/feel, etc, is none of your business, and it’s their right and privilege as human beings to be exactly who/what/how they are.  If they’re not doing anything that causes harm to others, or things that are morally wrong, it’s not your place to judge or condemn.  Simple.

24.) I can’t stand… baths, saunas, or anything else that involves being submerged in a hot steamy place.  I don’t know why, but it makes me SO ANXIOUS, I feel like I can’t breathe, and I panic.  It is seriously THE WORST thing for me!

25.) Whenever Grey’s Anatomy is on, I watch. This is the closest I get.  For one, I BARELY watch TV… like we’re talking a max of 1-2 hours a week typically, and the idea of going more than a week without TV doesn’t phase me at all.  Honestly, I literally NEVER, even with Grey’s, watch something when it’s first airing.  I think it’s a side effect for not having cable for so long.  Even now that we do, I always just wait a day and watch it online without the ads.  Grey’s is really the only show that I will diligently watch the next morning.  Downton Abbey was kind of the same in its time too.

Hope you enjoyed learning 25 random things about me!  I’m curious to know which ones you knew already, and which ones were like, “Well, you’re special… I do mean, stop eating the paste, special.”

ffjfjfjfjjfjf234re

Currently: Our Thoughts are Not Our Stories

Hello everyone!

Guess what else says hello?

IMG_4369

Yep… my breakfast.  You guys, it was so good.  So good that I had to include it in this post.  I did something totally different today and decided to bike to the cafe and have my weekly Skype session with my dietitian over breakfast.  I’ve never done that before and I kinda really loved it.  I’m one of those people who dreams of breakfast… it’s the best meal.  I mean nine times out of ten if you asked me at the end of the day what was the most satisfying thing I ate that day, it would be whatever I decided to have for breakfast that day.  My boyfriend, as well as a plethora of people in my family, are not breakfast people.  Or rather, they simply can’t eat right away when they get up.  I don’t get it.  It kind of makes me sad because I can never share my oatmeal love with people.  Or pancake love.  Or various “for one” crumbles, muffins, and latte loves.  See, the moment my feet hit the floor I’m starving… so waiting more than 45 minutes to eat is SO not happening!

Anyways, I dream of breakfast.  I was lying in bed watching “The Revenant” last night, and my thoughts were drifting to the breakfast I knew I’d be eating in nine hours, and trying to figure out what I felt like making.  It’s actually not disordered… it’s me being super excited about breakfast!  And I mean, you have to plan ahead sometimes because if you have a feeling like you’re going to want overnight oats, or a soaked oat and chia smoothie, you gotta get those goodies in the fridge ahead of time!  And I knew, I KNEW, that I felt like an iced latte and a fresh blueberry muffin.

You remember my muffin issues?  Yeah… it’s not as much of a struggle anymore, but I still really really suck at having them for snacks without a breakdown.  But I also discovered that if I truly honour my cravings, I generally only ever want muffins once.  MAYBE twice, if you’re super lucky.  I’m seriously the most diverse person you’ll ever meet… I hate eating things more than once, or twice in a two or three day period and CRAVE that variety.  Like this week we made pulled pork… yeah, it’s good, but that always makes a TON, and after eating it twice it was like, “GIVE ME ANYTHING ELSE!”

So I live off A LOT of single serving recipes, or rather a combination of recipes and creations I make myself.  It totally feeds my diversity and allows me to eat whatever I truly want in a given moment.  But muffins are one of those really tough ones… there honestly are not that many single serving muffin recipes out there!  I mean, unless you count microwave mug cakes… but those are NOT the same as a freshly baked muffin from the OVEN!

Admit it.  You know it’s true.

And sometimes you want a blueberry buttermilk muffin, but if you’re me you DON’T want to eat twelve of them!  It was super easy when my Dad was around… he was the quintessential normal intuitive eater.  He had absolutely no food rules (🙆🏻!!) and had the metabolism of like a hummingbird.

Side note: Hummingbirds apparently have the highest metabolism of any animal… it kind of makes sense with their speed and ridiculously high heart rate. #gottalovegoogle.

Anyways, I think I get my breakfast love from him.  The first thing he did when he got up was walk into the kitchen and put two slices of bread in the toaster.  He was also a morning person like me… A couple of genetic tics that I’m not hating!

Double side note: Do you even know how many toasters we went through when he was around?  No joke, I swear we went through one every year, or maybe every two years.  SO MUCH TOAST!

Moving along… it was easy with him around.  He ADORED baked goods, and still does.  Give him anything with a bit of sugar and some fluffy floury substance, and he was all over it like white on rice (which by the way is a really odd expression…). So if I felt like muffins, I could make 12 and know that if I had one, or two, he’d easily take care of the rest.  Same with cakes, pies, cookies… actually when it came to cookies, you were lucky if you even got one of those before they were gone.

Now it’s not so easy… if I bake 12 muffins, chances are we’ll only go through three, maybe four before they’re all mouldy, and that’s only if I have help eating some of them.  And don’t give me the whole freeze the rest thing… there was a time when I made like 4 dozen muffins because I felt like having different kinds available.  And then a whole shelf of our freezer was taken up for over a year.  At the moment I have some banana walnut ones in there that I think I made 4 months ago… I’m pretty sure there’s still 10 of them.  The only exception to this was my grandma’s banana bran muffins… man I could easily pound through 3 of those a day.  Once again, just like her cinnamon buns, we’ll never know exactly how she made her little paper-lined cups of heaven.

Long story short:  it just doesn’t work.  So when I felt like a blueberry muffin for breakfast today, I knew the only logical plan was to go to the cafe and buy one.

So I hopped on the bike.  Usually I walk there, but I’ve been craving a bike ride recently because I haven’t had the chance to go, and I FINALLY bought a bike lock, so I can chain it up.  And being relatively new to the biking game, I am of course super nervous about biking to somewhere busy simply because I haven’t done it before.

It went fine though!  And it was WAY faster… like ten minutes and that was a leisurely pace, AND with walking across crosswalks (because I’m not comfortable biking across them, and lets be honest: you ARE supposed to walk your bike across anyways), AND going the longer scenic way that takes like 25-30 minutes to walk as opposed to 15-20.  AND, I managed to figure out the bike lock… I think.

Have you ever had that sinking feeling like you did something wrong, because you weren’t totally confident in what you were doing?

I have this urge to check but I don’t want to pack everything up… so I’ll hope for the best.

Moving along… so I walked into the cafe, first thing when it opened, and you could smell the fresh baked goods!  And I’ve been in a “I’M SO HUNGRY I COULD EAT EVERYTHING!” phase constantly the past few days (so scary!) so I was more than ready for my muffin.  And I walked up to the counter hoping for a blueberry filled fluffy pillow of muffin top joy… and was greeted by raspberry chocolate chip.

Really, I can DO any kind of muffin (I may not be craving it, but I can eat it) EXCEPT one with chocolate chips.  NO.

 

Chocolate chips do not belong in breakfast, and they DEFINITELY do not belong in muffins.  They have made me gag for as long as I can remember.  Not an ED thing either.

So… disappointment.  Because there was no way I was getting a muffin today to attempt to assuage my muffin craving.  But, you can always go back to old faithful: date squares.  I LOVE date squares…. like LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!  And ED hates them… but that’s a moot point.  I haven’t had one probably since September or October, so I was long overdue, and while it was no blueberry muffin it was just as good because I love, love, love them.

Side note: Is this a Canadian thing?  When I was talking to my dietitian, she mentioned that she loved them too, but that they’re near IMPOSSIBLE to find other than at their Whole Foods.  Around here, you’re actually more hard pressed to find a cafe that DOESN’T sell them, thank heavens, because once again, it’s really hard to find a single serve date square recipe too.

So my breakfast was delicious, especially the date square, which I hadn’t tried at this particular cafe before.  I think it’s the best one in town, and it will be a thing again for sure.  And, as far as I know, my bike is still tied up outside.

Win.

Man I get on tangents.  I haven’t written in so long because I’ve had this MASSIVE case of writer’s block… and while I really had an aim at the start of this post, I’ve long since gotten derailed and I’m already 1500 words in and have reached a point where going into ED stuff might make this WAY too long. I guess we’ll just see where we end up at this point…

So guess what!!! It’s my man’s graduation today!

IMG_4301.JPG

And while he’s all nonchalant about it, I’m super duper proud of him because I know what he’s gone through to get to this point, and how long he’s been waiting to be able to say, “DONE!”  Plus, yesterday we went to an awards ceremony (which he is also all nonchalant and humble about), where he won three amazing awards that he totally deserved.  And yes, I’m gushing, but it’s totally true and while it might not be a big deal to him, I get to celebrate it and totally brag because that is my job.

#girlfriendrights.

In addition, he’s starting a new job today that is totally more in line with his interests, passions, and hobbies, and while I’m kind of down because I won’t see him as much as a result, I’m also so happy for him and excited for his new opportunities.  Dialectics at its finest.  Truly, the feelings are mostly happy ones.

So the past few days have been pretty full, with today being the fullest I’m guessing.  And it’s funny because you’d think that with all the hubbub and ado, I wouldn’t have time for ED crap.  And yes, this is true, but only partially.  See, I have less time to OVERANALYZE, and limited time to ENGAGE in harmful behaviours, but as a result, or perhaps as a side effect, I have more of an urge to?

It is a well known fact that stress is one of the biggest eating disorder footholds:  the eating disorder thrives on higher levels of anxiety, as well as tensions regardless of whether they are internally or externally driven.  It bases itself on that sense of a lack of control that one has when there is stress in life.

So when my man is stressed because he is struggling with work-related issues, and I can’t do anything about it, I feel powerless, and out of control.  I internalize it, and grasp at strings to try to find something that I can be in charge of and take the reigns on: my weight, shape, and food.

When I have less time to fit in exercise, still have a meal plan, and still want to fully engage in other aspects of my life, I feel like I’m bound and chained to complete the time allotment by any means possible.  I internalize, and I plan.  I set my alarm an hour earlier and sacrifice sleep to “get it all in”.  I eat my lunch super fast at work to maximize time so I have an extra fifteen minutes during a break to shave off of my walking time.

When I have goals to honour my hunger and my cravings from the dietitian for the week, but I’m unexpectedly blindsided by incessant unrelenting hunger for a few days, I panic.  I should jump for joy because, hello, I’m actually getting a clear message from my body, a rarity in a skeleton that has gotten all too used to hunger silence.  On days when your physical hunger signals are ACTUALLY there, it makes identifying cravings so much easier, so this “assignment” would have technically been a piece of kale (I meant to write cake, but I was going fast and that is actually what my fingers typed… I kind of liked it, so I left it 😋). If it involves eating MORE than the meal plan, my brain does not compute.  I internalize, I try to calculate, I make external rules (“If I allow myself to eat now, I cannot have a snackor y, later”, or, “If I have 3 snacks in a day, that’s the same amount I have on an exercise day, so I have to go and do exercise at some point”).

When I honour my hunger and cravings, and it results in me eating scary foods, AND I’m feeling stressed because I’m busy, I experience MORE body dysmorphia and MORE intense body hatred, as well as even HIGHER levels of urgency to engage in old behaviours.  I find myself comparing my plate with those around me, leafing through the paper shredder to find the nutritional info for the Rice Krispie’s, and in my head trying to validate my own consumption based on what those around me eat- regardless of the fact that we are incomparable having different bodies, genders (at times), metabolisms, activity levels, and never being entirely sure what someone else eats as you’re never with someone for a full 24 hours.

I feel as though I am losing “willpower” and as if I am out of control, and by extension gaining weight and fat.  Not that this is would be the end of the world, remember.  But the reality is, I am not losing control and/or gaining weight:  the only thing I am LOSING is ED’s grasp on my reigns and connection to the diet mentality, and the only thing I am GAINING is freedom to make my own decisions and a greater sense of intuition.

But in the heat of the moment, it’s hard to remember this.  It seems like a moot, if not ludicrous point.

And if you’re bombarded by all these things, and your “feelers” are going crazy, you grasp at straws.  You try to maintain composure and stay on the recovery track, you try to appear okay, when a large chunk of you is desperate to go back to that sense of control, to the unsafe place that felt so secure.  You get confused.  You get complacent.  You find yourself at an awards ceremony, bombarded by memories, some good, and others not so much so.  Celebrating someone else’s successes, reminds you of your own, when you sat in a similar situation.  But it also reminds you of all of the times things didn’t go as you thought they would.  It reminds you of where you thought you’d be at this point in your life, versus where you actually are.  And while you’re happy, and while you wouldn’t trade your path or current situation, you play the “what if” game:

What if I’d stayed on?

What if those who know me are disappointed in me?

What if I have climbed as high as I will ever go?

What if I knew then what I would become?  Would it have made a difference?

And all too quickly, these “what if’s” give way to other, even more dangerous ones:

What if I’m not good enough?

What if I’m destined to never recover?

What if I’m too stupid to know how to feed myself “properly”?

What if I’m too lazy?

What if I’m too fat?

What if I should add in more exercise?  You know… tone up, be healthy…

What if I really do need to lose a few pounds?  Five?  Ten? Twenty?

Would I feel better if I did?

And suddenly you’ve lost touch with the reason you’re there.  Suddenly, you are no longer rejoicing in the successes of those around you receiving awards, but instead waiting eagerly for the next woman to be called to the stage, so you can scrutinize.

Is she more put together than me?

Is she prettier than me?

Is she thinner than me?

Does she have less cellulite than me?

If yes, the anxiety and urges climb.  If no, phew… but she’s still probably smarter, has her sh** in order, and will amount to more… to “better”…

I don’t know about you, but last time I checked we were at an event that celebrates academic achievements, not at a bikini contest.

And in this whirlwind you find yourself planning your next opportunity to run a mile, or sneak out for a 15 minute walking session.  Or figuring out which item on your meal plan you can “conveniently” and “uncontrollably” skip.  Or planning your next late night McDonald’s run, or what brownie recipe you will make to stuff your face with at 2 am in a dark corner when no one is watching.

You do you.

Only, not your best you.

Not your real you.

Your ED you.

The difference is, as much as you’re an old hand at slipping into eating disordered behaviours, you’re also dealing with a growing arsenal of tools in your toolkit.  Did you notice that I wrote PLANNING, as opposed to ACTING?

There’s a difference.  And it’s significant.

How many of you were reading this and as it got further along thought, “Damn, that’s it.  It’s the beginning of the end again.  Another struggle, another forced meal, another skipped meal, another relapse.”?  How many of you were foreshadowing my demise?  How many of you were getting anxious thinking, “NO!  But you were doing so well!”?  How many of you were getting anxious thinking, “This was me last night!  You hit the nail on the head!”?

Yeah, you’re right.  It’s a fine line, and a dangerous one.  And it’s one that I’ve been headbutting against a bit more often than I’d like the past week or two, or three.  BUT, remember I mentioned those tools I was talking about?  Yeah, see I’ve been stressed and busy.  Yeah, some days I’ve slipped into old routines, but 98% of the time I haven’t.  Because you can read this and see all the negatives, all the toxic thinking patterns, all the loss of direction, all the steps backwards that take me farther away from recovery as opposed to closer to it… OR you can look at all the amazing positives that have equally come out of the past few weeks:

  1. I have honoured my cravings more in the past two weeks than I have in the past six years.
  2. I took an exercise slip, BUT I admitted it promptly to my dietitian and didn’t hide it.  I lost privileges, BUT have subsequently slowly gained them back.
  3. I have stopped counting my crackers.  It was always 9 or 10 depending on size, or 5 if they were huge… but now it’s a solid reach in the box handful take it or leave it.
  4. I have had three snacks a day some days, even if it almost killed me because I didn’t do exercise that day.
  5. I have been more spontaneous in my free time than I have been in years, and have as such had so much more fun in my relationships with people rather than being in my own head.
  6. I’ve actually drank drinks with calories… a lot of them.  And allowed myself enjoy them.
  7. Although I set my alarm for earlier to exercise… I hit the snooze button.  More than once.
  8. Last night, after all that comparison at the awards ceremony, I built up an ice cream craving, felt really physically hungry again, honoured it even though it killed me to do so-

Side note:  Anyone who knows me well knows that if I have a craving for a restaurant/not make at home food, I NEVER bring it up to others.  I always feel like a glutton and a failure when I crave restaurant or take out food.

  -and ended up buying celebratory DQ Blizzards for myself and my loved ones:

IMG_4372 copy

AND I was hungry so I got a larger size than ED wanted me to… and I ate it.  And it was perfect and delicious.

See, therein lies the difference.  Someone very close to me said, “I just don’t want you to get triggered.”  What she meant was, “I don’t want you to get triggered INTO a relapse.”

See, it’s not about if you’re triggered, or if you have these thoughts.  It’s not about if you really had a difficult time, were under a lot of stress, or even if you goof up a couple times.  We HAVE to be triggered, because being triggered lets us know where our boundaries and limitations are, and give us insight into where the happy medium lies.

For me, the happy medium lies somewhere in between my first bite of my peanut butter baked oatmeal, and the last.  Man, the last bite sucks… until 24 hours later when you can do it all over again!

The difference is, now I can be triggered, but I can act independent of the trigger.  Or at least most of the time.  Our thoughts are not our stories.  They’re not mine, and they’re not yours either.  They’re not who or what or where you really are.

So the next time you find yourself in a whirlwind, ask yourself, “What tool in my toolkit will be the best for me in this situation?”

Sometimes the tool will be a DQ Blizzard.  Sometimes it will be a walk in nature.  Sometimes it will be a spew of verbal diarrhea to get it all out of your head.  Sometimes it will be a list of all the amazing things you’ve done despite being caught in a whirlwind.

Or you can be like me and combine all of them!  You can get a DQ Blizzard, watch a movie, go to bed, wake up, go for a cycle, spew some verbal diarrhea with a dietitian/therapist, and then dispel some more in a ridiculously scattered blog post.

You do you.

The real you.

And now, the real me is hungry… Again.

So imma go find a snack.  Peace.

*PS:  My bike was totally still there! #nailedit. *

**Double PS: Not really… I apparently broke the little thumb lever that releases the lock from the bike frame.  But I just did that to make boyfriend laugh… totally planned it.  And the lock itself still works. So I stand by my #nailedit. **

 

 

survivor sundayfds

Survivor Sunday: The Answers Lie Within Me

Does anyone else hear Destiny’s Child when they read the word “survivor”?

Mmmmmmm. Yep, I totally just did a sassy dance on my chair.  The sad thing is that this is so 1990 to 2006 (I googled (y) ).  The youth of today are probably seeing the word survivor and thinking this:

It’s a travesty.  I mean the chicken pahm and tuna fish…

But really, my boyfriend and I were talking the other day about the things that kids are totally missing out on nowadays.  Like ET!  I mean, I wasn’t a huge fan, but it blows my mind when I make an ET reference to someone and they’re all crickets.  Or fortune tellers, dunkaroos (which apparently you can still buy but they’re hard to find), MASH (the game), hackey sacks, gel pens, wall-mounted pencil sharpeners, and actually renting VHS’s at the video store (or really just having a video store).  Does anyone else remember buying a new CD and actually getting angry when the leaflet inside the front cover didn’t have the lyrics printed out?  It made it so much more work to sing along with it on my boombox to my hairbrush microphone, under the watchful eyes of my O-Town poster!

 

#thathairtho

I’m gonna put my dentures in now and move on with life…

Okay, back to where this started: survivor… STOP music, STOP… or specifically Survivor Sunday.  It’s a concept I’ve wanted to start up for quite some time, and have thrown around without too much pullback, but I finally decided to bite the bullet after getting a few positive responses!

One of the major issues with eating disorders is the feeling of isolation, or an inability to relate.  Either we’re stuck because the people around us in our immediate environment do not share our issues, or we feel trapped in a cycle of avoidance because we don’t trust ourselves to be around food, or not be exercising.  And while it helps to read other’s stories, and we can usually find something that resonates with us, sometimes one person’s musings just don’t fit with us.  That can leave us feeling even more alone, even more “freakish”, and even more imperfect.  The common line:

“Man, I can’t even have an eating disorder right!  I’m not doing x, y, or z, like so and so!  I don’t struggle with that, but I do struggle with ___.  Obviously I’m just stupid thought because NO ONE seems to have the same issue, even in the ED community.”

Reality: You’re still struggling, your problems are no less problematic, you are not “failing” at having an eating disorder/being in recovery, and chances are, someone somewhere has the exact same issue.

AKA: You’re not alone.

And as much as I enjoy the positive feedback I get on my words, I know that the reality is, I don’t resonate with everyone.  What has worked for me, may not work for you.  What I struggle/have struggled with, might be completely different.  What is scary for me, could be a piece of cake for you, or vice versa.  And that’s why I wanted to start this (ideally) weekly post: Survivor Sunday.

Let me start here: if you’re pursuing recovery in some way, if you’re contemplating a change, or if you’re simply just opening your mind to the possibility of another way of life, you ARE a survivor.  Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and anorexia nervosa specifically has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness – it is estimated that 10% of individuals with AN will die within 10 years of the onset of the disorder.¹  Bulimia Nervosa has an average lifetime duration of about 8.3 years.²  With numbers like that, with realities like that, it’s important to value the tremendous achievement it is to rally against it.  A choice like that literally can make a life or death difference.  It doesn’t matter if you “weren’t that sick”, or were only “kind of anorexic”, whatever that even means.  You never know what the other road travelled could have lead to, and it’s not a road that I suggest you go back and try out.  You’re a survivor.

You’re a survivor as much as someone who enters remission from cancer is a survivor.

You’re a survivor as much as someone who lived through third degree burns is a survivor.

Just because the wounds aren’t visible, doesn’t mean they’re not there.

So now that we’ve determined this, what is this whole Survivor Sunday shenanigan?

Sunday, for many, is a day of reflection, rest, replenishing, rejuvenation, and readiness for the week ahead.  It’s about examining both where you’ve been in the last seven days, and where you’re going in the next seven.  And that can get you down.  If you’ve been struggling, you might feel like you haven’t accomplished much.  If you’re nervous about something coming up, you might be more vulnerable to triggers in the days leading up to it.  And Survivor Sunday is about both of those things: where you are, and where you’re going, as well as how you’re going to get there.

Every (again, ideally!) Sunday, I’m going to be posting a contribution from another Survivor.  It brings in the other points of view that I might not reach, and a breath of fresh air to the blog space.  Plus, if you decide to contribute (hint, hint), it’s a great way to connect with others, share experiences, and promote your own blog, if you have one, a bit!

It’s a great way to show everyone how diverse eating disorders are and that we are not alone even though so often it feels as though we are. Plus, as everyone’s disorder is different, everyone has different rules, everyone has had a different experience, etc, this gives the opportunity for you to connect with someone that I potentially can’t! I hope that you’re just as excited as I am!

tumblr_m21saoctnj1rtn4p0o1_500

So how’s it going to work?

Firstly:  There is no “I don’t know how to write… I’m not good enough… It won’t be very good… etc etc….” ED beats us up enough. Don’t do it to yourself too! This is our individual experiences, and it’s the story and the thoughts and the stuff you put into it that counts. I have no rubric… I’m not going to send it back to you and say, redo it, it’s not up to standard! I welcome everything and everyone. However there are a few ground rules. And bear with me, I’ve never done this before so whilst I get it working there may be add ins or whatever to this list as I figure out what works and what doesn’t:

RULES:

  • No numbers related specifically to you- i.e., weights, distances ran, amount of times purging, calories eaten etc, etc you get the idea.  No need to feed the comparison monster.
  • In general, keep the language clean. I can do a swear word here or there, if it’s emphasizing something in a way that no other word really can, but if it’s littered with them, it doesn’t work for me.
  • I’m not pro ana, or mia, and while this should be evident, I’ll iterate it. We’re not glorifying the ED here. I’m pro recovery.
  • Be respectful of other’s privacy. If you’re telling a story, don’t use other’s real names etc etc, because they might not want their story broadcast.

I’m blanking. It’s common sense stuff really. That being said, note I will require the submission to be sent to me no later than the Friday before the post. I will be reading over all submissions before they are posted just to check that we’re all jiving but I’m sure we will be🙂 If things come up that pose a concern, I’ll bring it back and we’ll work it out (hence needing at least a day in between so we can edit if need be🙂 ) . Similarly to respecting other’s privacy, I will at all times respect yours. It is an honour to have you write for the blog, and I value your opens and honesty. If you do not want to have your name posted with your submission, let me know. If you want the name changed, either do so directly in the post (but let me know too obviously so I don’t give you a byline), or tell me, and I can change the name for you. Similarly, if you want some self promo for one of your projects, note a link to your page etc, and I’ll for sure work it in!

SO WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT?

Answer: Anything your little heart desires! It could be recipes, it could be aspects of recovery, it could be your ED story, how it developed, things you learned, relapse, triggers, treatment, how you’ve grown, your hopes for recovery and life beyond an ED, etc etc etc… ANYTHING. I’m all ears, as long as it is pro recovery. Traveling with an eating disorder, how to cope with stress, being in university and having an eating disorder… I don’t know. I could go on and on!!

WHAT IS THE COMMITMENT?

None. There’s no commitment… although if you want to be a regular contributor I would not object!! You can test the waters. Maybe you only write once, maybe more than once. Maybe you write once now, and then are inspired again in 2 months, and decide to write again. Feel it out. I’m feeling it out with you too!

Also, I’m toying with the idea of starting a fb group or page or something so that all of those who contribute to survivor sunday can get updates to this or whatever all in one place, and talk about ideas etc too, but obviously as anonymity could be a factor, am not sure whether or not this would be helpful. Let me know your thoughts!

Furthermore, if you know of anyone who might like to contribute to this, feel free to pass this along! Looking for as many people as possible🙂

So, let me know your thoughts, ideas, when you’d like to write, etc and we can go from there. Feel free to leave a comment, or email me, or instagram… You can reach me at:

cookiecrumbsandcarrottops@gmail.com
https://www.instagram.com/cookiecrumbsandcarrottops/

Note: when emailing, make sure you attach a subject line, or you’ll probably get deleted without me reading it if I don’t know you🙂

AND WITHOUT FURTHER ADO… THE FIRST CONTRIBUTION!!

Our first contributor is Emily of Em Recovers.  She is a beautiful soul that I have had the pleasure to follow on wordpress for a while, and I am totally honoured that she would take the time to write and share her unique perspective on things.  Be sure to pop by her site and give some of her awesome posts a read… with a latte, or some peanut butter and oats in hand, because you might just get hooked for a bit🙂.

The Answers Lie Within Me

The end “food goal” when it comes to my recovery is to be able to feed myself intuitively. Your end goal may be different, but I do not feel like being held back through the rigid barriers of a meal plan is healthy for me in the long term. Many others have this same goal and “intuitive eating” is a phrase thrown around left and right in the recovery community.

If you suffer from an eating disorder, I am sure that you know that it is “not all about the food”. It’s a coping mechanism that affects so many parts of our lives. Intuitive eating is not something that I am actively trying right now, but I am still able to practice being more intuitive in other aspects of my life. Being more intuitive and trusting my gut has helped me reconnect with my hunger/fullness cues, and I believe is putting me in a closer spot to being able to escape into the freedom from ED rules that I so strongly desire.

In IOP, on my blog, and on Instagram I see these beautiful souls asking questions right and left about what others think they “should” be doing. I’m sure you’ve seen these: How many calories did you eat to restore weight? Is it disordered it I count macros? Would it be a behavior if I went to yoga tonight? And maybe you’ve asked some of these questions too. I know I have, especially early on in my recovery. I still do ask them. I’m starting to learn, however, that the answers lie within me. Only I know if eating Arctic Zero is a behavior. Only I know if meal planning ahead of time is disordered. Because everyone’s eating disorder is different. Eating disorder rules vary SO much person to person, so naturally everyone’s recovery looks different.

The best part that I have found in trusting my intuition, is that I no longer feel like I have to worry about everyone else: I am taking care of me. Or at least, I’m trying to, because I do give into my eating disorder sometimes. And I know that when I do give in, I get this sick/guilty feeling that I went against what I know is healthy for me right now. As long as I focus on what my gut is telling me, it doesn’t matter if so-and-so is running 4 miles 6 days a week or if what’s-his-name is eating amount of macros. Regardless, I do get so jealous when I see people doing things that I know are behaviors for me.

But at the end of the day, I trust that I know what is healthy for me. I can choose to go against that, too. And I still mess up every day. I have an intuition, and I am also human.

Everyone has an intuition. It may be quiet, it may be hard to trust right now. But it is there. And it is beautiful. The next time you find yourself wanting to seek advice from others, I challenge you to stop and ask yourself first. Because chances are, you probably already know the answer.

¹: Sullivan, P. (2002). Course and outcome of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. In Fairburn, C. G. & Brownell, K. D. (Eds.). Eating Disorders and Obesity (pp. 226-232). New York, New York: Guilford.
²:Hudson, J. I., Hiripi, E., Pope, H. G. & Kessler, R. C. (2007). The Prevalence and Correlates of Eating Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Biological Psychiatry, 61(3), 348-358.

tumblr_m1ztw4l0ZB1rp5kb4o1_500

A Cliff Notes Version of Escaping Rock Bottom

So what happens when you get stuck?  We’ve all had those moments of feeling completely defeated.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re suffering from an eating disorder, or whether you simply feel lost and directionless in your life.  Whether you’re struggling to get back on track after a relapse, or whether you’re simply just drained- emotionally, physically, mentally, whatever it may be.  You feel, for one reason or another, like you’ve hit rock bottom.  You’re at the foot of a wall, and you can’t figure out quite how to scale it.

It sucks.

And we’ve all been there.

One of the things you notice, especially in an ED recovery world, is that many times people fall.  A recovery that is relapse free is a rarity, not a norm.  It’s normal to struggle.  The defining part is what you decide to do when you find yourself once again back at the bottom of the Totem pole.  The amount of times I’ve seen cries out into the blogosphere, after extended periods of inactivity, saying, “I don’t know what to do!  I feel so defeated, so enchained once again in the ED grasp!  Therapy isn’t working for me, I’m scared to start eating normally again, and all I can see when I look at myself is huge.”… yeah, it’s more than I can count.  And my heart bleeds every time I see this.  I’ve been there.  I know what it’s like.

For me, relapse was worse, or at least harder MENTALLY, than the first time around.  When you enter recovery for the first time, it’s kind of a Chucky version of sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.  Yes, you’re terrified, but you don’t know what comes out of recovery because you’ve never been through it.  You get to the point where the professionals take everything out of your hands, and you have this obscure promise of normalcy.  Something like, “Oh thank God, they’re going to show me how to eat, exercise, AND be normal, AND maintain my weight, AND not go through this hell ever again.  And then I’ll be able to leave it all behind me.”

And that hope pushes you through.  But when you go through it, you realize it’s its own kind of hell.  And when you climb so far up the ladder, only to find yourself once again at the bottom in the depths of a relapse, it is 100 times harder to find the oomph and the drive to try to climb back out again.  You’ve seen part of the other side, and it wasn’t as sunny as you thought.  The grass wasn’t necessarily greener, but rather just a different species of grass.  When I got down to the bottom again, I didn’t know if I wanted to climb back out again.  I didn’t know if it was worth it.

But if you send out that plea into the blogosphere, that cry for help, it’s because you haven’t completely given up hope.  You acknowledge that it might not be perfect, but it has to be better than what current is.  You just don’t know where to start.

It’s been years.  YEARS for me.  And I still struggle, on a day to day, minute to minute basis.  But as I have read these cries for help, I find I’m often asking myself:

If I was there again, what are the most important things I wish I would have known? When it all comes down to it, what are the bare essentials that would have really and truly helped me to get out on the right foot?  What would have made that wall a little easier to scale?  Where would I have liked to have started?

Hence, I decided to make this list.  This list is for anyone.  Of course, it is tailored for someone who struggles with self acceptance, anxiety, and an eating disorder, but really I believe it’s a list that anyone who feels defeated could use from time to time.  The points in it are things we all should bear in mind.

So here we go:

Drumroll please…

THE CLIFF NOTES VERSION OF ESCAPING ROCK BOTTOM

1) TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR OWN SANITY.

This one is a huge one for me.  I truly believe that every situation can be a learning experience, but sometimes the learning is brief and to the point.  How many times have you made a mistake, quit, or “failed” at something, and then been asked by someone else (in a condescending “I know better” way, or a truly compassionate loving way) “What did you learn from this experience?”.  Stop looking at all those things that didn’t work out perfectly as mistakes, or failures.  Realize that it served a purpose, and sometimes that purpose wasn’t to teach you what you WANTED, but rather to show you what you DIDN’T WANT.  I choose to look at recovery the same way.  Relapse is a chance to let you know what doesn’t work for you, and show you that whatever process you were following before doesn’t click with you in one way or another.

I’ve worked with a number of therapists, a number of doctors, and a number of dieticians.  Some of those meetings and sessions were complete and total busts.  Some of them caused more problems than they solved.  And some of them worked for a bit, but then they didn’t work anymore.  And all of that is okay.  All of them taught me one thing or another… either a skill set, or a mindset, or simply showed me what I DIDN’T want my recovery to look like.  They key thing was, I refused to settle for something that only kind of worked, or for something that didn’t work at all.  I didn’t look at the passing of another dietitian or doctor as a failure on my part, or a sign that there was something inherently wrong with ME.  There is nothing WRONG with ME.

What’s your drink of choice?  Mine’s a grande Starbucks iced coffee frappuccino, half sweet with cinnamon dolce flavouring, soy milk, no whip, and a sprinkle of cinnamon dolce spice mix on top.  Say it five times fast, and try to get all components of that right when you’re ordering it (or rather when they’re making it).  My mom’s is a grande half-caf americano, non sweet, with just a bit of room for a a touch of cream.  My boyfriend doesn’t even like coffee, save Tim’s iced caps, but you’ll often see him with a Dad’s Rootbeer.  None of us are the same, and we all have our own unique brews.  If we’re allowed to have our own unique favourite drinks, we’re also allowed to have our own unique mixture of treatments that work for us.  And you’re worth enough to keep looking and looking until you find what works for you.  Play around, and don’t look at another ended session as a failure… look at it as an opportunity to identify the things you don’t want.  Look online, find in person sessions, but also find other’s who are willing to work via Skype from all parts of the world.  Look for discounted rates, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  A lot of people are willing to work with you and work around you.  You do you.

2) COME TO TERMS WITH YOUR CATALYST.

This is a mixed one, because everyone’s experience is different.  I’ve met so many people through my recovery, and no two descents into the diet/self hatred mentality look the same.  Some people have had a messed up relationship with food, exercise, and/or their body for as long as they can remember.  Some people can’t actually remember a time when they weren’t trying to look different than they naturally did, were dieting, or actually felt comfortable in their own skin.  I feel like I can relate in some way, shape, or form, to this, as I grew up always thinking I wasn’t good enough, or that I could do and be better.  This wasn’t always food or body related for me however, but I was never comfortable in my own skin.  From the moment we had to start changing for PE class in school, somewhere around grade 2 or 3 I’m guessing, I remember consciously sucking my stomach in so that I would have the illusion of being slimmer than I was.  I don’t know what spurred this, I honestly don’t.  But even then, it never really impacted my eating, or my exercise.  My love of food, and hatred of exercise still trumped that.  Regardless of what you can or can’t remember, I’d venture to say that everyone does have a definitive moment that sticks out in their mind as the time a “switch” went off.  It might not be the first moment, but it’s a moment that took you from being somewhat okay, or functioning, to NOT functioning, NOT being okay, and being DESPERATE to change.

For me, this was when my best friend in high school came over to my house a year or so after graduation with a Christmas present.  We’d always been the same size (minus my D cups to her I’m guessing B’s), and the whole time I knew her, I always thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever known, inside and out.  I opened the present alone in my room later, and it was a gorgeous red dress.  I hastily took off my clothes and tried to shimmy into the little number, and suddenly it didn’t fit anymore.  We were no longer the same size.  I couldn’t wear the same size dress as her.  At the time I was already feeling low, depressed, and down on myself for other, non body related reasons, but for me, this event sticks out in my mind as the catalyst, the “switch flipped” moment where I decided to actively instead of passively loathe myself, my body, and do everything in my power to change it.

After YEARS of work, and YEARS of struggles, I am now starting to come to terms with my body.  I’m starting to be okay with it.  I’m not yet at the point of loving it, and at times I’m far from it, but I’m now at a point where I can look back on that catalyst, that moment in time, with something other than anxiety, guilt, shame, and regret.  For once in my life, I can look back on that moment and not wish to change it, but rather I can feel sorrow and compassion for 20 year old me.  I look back, I accept that it happened, I don’t long that it went differently, but I want to wrap my arms around my former self, hug her, and tell her that it sucks that you feel this way, but it’s okay.  You’re okay.  You’re fine.  You are worth more than this moment and this dress.

I have finally made peace with this moment, and most of the other moments in my life that I blamed, or looked back on with guilt, shame, and regret for where they got me.  I’ve made peace with the people that have impacted my life in a negative way.  I’ve made peace with my mom’s alcoholism, my dad’s dementia, the family members that told me I wasn’t good enough, the people that made me believe that my only value was my smarts, or my body.  I don’t love those moments.  I don’t necessarily forgive them.  I just accept them, and leave them where they are.  They shaped me, in good ways and bad, but they don’t need to be rehashed any more.  They don’t need to be a part of my current or my future.

Clean the slate.  Feel the pain, grieve a little, then find acceptance and compassion for that moment, or those moment(s) that stick out in your mind.  The catalysts.  The memories.  And then leave them behind.

3) SEPARATE YOUR FEELINGS FROM YOUR FLAB.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m not much for fluff.  I gag at “You can do it!” type mantras, and things that fall along the lines of sunshine, lollipops, rainbows, and perfect realities.  So the idea of writing an acrostic of feelings was a little too Hello Kitty, Minnie Mouse for my liking…

Side note: To all those I offended by insulting either Hello Kitty or Minnie Mouse, I apologize.  I assure you no bobble-heads, keychains, or stuffed animals were harmed in the making of this post.

BUT, I reluctantly listened to my dietitian because she and my ideologies of what recovery should look like are THE SAME, and I have massive amounts of gratitude and respect for her.  I did the acrostic.  And I instantly shed my diet mentality, loved my body, and have a new lease on life.

Burst! 

Peanut butter brownie points for anyone who can pinpoint what awesome book that’s from!

Okay, no.  It didn’t work like that.  No sunshine and rainbows remember.  BUT, it did remind me that when I claim, like many others, “I feel FAT!” or “All I see is CELLULITE”, I am quite possibly and probably equating my feelings with my physique and flab.  FAT and CELLULITE, are NOUNS, not adjectives.  You feel EMOTIONS, which are ADJECTIVES.  You don’t feel fat.  You feel something else, which is making you SEE fat, cellulite, or whatever else makes you feel uncomfortable.  Take a few minutes out of your day, ideally when you are in the midst of a triggering/stressful situation, and check out what emotions are actually coming up for you.  A neat way to do this is to use your “word of choice” which for many is FAT, or CELLULITE, as the basis of an emotional acrostic.  It’ll remind you of reality as opposed to the probably screwed perspective of yourself you’re experiencing.  Mine turned up something like this:

IMG_4120

4) FORGET THE BURN.  FIND THE FUN.

A list of sayings I once felt guilty to hate, but now unapologetically loathe:

  • Just do it.
  • No pain, no gain.
  • If you’re not first, you’re last.
  • Strong is the new skinny.
  • Sweat like a pig to look like a fox.
  • That’s not sweat on your face, it’s fat crying.
  • What you eat in private, you wear in public.
  • Sweat once a day.
  • You’re not going to get the butt you want by sitting on the one you have.
  • Everyone has to do things they don’t want to do.

Don’t get me wrong, moving your body is important.  Using the muscles you were born with, giving them the chance to engage and disengage, and literally carry you through your life, is something we all need to do.  BUT, there is a difference between moving your body because it’s important TO YOU and because you FIND JOY IN IT, and moving your body out of a sense of DUTY, GUILT, and OBLIGATION.  Because believe it or not, if you’re doing something that causes you mental and physical anguish and stress, you’re probably overriding the health benefits of it.

Take me for example.  When I was in the depths of anorexia my heart rate was predictably and expectedly low.  Too low.  I went through the process of weight restoration and once I was, from a strict weight and BMI standpoint “healthy”, my heart rate was no longer low… in fact, at times it was quite high.  Higher than it should be at a resting state.  Many doctors said that it was a complication from a strain on my heart because the muscle had been so weakened.  I’m not negating this possibility, but I will say that their solution, exercising the muscle to strengthen it, was UNPREDICTABLY unhelpful.  I got to the point where I weighed more than I had ever in my life (still a “healthy” weight by all generic means), and I was exercising for at least an hour or two a day, plenty of cardio AND strength training, yet my heart rate was still higher than you would expect given my level of consumption and muscle at times.

What was going on?

The prescribed solution?  Keep up the sweat.  What solution actually worked for me?  Relapse.

Haha.  Kidding. But that is what eventually happened.  The “healthy” lifestyle I had cultivated was completely UNSUSTAINABLE.  Why?  Because I LOATHED every minute.  I spent my time obsessing over getting the food I needed to prevent a relapse, struggling to cultivate a body shape that I was not meant to have, and exercising for ultimate “health”, all while waking up in the morning anticipant of bedtime in 16 hours when I would again have reprieve from the hell I was in.  I laced up my gym shoes for hours a day, sweated it out, pushed myself harder and harder, all while staying under the quoted “13 hour a week” maximum for “health”, but I wasn’t experiencing any of the health benefits I was striving for.  Mentally, mind mind was constantly racing, and I wasn’t present or in the moment with my life.  Physically, my muscles were toned and strong, but they also ached and at times spasmed when I got up from a resting position to the point where I almost/did fall over.  Emotionally, I was drained and dreading every minute.  And my heart rate spent a good chunk of time higher than it should have been.  Why?  STRESS!

And then I gave up.  I gave in.  Anorexia was easier.  Deprivation caused pain, and anguish, and suffering, but so did this.  And what I found, upon relapse, and then recovery again, was that when I was relaxed… mentally and physically, my actual level of health and wellness was far better than it was when I was “sweating it out, and making the fat cry”.

The truth is:  you don’t have to have sweat, feel the “burn”, or put yourself in aerobic states and pain to achieve HEALTH.  Your mental AND physical health depend greatly on your level of psychological wellness, and if your “exercise” is impeding that, you’re probably doing yourself a vast disservice.

But like I said, movement is still important.  I’m not calling out here saying that it’s perfectly healthy and fine to lay around on the couch all day.  No.  You were gifted with the muscles you have, and you owe it to them to allow them to do their jobs.  BUT, that doesn’t mean you have to go through hell.  If exercise is HELL, then STOP.

Take a breath.

Pain DOES NOT ALWAYS EQUAL gain.  Sweat DOESN’T NEED TO HAPPEN for exercise to be worthwhile.  Sitting on your butt DOES NOT MEAN you’ll store fat there.  Exercise IS NOT WORTH your quality of life and mental wellness.  AND if you’re exercising, to achieve a certain body type, weight, or shape, realize that your goal is thinness, not health or wellness.

So what should you do?

  • Change your vocabulary.  Remove the word EXERCISE and replace it with MOVEMENT.  Think about it… what emotions do you feel when you hear the word exercise?  What emotions do you feel when you hear the word movement?  Is there a difference?
  • Set yourself parameters.  Are you a paid athlete?  Do you do this for a living?  If not, you don’t need to exist at the gym, or spend hours pounding the pavement.  You have more important shit to do.  Believe it or not, even ten minutes of activity still has a positive affect on your body.  I’m sick of those people that state you MUST do x amount of activity for it to be worth it.  If you do two minutes of yoga and feel like a rockstar, then I’d say you’re two minutes richer than you were before.
  • AND THE MOST IMPORTANT:  FIND THE JOY.  I have spent… hang on, I’m… 24. Okay, 23.9999999 years of my life thinking that this was a sort of pot of gold at the end of the rainbow kind of concept.  A fantastical ideal that doesn’t actually exist for me.  I was CONVINCED beyond a shadow of a doubt, and ashamed to admit, I FRICKEN LOATHED ACTIVITY.  I could not find anything that was movement that I could do that I didn’t feel obligation in doing.  Everything I did, I did because I felt like I SHOULD do it, and the activity that I have gravitated to in this second attempt at recovery was those things that I didn’t hate as much, or that in a moment of inexplicable clarity found a sense of calmness doing, even though it was only for like 2 minutes out of 30.  AND THEN… about a month ago my boyfriend decided he was going to help me learn how to ride a bike.  Yes, laugh.  24 and I had no idea… even I laughed at that.   But I’d tried stationary bikes and that was just as much, if not more hell, than a treadmill… so I hadn’t exactly been chomping at the bit.  My expectations were low.  The first two weeks of constant start-stops and bails, complete right leg bruises, and one internal contusion on my ribs later that I apparently still have to wait another 4 weeks more to heal and be severe pain free… yeah they were disgruntling.  They were hellish.  They were frustrating.  BUT one day… I flew.  That’s the best word I have for it… I felt like I was flying.  I felt overcome with legitimate joy as I sped down the street.  And now not a day goes by that I don’t want to get on the bike… and while ED likes to try to stick his claws in, the initial desire is 100% me.  I couldn’t go yesterday and I actually MISSED it.  It’s possible to find JOY IN MOVEMENT! And that’s the movement you want to stick to.

5) TEMPORARILY REMOVE THE WORD “BUT” FROM YOUR VOCABULARY.

A little act of self care for yourself.  This kind of goes along the lines of the “Just Do it” mentality.  How many times have you had someone say to you, “You did a great job, but if you just worked a little harder you’d be perfect!”?  How many times have you received a compliment, and said, “Thanks, but I could have done better.”?  How many times did you get second place, BUT instead of rejoicing in that followed it up with, “But it wasn’t first.” ? It’s important to not be arrogant, self righteous or conceited, but a lot of the time the so called “positive” quality of “being humble” is a breeding ground for self depreciation, shame, and negativity.  This step is all about being grateful for the good things, and allowing yourself to take credit for the positives and things you have achieved.  Remove the word “but” from your vocabulary.  It works in so many situations!

  • I made it three days without restricting/binging but then I ate half a cheesecake
  • A coworker gives you a compliment on how well you did training a new employee. Your response: “Thank you, but it’s no big deal.”  Just say thank you.
  • I exercised for twenty minutes, but it wasn’t enough.
  • I had Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for the first time in years, but it had way too many calories.

You get the idea.  Stop discounting the positives.

6) BE REAL, GET ANGRY, AND SWEAR A BIT.

I’d have to argue that perhaps the number one way to guarantee your own unhappiness and lack of fulfilment is to pretend to be different, or be apologetic, for who you inherently are.  This is about all those times that you said to yourself, I have to dress a certain way, act a certain way, or think a certain way, to be accepted/not mocked by others.  It’s about all those times that you forced yourself into a mold to “fit in”, and all the times you felt ashamed to be different than others. Why? Because it’s unsustainable, and eventually something is going to give- either it’s you deciding it’s not worth it anymore, or it’s your mental and emotional wellbeing.  It’s like asking a cat to be a dog, although cats are not that stupid as to even try.  It just doesn’t work.

Speaking of cats, if you asked a cat to be a dog, chances are the cat would look at you in that way that you are 100% sure says, “Screw you.”  Cats are good at getting testy.  Whatever struggles you are going through, be it an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, addiction, or simply not feeling good enough, it is important to get testy yourself sometimes.  Get angry at your struggles rather than be consumed and defeated by them.  Your mind is you, and therefore you are the master of your own mind.  It kind of goes along with the idea of my last post.  Screw you.  Do you feel like a brownie?  Did you eat a big dinner, but are still hungry?  Does the eating disorder want you to eat an apple instead, or stop eating?  If it does, get angry.  Say, screw you!  Did someone tell you you should lose a few pounds?  Screw you!  Did someone try to give you “advice” because they care about you, that instead made you feel unworthy, unloved, or not good enough?  Screw them!  Are you tired of listening to all these external rules about how you should look, or who you should be?  Screw the rules!  YOU are in charge of YOU.  No one else is, and nothing else matters.  If people can’t accept you for who you are, YOU deserve better.

And that last one… nope, I’m not joking.  I am 100% literal here.  I come from a religious family, and I grew up with my grandmother who, if she heard you utter a foul word, was not hesitant to stick a bar of soap in your mouth with a vengeance.  And I still don’t swear as a general rule in most situations, but sometimes the best way to release things is to utter some choice expletives.  Now, I don’t necessarily mean go up to everyone that has ever said something hurtful to you and wail on them.  No.  I also don’t mean forget all sense of public decency and start rattling off the expletives willy-nilly.  Be sensitive to others, and respectful that not everyone wants to HEAR that kind of language.  However, a well placed curse word, often if only uttered to yourself, has the potential to trigger a great sense of release and empowerment.  And it also helps with that, get angry, bit.🙂

7) STOP SEARCHING FOR LOVE.

This is an odd one, especially since we’re in the age of online dating, blind dates, and Dr. Phil.  Stop jumping from relationship to relationship.  Stop basing your worth and value as a person on whether you have a significant other.  Realize the power, and liberation, of being alone.  Realize that you don’t need to be WITH someone, in order to BE someone.  And most importantly, don’t let the fear of never finding someone keep you from being your true self, or keep you stuck in toxic relationships, be it friendships or romantic relationships.

When you’re seeing someone, be you.  Don’t be the person you THINK they want you to be.  It might work in the short term, but a relationship based in smoke and mirrors isn’t sustainable and will eventually have negative ramifications.  When you are you, when you are unapologetically real, the right person will find you.  I truly believe that love finds you when you stop looking and start living.  And if you’re not in a relationship at the moment, it means it’s not your time to be in one.  You find love in unexpected places, at unexpected times, and if you’re being real and true, you’ll be rewarded.  Stop searching, start living.

8) DETOXIFY YOUR LIFE.

Seriously though, I hesitated to tell you about this because it kind of goes against everything I said about food freedom… but I found this miracle detox plan that literally is the bee’s knees.  No I’m not kidding!  It’s a relatively new detox program that helps you shed pounds and cleanse your organs from all those evil little carbohydrate and fat monkeys that are wreaking havoc internally from your unhealthy food and lifestyle choices.  It’s an extract that they’ve taken from the knees of bees, specifically a species of bee indigenous to South America… see I said literally!  They’ve put these extracts into these smoothie-like drinks that you consume for one week straight.  Nothing else!  Just these smoothies, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  They’re a miracle cure, with relatively low incidences of complications, and only 3/10 chance of fatality!

… Yeah.  Screw that.

Did I have you going there?

NO!  I will NEVER recommend a detox cleanse, unless it is MEDICALLY PRESCRIBED by a doctor on an individual basis.  BUT, I’ll definitely speak volumes on social media detox and cleansing!  It sounds corny, but I swear to you it works.  Detoxify your social media, and remove all accounts that you follow related to “Thinspo”, “Fitspo”, unrealistic (AKA typical) body ideals, specific diets (yes paleo, yes gluten-free, yes vegan, yes raw- unless you are medically required to eat this way, you don’t need this), and any other feeds that cause you shame, guilt, anxiety, or a desire to manipulate or control your weight, shape, size, or personality.   You don’t need that shit.  Instead, fill your feed with images of REAL women/men, REAL people…

Side note: Some people are NATURALLY slim, toned or what have you. I’m not implying they’re not real. I’m simply saying don’t buy into those things that are completely digitally altered and airbrushed.

And fill your feed with other ideas- places you want to see, things you want to do, inspiring quotes, balanced food and exercise examples (i.e. everything, no rules), HAES (Health at Every Size), etc. The more you expose yourself to the things that matter, and to health and wellness ideas, the less the other stuff will matter. It really does work.

The same goes for your relationships. Go through your Facebook friends, and delete people you haven’t talked to in twenty years, or those people who make you feel like crap about yourself. Stop spending time with those who are negatively impacting you, and who don’t value you for who you are. It’s not a contest. No one has 700 actual friends, online or in real life.

 

9) GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO TAKE UP SPACE

In all manners of the word.  Being smaller doesn’t make you worth more, any more than being larger makes you worth less.  I know for me, there’s a sense of unworthiness, a lack of value, and it makes me feel like I need to be smaller.  I don’t feel like I deserve to take up emotional space- I don’t want to share my fears, my problems, my worries, and take up others time.  I don’t feel like I deserve to take up airspace.  Another one of those toted “positive” qualities of ALWAYS putting others before oneself… yeah, at times, it’s bull.  You deserve airspace.  You deserve to be listened to, to sometimes get to pick the activity, to have wants, desires, cravings.  You deserve to come first at times.  You deserve to have a day to yourself where you do exactly what YOU want and need to do for your own health and wellbeing.  If you don’t allow yourself to take up space, if you constantly squash yourself for others, or allow others to squash you, you will eventually crumble.  And perhaps, this sense of being small, this sense of being not worth anything and being half a person, will translate to you literally starving yourself to be ACTUALLY half a person.  Who knows.  Just a thought.

You’re allowed to take up space, emotionally, mentally, and physically.  Your curves are allowed to exist, your cellulite is allowed to exist, and your mind is allowed to exist.  Allow yourself to take your rightful place in the world.

Quotefancy-704-3840x2160

Screw it. Let’s do it.

So, it’s raining outside, and life sucks.

How many times have you heard that?

It’s something I could never understand, because, shock of shocks, I love the rain.  I am the happiest person ever when it is raining.  Like this morning, I was lying in bed I had the most amazingly restful sleep.  I didn’t wake up until 5:30, so I was dead to the world, and when I did wake up to roll over, the first sound that greeted my ears was the sound of gentle rainfall.  And the biggest smile came over my face.

Then I took a big breath in, and I could smell it.  That fresh, clean, spring-type smell that comes along with the rain… gosh I love it! I rolled over, and before going back to sleep for a couple hours, I hoped to myself that it would still be raining when I got up.

AND IT WAS!

Cue my happy dance as I prepped my oatmeal in the kitchen this morning, clad in my favourite sweatshirt (seriously, buy it and you will never be more comfortable in your whole life!), and pyjama shorts, spoon of peanut butter in hand.  Then sitting there with this delicious monstrosity:

IMG_4002

And a cup of tea, right by the window, listening to it pour down = bliss.

But this bliss was quickly replaced by the most nagging, annoying anger and frustration that I’ve experienced in quite some time.  I was finishing the last couple bites of oatmeal, and thinking about what I wanted to do next, and all I could think of was how much I wanted to be outside, soaking up all that glorious rain in a walk to the coffee shop to do some writing.  I mean how satisfying would that be:

A day off, that had been preceded by a restful sleep that results in waking up full of energy.  Then commenced with a delicious breakfast involving blueberries (the best berry), followed by a walk in spring rain (the second best rain to summer rain- which is so refreshing because it’s so hot!- because it’s not too cold to walk in), breathing in all those smells!  Then, THEN, a nice, warm latte in a cozy cafe while I get down to creative expressionism.

Can you beat that?!  I think not.

Except… ugh, I have an eating disorder.  But not just an eating disorder: an eating disorder with an exercise obsession. And my dietitian set goals in our session yesterday for me to do different types of movement this week instead of walking, so that I break rigidity and don’t get repetitive and obsessive.  In theory, all practical, and solid plans… except then it had to go and rain!

Part of this is a me problem.  I never learned to ride a bike when I was little.  Plus, now I have my license (finally… stop smirking boyfriend), but I don’t yet know how to drive, and even if I did, I would have to drive WITH someone.  And the dietitian would totally support me going to the cafe to write, but then I’d have to get a ride… not that easy when the other person in your house sleeps till noon.  I don’t want to go at noon.  I want to go now.  I like to write in the morning.

Plus it’s raining, and my favourite time to to walk is when it’s raining!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not in denial here.  For once, this is not an eating disordered behavior!  I don’t enjoy walking in the rain if it’s pouring so hard it’s bouncing off the streets, or if it’s raining in the middle of fall or winter and the water is actually freezing cold.  And I hate being wet… so if it’s going to involve me coming out on the other side looking like a drowned rodent, I’m out.  HOWEVER, if it’s above 14ºC, not bouncing off the pavement, smells like fresh heaven, and I have access to flip-flops and an umbrella, GET ME OUTSIDE AND ON THE SIDEWALK!  AKA: if it’s like this morning.

So you have the healthy version of me, throwing a hissy fit, because for once, FOR ONCE, it’s me wanting to be on that pavement, not ED, and I’m not feeling motivated by ED in the slightest (something that hasn’t happened in YEARS), and I CAN’T GO!  I can’t go, because I’m supposed to be trying out different forms of activity.  I can’t go because, once again, my eating disorder is in my way of me being my healthy self.

Cue the Googles:

screen1

Note the search term: Ways to get around NOT walking

And what does it come up with?  Helping my baby learn to walk, how to walk around the world, and a science article that promotes walking to work.

The Googles be mocking me…

Cue more frustration.  I’m in a small town, there’s no bus, no train, ridiculously priced taxis that you’re insane to take, I’m stranded, and the cafe is a measly 20 minutes away. My creative expressions are pushing at the inside of my brain to find an outlet, which is just more annoying, and the longer I sit here, the closer the rain is to ending because I live in a desert and it only ever lasts so long and then I might not see it again for months.

Cue my brilliant idea to do lunges to the cafe.  It’s not walking!

8235fb3779ee2a9e12338732177980c29854032228fd6842a989591acc926a52

Then I remembered the whole point is to find different activities to do that I ACTUALLY enjoy.  I hate lunges.  I hate lunges more than I hate potatoes, which is saying something.  My hatred for lunges and the pain they bring to my crappy genetically-weak knees, is second only to my hatred for burpees and the elliptical, which also hate my knees.  It is possible that I hate my knees more than I hate lunges, but I have to live with my crappy knees.  I don’t have to live with crappy lunges.

Scratch that idea.

Idea number 2: Skipping to the cafe.

This one was more so amusing than practical.  It actually came from my conversation with the dietitian yesterday, who suggested skipping around my yard instead of walking, followed by a weights session.  But the impracticality arose from how on earth I was going to manage to skip with a laptop.  Cue the idea that someone should invent some sort of laptop transport system that literally straps it to you so it can’t bounce up and down… does this system exist?  I’m envisioning something similar to a baby carrier… although I think that if we created that we’d have some ridiculous activist group claiming that it was a comment on how screwed up our society is that we value our computers as much as we value our babies.  Kind of like the whole Starbucks red cup epidemic, or the suing of Starbucks over ice in their drinks relative to the price…

Man, Starbucks has had a rough year…

Either way, it would have been interesting.  I think people might have thought I was insane skipping up the sidewalk… the things you can get away with when you’re a kid that you definitely cannot when you’re an adult.  But then again, I really loved skipping as a kid, so maybe in the future I should just say, screw what everyone else thinks about my skipping and do it anyways.  But I have to find this laptop carrier first…

Moving on.

Frustration, anger, and annoyance all reaching a climactic level by this point, now coupled with a sense of urgency.  It was after nine, usually the point by which I have already gone, and I was feeling nervous and anxious because I didn’t want to miss the rain and I knew it was only a matter of time.  It never rains all day.  MAKE A DECISION.

My decision can be summed up in precisely two words:

Quotefancy-704-3840x2160

This is five words… but I was literally referring to the first two.  It was those two that I literally said to myself in that instant as I pushed myself off the chair by the window, slammed by laptop closed, and grabbed my book bag.

Now, of course, while I was walking I had a plethora of time to think.  Being the perfectionist, and non-rule-breaking-type that I am, this can backfire on me, resulting in over analysis, guilt, and anxiety.  It’s the same sort of thing that happens when I’m at work and I don’t wipe down the cupboard doors (a relatively minor thing) because I don’t have time to do them.  It’s on the closing checklist, so if I don’t do it a cornucopia of negative self talk comes up: lazy, not trying hard enough, don’t work hard enough, slacker, etc etc.  Followed by the catastrophizing (what are they going to think of me?  Will they think I take my job for granted? Will they think I don’t care? Will they fire me? Will they cut my hours?)… Needless to say the emphasis of this scenario is exactly this:  I don’t have time.  So realistically, there are many other things that it is MORE IMPORTANT to get done for closing, such as stocking, cleaning windows, etc etc, and if wiping cupboard doors doesn’t get done one day it IS NOT the end of the world, and honestly, if it’s not smattered with stuff it would probably go unnoticed.  But it’s me; chances are, I’m more likely to stay late on my own time to wipe the cupboards than to miss it for one night.

Same thing goes on here:  the rule and assignment was to find alternative ways of movement so that I’m not rigid and ruled with walking and thus redeveloping old obsessive habits.  Here I am, walking to the cafe, when I’m not supposed to, even though it is me NOT ED that is wanting to do it.  This key emphasis is important, but like the cupboards it is considered irrelevant in my mind.  The negative self talk begins as early as the point when I step outside the door: irresponsible, cheating, guilty, unimaginative, stubborn to a fault…

Followed by the catastrophizing:  What is the dietitian going to think?  Is she going to be mad (or worse, disappointed) in me for disobeying the rules?  Is she going to take some activity away (again!-this is an on and off thing, as I push limits too far or let the ED take over)?  AND MORE IMPORTANTLY:  Am I just fooling myself?  Do I only think that it’s me that wants this, but in reality it’s all ED?  Am I jeopardizing my own recovery process by doing this?  I’m walking a fine line, and is it possible I’m letting it go too much?  Is this the beginning of the end again?  I just started to let go of some of the exercise obsession, did I just ruin all I’ve achieved and put myself 10 steps back?

Let’s be honest:  These are all good questions.  Well, actually I take it back… they’re good questions if they’re relevant and possible.  They’re not so good if they make you feel unjustifiably guilty and ashamed of yourself, or create more useless anxiety.  It’s good, especially in recovery, to think about your reasoning and motives for doing things, and the possible complications that can arise from making a particular decision.  In a sense, this is mindfulness in practice: actually being in the moment enough to think about what you’re doing in that moment, rather than mindlessly jumping into something without a second thought.  It is this differentiation that can save you from engaging in disordered behaviour without even realizing this is happening.  It’s your opportunity to interrupt the cycle of thought-emotion-behaviour, and choose what to do.

It’s a good thing.

Where it becomes mindless, is when you’re overanalyzing it.  When you step too far away from the present, and it becomes a cascade of what-if’s resulting in your ultimate destruction and the realization of the worst possible scenario.

So you have me, walking up the street, and then eventually sitting at the cafe, feeling glorious: liberated, fulfilled, satisfied, happy, and completely anger and frustration dissipated… but now shadowed by this nagging guilt and uncertainty of myself and the ramifications of my decisions.  Did I make the “right” choice?

How do we know when it’s “okay” to break the rules?

How do we know whether we’ve made the “right” decision?

Is it ever okay to go against the advice of seasoned professionals, especially in an eating disorder recovery sense, and change the plans?

Did you notice the resounding theme in all these questions?  Let’s examine again:

Okay.  Right. Wrong. Black. White.

Do you see the pattern?  In therapy, a universal practice in the management of anxiety, depression, addiction, and the like, is using knowledge of cognitive distortions to recognize and interrupt toxic thinking patterns.  I’ve mentioned some of these in previous posts, and a few in this one (catastrophizing and overgeneralization, labelling, as well as filtering [I did one thing, and therefore it ruined everything], plus mind reading [she will think/do x]), and now to all be lumped together resulting in one of the patriarchal distortions: all-or-nothing/black-and-white thinking.

3eb8fb2358c3853cd606f465b8ec5fc9

99143abf9ee652d1740110db8097094b

Once again, even in the pursuit of recovery, we become wrapped up in the idea of good vs bad, right vs wrong, success vs failure.  We try so hard to achieve a “perfect” recovery, or if not “perfect” at least striving to always be in pursuit of recovery, that we don’t even realize that we’re putting the same limitations and boundaries on ourselves that got ourselves into this mess in the first place.

It’s something I, as well as many others, come up against on a daily basis.  We become hyper-vigilant, and we transfer our food related anxieties to other aspects, just as when the other aspects of our life became too difficult to handle we transferred the anxiety to food.  I remember when I was in the hospital, the doctor had me hooked up to a heart monitor constantly because they were so terrified that my heart that was going down to 20 something beats per minute in my sleep, and 30-40 something when I was awake,  was just going to give up.  One day I had a scare.

I woke up early in the morning, and went to the bathroom to pee before my weigh in.  I had just sat down on the toilet when suddenly a frantic beating on the door was heard.  It was the head nurse, her voice in a panic, calling my name.

“Tiffany!  What are you doing?”

“I’m… peeing?” I answered, uncomfortable and bewildered.

“Peeing?  That’s it?”

“Yes… would you like me to unlock the door so you can see?”

I guess the calmness of my voice, as well as my bewilderment was enough to convince her, and she told me to just finish and get back to bed.  I finished, opened the door, and she watched me walk back and climb in, at which point she grabbed my wrist checking my pulse.  Worry was evident on her face, but after hanging on for some time, she seemed to calm, and reminded me to stay in bed before she left again.

It was only days after the fact that I found out my heart rate upon standing had skyrocketed to 180 beats per minute, AKA danger zone, and TOTALLY NOT NORMAL for someone just standing up at a toilet.  The minute I laid back down in bed it climbed down to a low 50-ish.

Later that afternoon, I was playing a dice game with a friend that came to visit when suddenly a nurse popped her head in the room and told my friend in a worried voice she had to leave.  The panic in her voice was enough to get me scared.  What was happening?  Why was she making her leave?  What was going on?

Not even two minutes later, people were rushing in with a portable ECG machine, and I was suddenly surrounded by people stripping off my clothes and poking me with electrodes.  They were quick moving, serious, and answered none of my questions when I asked what was going on.  They just told me to lay still, relax, and keep quiet.  “Breathe, they said, “Slowly, calmly, in and out.  Relax.”

Now I don’t know about you, but I found it incredibly difficult to relax in this scenario!

And without more than the reminder to lay still, keep calm, and DON’T get out of bed, they ran off.  And I was left, alone, terrified, unsure what was going on, struggling to breathe because my panic had escalated to a point of terror, in a hospital bed.  At least half an hour passed, and I remember calling my mom on my phone, sobbing, begging her to come up, telling her I was so scared, that I didn’t know what was going on, and that I thought I was dying or something.

It was only after my mom made the half hour drive to the hospital and badgered the nurses for a solid twenty minutes that someone finally told us what was going on.  The heart monitor was showing irregular beats at 216 BPM, and they were scared my heart was stopping and I was having a heart attack, so they had to do an ECG.  Turned out that the machine was glitching, which apparently was common, because the ECG came back totally fine.  They just forgot to come and tell me that everything was good.

Thank you for leaving me alone in a bed panicking for two hours.

Moral of this story: As a result of this day, this episode, I have since developed horrible white coat syndrome.  I PANIC when someone has to take my pulse.  Blood pressure, fine, needles, fine, sew up my gaping hole I made when I sliced my hand at work, totally fine.  But you try to take those two fingers and press them to my wrist or throat… NOT OKAY!  PANIC.  TERROR. Fear that they’re going to find 180, or 216 again, and we’ll have a repeat, except this time it won’t be a false alarm.  It has taken years, literally years, to get a little better.  I don’t turn into a complete basket case.  But I still freak out.

Anyways, the day after that episode, the heart rate monitor that had caused me so much torment, the thing I’d been begging to get taken off for weeks because I was allergic to the tape and it was giving me the most painful welts, became my best friend.  His name was Herbie, and I was chained to him.  I was so scared I was going to have a heart attack and die, that I wanted to keep it on forever, so someone could always be monitoring me.  So I wouldn’t die without anyone realizing I was going before it was too late.  A few days before I was transferred to a bigger specialized center in Vancouver, my doctor wanted to remove the monitor.  He was convinced I was now eating enough and had passed the risk point for refeeding syndrome and that my heart would no longer stop.

Side note: A wikipedia definition for those of you who don’t know about refeeding:

Refeeding syndrome is a syndrome consisting of metabolic disturbances that occur as a result of reinstitution of nutrition to patients who are starved or severely malnourished…Patients can develop fluid and electrolyte disorders, especially hypophosphatemia, along with neurologic, pulmonary, cardiac, neuromuscular, and hematologic complications…

Refeeding increases the basal metabolic rate. Intracellular movement of electrolytes occurs along with a fall in the serum electrolytes, including calcium and magnesium. Levels of serum glucose may rise and the B1 vitamin thiamine may fall. Cardiac arrhythmias are the most common cause of death from refeeding syndrome, with other significant risks including confusion, coma and convulsions and cardiac failure.[citation needed]

This syndrome can occur at the beginning of treatment for anorexia nervosa when patients have an increase in calorie intake and can be lethal.[3] The shifting of electrolytes and fluid balance increases cardiac workload and heart rate. This can lead to acute heart failure. Oxygen consumption is also decreased which strains the respiratory system and can make weaning from ventilation more difficult.

And I freaked out!  I begged and pleaded with him to leave it on.  My anxiety over it being gone when he insisted that it be removed was so high I compulsively checked my pulse almost every minute for almost a whole year, and they had to medicate me with benzodiazepines.  And then I was left on them, became addicted, and then had to eventually wean off of them and go through med withdrawals.  But that’s another story.

“There’s a reason why it has to come off,” he said to me while I was shaking and begging in my bed, “You don’t need it any more.  This is a transference.  You are transferring your anxiety about food, which you can no longer control, to something else.  You have to cope with your anxiety, not just move it around.”

And (tada, roundabout point!  I bet you were wondering where I was going with this!), this less lethal, but anxiety and guilt provoking situation is the same thing.  In the pursuit of recovery, we become just as hyper-vigilant of doing the “right” thing, as I was with monitoring my heart rate, or as we all were when we were vigilantly monitoring /restricting our caloric intake.  We still feel the need to be perfect, so we try to have a perfect recovery.  We over-analyze things, and apply black and white thinking to our recovery mindset too.

I made the choice this morning to ignore the plan, set by a professional, and do an activity that for me has in the past been a known ED behaviour.  Does this mean I did the “wrong” thing?

I don’t think so.

How do we know we did the “right” thing?

First, acknowledge/admit that there is the vast possibility that there is no such thing as a “right” or “wrong” choice.  You didn’t do the “right” thing, anymore than you did the “wrong” thing.  Recovery, just like the rest of life, is not black and white.  In therapy we are taught to stop thinking in ultimatums.  The same thing applies to this process.

Second, is it “okay” to go against the advice of a professional?

Of course.  It’s your life.  Your life, your rules.  HOWEVER, this comes at a cost.  I would say you can ONLY go against the advice of a professional if you are solid in your frame of mind and are completely aware of what your motivations and reasonings are for making a different choice.  Stop making rules for yourself.  You don’t have rules about brownies or burgers anymore, so stop telling yourself you need to make rules about everything.  Everything we are told in recovery is a CHOICE.  No one can force you to do anything.  But you need to be aware of the choices you’re making, and you have to be just as aware of where they’re coming from, as you are of where they’re going to lead you as a result of making it.

There is a point in recovery where you are not aware of where your motives are coming from.  You’re not yet at the point where you can separate that ED voice from your own.  AND sometimes even those who usually can separate it, can’t.  You need to be honest with yourself there.  If you can differentiate, you can choose.  If you can’t differentiate, it’s probably a better idea to stick to the plan.

For me, I knew this morning that it was me, and I was 100% sure of it.  I made a choice, and it was one based on a message that my body was sending me from my HEALTHY SELF.  This was even more evident to me when it was over, because I felt HAPPY, LIBERATED, and STRONG.  Not guilty, conniving, anxious, or ashamed.

Did I question it?  Of course.  Did that questioning result in anxiety and second guessing?  Yes.  And this is where we need to draw the line.  No ruminating.  You made a choice, stick to it.  Don’t rehash it if it doesn’t need to be rehashed.  Chances are, what you’re rehashing is distorted.

What will they think?

Why does it matter?  Screw it, let’s do it.

If you were solid in your decision making, there’s nothing to question.

Screw it, let’s do it.

Will it appease the ED?  Maybe.  But that’s not black and white either.  Just because the eating disorder is happy, doesn’t necessarily mean it was the wrong choice.  It just means that you have to be extra (but not hyper) vigilant in the decisions you make in the near future, because chances are ED will try to needle its way in because it’s active.  You have to be able to once again analyze your motives before you make future choices.

Jenni Schaefer writes in her book Life Without ED that we have three selves: ED, anti-ED (always rebelling against ED), and our intelligent self.  You could also look at this as black, white, and grey.  Sometimes you got extremes, but almost always it’s some kind of mix (AKA, your intelligent self).  Chances are a choice you make will have a ramification, and often times that choice will impact ED, but the more choices you make, and just because that happens doesn’t mean it’s wrong.  We don’t want ED, and we don’t ALWAYS want anti-ED, sometimes we need the grey.

So if you find yourself questioning, if you need to make a decision, if you’re finding yourself frustrated, unsure, and trapped, sometimes you need to take a step out of the box.  And sometimes, that step is unconventional.  Sometimes, that choice breaks the “rules”, and sometimes it doesn’t.  You do you.

And when it all comes down to it, sometimes you just gotta say:

“Screw it.  Let’s do it.”