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.

 

 

 

 

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?

Guilt vs Shame Pt 2: Shame-A Lethal Apology For Existence

Happy birthday to all you people born on April 24th! If I could,  I would make you all cake.  I’d say cupcakes so you can be all individual and have your own personal sized cake with exactly one candle because it’s super cute, but apparently those don’t count as cakes ::rolls eyes at recent argument had over a lack of birthday “cake”::…

How was your week?  Mine was pretty stellar… do people say stellar anymore?  Did I just date myself?

f56c6159e64ddeedc581777aefb6c750

Moving on…

Yeah, I had a pretty amazing weekend last weekend…Two weekends ago?  You know what I mean.  My sister came to town, who I see like once a year, and we got to spend some time together which was really nice.  This also meant a pretty hefty dose of eating out and eating well, which is on one hand the funnest thing ever, and on the other super challenging.  But, I made it through, with only mild panic attacks, and purposely limited body checking.  All in all, a success.  And I went to a bar, and I got ID’d which is a nice little morale boost because it doesn’t always happen anymore.

It’s funny, because when you first start going to bars and you’re ID’d before you make it two steps in the door every time, it is such a drag, but then when that starts to happen less and less and less, you kind of miss it.  It’s like, man, do I have to start dying my grey hairs yet?

Then again, with that current fashion trend of dying your hair grey, that might not be a solution to any problem.  Or did that trend pass already?  I’m not sure.  I never understood that one anyways…

So you all remember my last post?  You know, the one where I found out that my guilt is a blessing if I choose to look at it in the right light?  Easier said than done, but a good reminder that there’s always a silver lining.  Anyways, it actually said Part 1 on it… as in therefore there’s a part 2, or Part II, or el numero dos, or whatever you please.  Point is, something is supposed to follow it.

I’m like the worst for these types of things.  I even hesitated to title the post “Part 1” because I know myself… I get all gung-ho for something, and I’m über inspired in the moment (because I’m mindful like that), and I’m all like, “Pssshaw, of course I’ll make the next part that logically follows!  Of course I’ll finish my thoughts!  This is like, my current maxim and my level of inspiration and expression will continue to abound for weeks to come!”

Yeah, okay.

I know myself, hence my hesitation.  Some people take lessons from their parents, and learn through the wisdom of age… I don’t do that.  Apparently, I take lessons from this guy:

IMG_0995

And to quote my boyfriend, this guy is “a special kind of stupid”.  So while he can teach me some valuable things, like loving unconditionally (man’s best friend literally), or living in the moment and for the moment (hence the stolen ice cream cone from the coffee table), or life without regret (he had no regret for the ice cream cone, or for the piece of parchment paper that had lined the cheeseburger pan that he stole from the garbage and tore up during the night), he can teach me an infinite number of unnecessary ones as well.  Those are the ones I seem to follow:

  1.  How to do the same thing multiple times, and expect a different result (AKA the definition of insanity, most demonstrated by his persistence of begging for food from me when he never gets any).  My argument is that this could also fall in line with being eternally optimistic… maybe.
  2. How to walk into things that are so blatantly obvious that you never should have walked into them (doors, cupboards, other people).
  3. How to have a remarkably short attention span, get bored easily, and have an inability to focus.

Yeah, that third one.  You know when you throw a ball for a dog, and he’s all excited, but then you bring out a frisbee, or a treat or something, and then the ball that was the best thing in the world is forgotten?  Yeah.  Either that or something like this:

 

See unconditional love, and completely distract-able all at the same time.  Story of my life.

So, I knew I’d get distracted, hence my reluctance to post a Part 1 and commit to a Part 2… and here I am, distracted.  But sometimes, you can turn distraction into a roundabout point, so we’re going to try.

I had a Skype session with my dietician the other day, and we were talking about my levels of guilt.  I had a few challenges for the week last week, and while I met them (mostly), there was incredible levels of anxiety, shame, guilt, fear, and an overall sense of FML that can be surmised in the phrase: “I just wanted to crawl out of my skin constantly.”  Anyone with an ED knows that phrase all too well.

Anyways, we were talking and she said something along the lines of “Well, you gotta ask yourself why that guilt is there.  Why are the food rules still there after so long?  Why do you have the guilt, fear, and need to keep those rules in place?  What are you afraid of?”

“Of becoming huge… and it’s ridiculous, stupid, and pointless. It shouldn’t matter to me!  I mean, WHY does it matter to me?”

And the infamous psychological technique response she gave- a classic answer-a-question-with-a-question.

“Why DOES it matter to you?”

And it’s those annoying questions that frustrate me to no end…  Because I have no freaking idea!  It’s funny how you possess your brain, you’ve lived with it for 24 years, you’ve gone through moments of sadness, moments of joy, birthdays, deaths, weddings, parties, everything, and you’ve done everything in your life with the same brain… and yet a large chunk of the time you still have no idea how it works.  There’s still 3 million crevices left unexplored, places where you’ve stored ideas, beliefs, values, memories that shape you but are enigmas to your conscience and comprehension.  Sometimes your own head is as much a stranger to you as the guy sitting at the next table in a coffee shop.

Why do I have the guilt, the fear, the rules?  Why am I scared to become huge?  Why do I think this is important?

Well, we ended up at the same point as I came to in my last post, which was kind of ironic. The conversation kind of went, “Hey Tiffany, maybe you should write a blog post or something on guilt and how it connects to your values?” To which I responded,”…Um, I kind of already did last week…”

Awkward silence.

Actually no, our conversations are like never filled with awkward silences.  Usually we’re laughing about something ridiculous that happened related to food, like driving backwards  through a DQ drive through, taking an open flame to a nutrition label, or making a YOLO pizza and topping it with rice.

Then we get serious(ish), and back to business.  Such as her next point, “Okay, great! Part II then (haha, it’s a roundabout pun), define your values.  I mean if you value thinness, like you realize you do, look at why, and decide what you’re missing out on if you make it that important.  Hopefully you realize that you don’t have time for that shit.”

I attached a link for her related blog post, because why not explore it with me right?

So, why do I value being thin?

Do it with me: loooooooooong sigh.

I don’t know.  I wish I didn’t.  I think it’s a plethora of things:

It’s that kid that went to family get togethers, and felt isolated because she wasn’t an athlete, or sports-minded.  Whose coordination sucked so much that it wasn’t fun to play baseball, or basketball, or tennis, because really, yes you can have fun sucking if the people you play with aren’t too serious but sometimes you just get tired of not being able to do things.  You just want to make a basket, you just want to rally a ball.  And also being a kid with a ridiculously different body type, but not realizing that it was because of this difference in body type that she looked different from the rest of the people in the family.  I mean, I have a DD cup, and I have curves.  Compare that to an A or B, long and lean. You can’t.

So when the other girls my age could trade clothes, or fit into a size 2, I couldn’t.  I couldn’t because my breasts wouldn’t fit into a small shirt, or a medium sometimes.  and my curves in my thighs ad hips wouldn’t fit into a size 2 pant, or often a size 4.  Usually it was a six.  And when you’re young, things are simple and you don’t understand the complexities of body type, of genetics, of all the fine print.  So if my cousins could fit into a 2 or a small shirt and I couldn’t, there must be something wrong with me.  Just like if they could hit a tennis ball and I couldn’t, there must be something wrong with me.

I didn’t know how to ride a bike, or swim,  but they did.  There was something wrong with me.

I was the quietest.  The shyest.  The most introverted.  A lot of them were extroverted… they were comedians, they made people laugh.  They thrived being with others, and had lots of friends.  They were social and always on the go.  I wasn’t.  There was something wrong with me.

I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, and oftentimes ate more than the rest of them (hello fast metabolism I now know I have thanks to my Dad).  But they thought about sugar grams, and ate smaller portions.  If I didn’t do these things, there was something wrong with me.

From a young age in our family we were told of the importance of exercise, of getting outside on a daily basis.  Of not drinking juice until we had at least one glass of water.  And many family activities during our get togethers were focussed around hiking, or walking, or running, or biking, and if we didn’t participate in these things, we were guilt tripped.  We were told how it was “good for us”, how we were “being lazy” if we didn’t.  We were shamed.

My parents didn’t have rules like this.  My parents didn’t withhold food from me until I ate something “healthier” or drank some “clean water”.  They encouraged me to follow my own passions, decide for myself what I wanted to do.  They were okay with me being the artist always scribbling in her sketchbook.  They were fine with me being the academic, with her nose in a book.  And they were equally fine if I decided I wanted an ice cream cone in the afternoon, or a soda with my dinner.  They allow me to decide.

And let me be clear.  I was never “overweight” because of it.

But my cousins were everything I wanted to be, and they were my role models.  They were happy, beautiful inside and out, had tons of friends, and were coordinated.  They were confident.  That was a big one for me.  Confident.  That’s all I really ever wanted to be.  Happy and confident in who I was.  And I was bombarded by messages.  And in between hearing the food rules that they had set out for them, in between watching them eat smaller portions, and only eat certain things at certain times, in between watching them thrive at sports, and obey their parents/aunts/uncles with the “get outside and get moving” mantra, and then see them in their long and lean body types, the solution seemed clear.  Somehow their external appearance and their driven, always keep busy attitudes, were the key to happiness, confidence, and love both inside and out.

There was something wrong with me, and this was the way to “fix” it.

Add to it the rest of the environment.  The environment that all of us face every time we set a foot outside our front doors:

The NIKE labels branded across thin, muscular people, coupled with their slogan, “Just do it.”  Like, it doesn’t matter if you’re tired, or sick, or not happy.  Do it anyways.

The distorted yoga movement that is meant to encourage mindfulness and self acceptance, but is now branded with ridiculously hot rooms, a hierarchy of praise and respect for those who practice the more intense power and vinyasa styles, and an average calorie burn next to videos and course descriptions.

The amount of times you go out for lunch with people and see thin people overeat or eat a “unclean/yolo/cheat” food (brownie, burger, pizza, ice cream, etc) and be praised or appreciated for “not being anorexic” or for “being normal”, for eating for enjoyment, or for being indulgent because they “deserve” it.  Meanwhile, a fat person orders the same thing and is condemned for eating past full, or for just eating for enjoyment… because they DON’T “deserve” it.  They, controversly, are expected to be constantly proving to the world that they are actively trying to be “normal” by working as hard as they can to not be fat.

I’m sorry,  not sorry, but that is fucked up.

q1

Image Source Recovery Warriors

In what world is it okay for one person to eat a cookie, but another not, based on the amount of adipose tissue strapped across their midsection or thighs?

In what world is it acceptable to have a second slice of pizza based not on hunger or enjoyment, but rather on whether or not you hit 5k on your morning run this morning?

In what world have we replaced the unacceptable racism, sexism, and ageism, with an apparently “healthy” and acceptable size-ism and shape-ism?

Why do I value thinness? Because I am disposed to believe that just as I am, there is something wrong with me.

Or rather, because I grew up believing that there is something wrong with me, as a result of values others hold. I may have contorted them in my own head, but they are a result of nature and nurture, things seen and heard. Because I have never felt like enough, and I just want to feel okay. Because I am ashamed of myself, and I don’t want to add any more shame to the equation. And because in this day and age, the ultimate shame is to be fat.

Which brings me to Part 2! YAY FOR ROUNDABOUT POINTS!

Part 2 of that duo, and that Brené Brown quote:

I believe that there is a profound difference between shame and guilt. I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.

I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure. I think the fear of disconnection can make us dangerous.

Shame is the partner in crime to guilt, but whereas guilt is kind of like a nagging mother (a pain in the butt, and you don’t want her to be right, but her goal is to protect and to help you know what is really important), shame is just the grade 2 bully, or the devil on your shoulder.

The, “I made a mistake” (guilt), versus the “I am a mistake” (shame), if you will.

The reality is that shame does nothing helpful.  It doesn’t encourage you to make amends or point you toward your values.  More often than not, shame just encourages you to give up, leads to despair, and is, as Brené pointed out, “more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behaviour, than the solution or cure.”

If someone believes they are not enough, they are unworthy, or unloveable, it is hard to remain connected to others.  It is hard to remain connected to others because it is actually PAINFUL to remain connected.  The constant reminder of your own inadequacy is one of the greatest emotional pains you can experience.

One of the biggest problems that comes with shame is that the “I am a mistake” mentality is usually related to something about yourself that is unchangeable.  I can’t change my body type, my personality, my introverted nature, or my natural talents.  So if I’m ashamed of any one of those aspects, I can attempt to do something about it (diet/plastic surgery, be false, throw myself into an extroverted group/club/etc, try over and over again to be good at something else) and while it might work for a bit, eventually I’m doomed.   You can’t change the type of person you are.  You can’t change your natural talent for English, or your quiet personality any more than you can change your skin color.  It’s a part of you and you will naturally always fall back towards what is uniquely and inherently yours.  This is the same thing with your body shape and set point weight, and the reason why when you diet eventually you gain the weight back.  It could be slower or faster but your body has amazing control mechanisms to keep you where it is designed to be.

So when you’re shamed by something that is unchangeable, when you can’t change it no matter how hard you try, you just feel like a failure.  You feel unworthy of love, connection, and belonging.  And as those are the basic emotional human necessities, you suffer.

Nowadays, as a society in general we are more bombarded than ever by messaging and fat shaming.  A greater and greater emphasis is being placed on external appearances and physicality, and now that medical professionals and governments have waged a “war on fat”, those who naturally have more voluptuous frames are facing a greater pressure to fit into a mould that only a small percentage of the population is designed to fit in.  Larger women who go to the doctor for an ear infection are told to lose weight.  If a thin woman went to the doctor for the same thing, they would be given antibiotics.  Does the larger woman not deserve the same courtesy minus the extra shame pill thrown in?  Shame isn’t a vitamin, and it doesn’t enhance the antibiotic’s effectiveness.

bfl

Image Source BuzzFeedLife

Here’s the reality:  Just because you’re thinner, DOES NOT mean you are healthier.  Likewise, just because you’re fatter, DOES NOT mean you are UNhealthier.

Just because my thighs have cellulite, DOESN’T mean I’m less deserving of a third slice of pizza than my thinner cousin.

Just because my stomach rolls when I bend over, DOESN’T mean I can’t enjoy a latte with my scone instead of black coffee.

Just because my hips don’t fit in a size 4 half the time, DOESN’T mean that I should walk more, or add in a 5k run to my exercise regime.

AND, if I lost weight, if I changed my body’s natural shame, it DOESN’T mean I would be happier.  I think we’ve beat that one to the bush enough times.  Or does another relapse need to happen?

Just because we’re fat phobic, doesn’t mean we need to fat shame.

Just because shape-ism and size-ism is different than racism or sexism, doesn’t make it right.  Why is my adipose tissue any different than my skin color?

Just because we’re all different, doesn’t mean we’re wrong.  Stop being ashamed.  You are not a mistake.

rr1q2

Image Source Recovery Warriors

 

Guilt vs Shame Pt 1: Guilt-The Blessing in Disguise

Ciao!  I woke up this morning, and I was feeling super awesome.  Hence this selfie (I don’t do selfies…):

IMG_3791

This tends to happen when I know I’m going out for a morning at the cafe to write… I can’t help but get excited and bubbly.  Then I walk there whilst I listen to some solid beats on my phone, and because I’m feeling awesome I have some upbeat tunes (my walking groove that always makes its way onto the “feeling awesome” playlist) on that I can strut to.  And I coordinate my footsteps with the beat… And then I realize that I’m singing outloud and getting entirely too physical with my movements and have to tone it down because people are looking at me as if I’m having a spasm…

Uncoordination at its finest.

So I got to the cafe, and it just so happens that the best seat in the cafe is open!  Right by the open sunny window, view up the street, and in the corner so it’s private.  The awesomeness continues, and my face be like:

IMG_3796

AND then… my boyfriend shows up by surprise and he’s like my favourite person.  The awesomeness continues, and my face be like:

giphy

After a visit, I get down to business, start writing, feeling good, on a roll… so on a roll that lunchtime creeps up on me, and I don’t want to stop writing so I decide to finally try that roasted mushroom sandwich with hummus that has sounded so good…

IMG_3800

And in making that decision, in two seconds my awesomeness went to anxiousness. Anxiousness, guilt, and shame, for being seated, in a cafe, ordering lunch when I could be up moving, or making something less intimidating for lunch at home.  All that awesomeness, shot down in an instant.  Bummer.

It’s funny how quickly emotions can shift.  How one day you can look in a mirror and see huge, and the next day it suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.  How one second you can be feeling amazing, and then next second you can feel like crap.  And it’s not just those who suffer from eating disorders that experience this.  Its one of those side effects of being human: having somewhat unpredictable emotions.

large

Two overriding emotions in eating disorder recovery, as well as a vast majority of mental illnesses are guilt and shame.  They act as a wall that puts an invisible, but solid barrier between us and the rest of the world.  They separate us, segregate us, and silence us.  And they take the awesomeness out of your morning in one smear of hummus…

I was listening to a podcast the other day, during one of my more anxious moments, and they were discussing one of the most talked about names in the world of self help and discovery: Brené Brown.

Undoubtably, you’ve heard of her.  Author, scholar, and speaker, she is well known for her renowned TEDtalks, and her growing collection of self-help books, among which are the bestsellers Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection.  While I can’t personally attest to their brilliance, as they’re both still on my reading list, I know many people personally who have claimed their ability to impact and change how you view the world and your place in it.

Anyways, in this podcast, they were discussing the difference between guilt and shame, and how both emotions play in when it comes to eating disorders and eating disorder recovery.  I know for me, it is difficult to tell the difference between the two, as they are distinct but often intertwined.  They mentioned a quote from Brené’s book, Daring Greatly, that struck a note for me:

I believe that there is a profound difference between shame and guilt. I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.

I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure. I think the fear of disconnection can make us dangerous.

At first glance, I didn’t agree with this at all, but mostly because of the guilt portion of the quote.  In my own experience, guilt has rarely been helpful, but rather harmful in my day to day life.

I mean, after all,  I feel guilty about eating a piece of cake, so I go for a 3 hour run the next day.  I feel guilty about eating three meals a day, so I skip my snacks.  I feel guilty about leaving university, and so I hole myself up and don’t go to family gatherings.  I feel guilty about choosing the easier yoga video instead of the longer more strenuous one, so I do an extra hour the next day, or miss another meal.

Whichever one you pick, it all leads/has lead me to the same place:  alone, lonely, sad, depressed, anxious, on my death bed…

How can an emotion that has produced so much heartache and emotion, mental, and physical deterioration possibly be adaptive or helpful?  Clearly guilt is a negative emotion, and one to be avoided at all costs!

Yeah, it appears that way at first glance.  And it’s a much easier way to look at things:  my situation is a result of my emotions.  I can blame the things that have held me back and shoved me down on my feelings.  And since we’re supposed to feel our feelings, and not stifle them, I’m completely justified in my behaviours.  Or, if I’m not completely justified in my behaviours, I am at least completely justified in why it’s taking so long and is so impossible to change them.

Except it’s not entirely true… because the emotion itself doesn’t control the behaviour.  An emotion is simply a cue as to what is going on in your internal experience.  The reality is that your situation is not a result of your emotion, but a result of your REACTION to your emotion.

So what is guilt then?  Brené kind of hit the nail on the head here:

…it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.

Key: Something we’ve DONE or FAILED TO DO up against our VALUES and feeling PSYCHOLOGICAL DISCOMFORT.

Hence, this is why a most classic example of guilt shows its helpfulness and healthfulness:  You lie to your best friend, you feel guilty because it goes against your value of honesty, and the psychological discomfort you feel (AKA your conscience) pushes you to “right the wrong” in order to realign with your values.

BUT when the experience of guilt results in a harmful behaviour, such as restriction, overexercise, purging, binging, self harm, or the like, does this mean that it’s no longer helpful, healthful, or fitting with its definition?

diet-binge-cycle

No.  Not at all.

I know, shocking.  But remember what guilt does: it points to how we’ve gone against or neglected our values.  So guilt in this scenario, the scenario of feeling guilty over a brownie or a hamburger, or a slice of pizza, points to a value that we must be brushing up against.  If nothing else, guilt is a great little tool to use to tell you what it is that you truly value in your life.

Now for me, the realization of guilt being helpful in this way is a new one.  And as awesome as it is that an emotion I feel a bisquillion times a day is secretly an ally of mine, it is also incredibly humbling and more than a little depressing.  Here’s the crux:

What on earth do I value so incredibly that it results in me feeling guilty about eating these “forbidden/cheat/unhealthy” foods?

Now, in my mind, there’s only a couple possible things that could actually result in food guilt:

  1. I feel guilty about the food because I fear being unhealthy.  I value having a healthy, strong, body and treating my body in the best possible way.
  2. I feel guilty about the food because I fear what the food could do to my outward appearance. I value having a beautiful/thin/fat-free/slim/toned/whatever-adjective-fits-for-you appearance.

And because the guilt is so pervasive, so all-consuming, so strong that I’m willing to push other things aside such as meaningful relationships, spending time with those who matter to me, doing the daily activities that need to get done, just to “right the wrong” and attone for my “gluttonous sins”, it really points that I value one of these things incredibly highly.  As in whatever I value takes priority as one of my chief values in life.

7-500-days-of-summer-quotes

And that’s where the depressing and humbling part comes in, as well as sadness and anger.  Regardless of whichever element it is (and for me I think it’s both: perfectionism and orthorexia valuing having a perfectly healthy and clean body on the inside, and the having a fat-free, slim, toned, and beautiful outward appearance), I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that I clearly value that so much more than some of the other things in my life.  Like, if it was my funeral, would I really want to be remembered as the “girl who had the perfect/healthiest body” or the “girl who took every opportunity possible to laugh”.  “The girl who put others before herself”.  “The girl who was always up for some quality time with her friends and family.”  “The girl who was not afraid to be completely real, and totally herself”.

I don’t know about you, but for me, every option sounds better than the first one.

But this realization, as sad as it is, and as infuriating as it might be, isn’t a pointer that you’re conceited, self-absorbed, trivial, or whatever other adjective that puts you down says.  The fact that you might value your physical appearance or your fat-free body quite(too) highly isn’t a death sentence.  It isn’t yet another redline through your despicable character that you’re convinced (by the eating disorder) that you have.  Because, there’s always a silver lining…

being-optimistic

YAY!

Okay.  So realization, confession, acceptance:

My name is Tiffany.  I hold no grudge against people who are larger.  I hold no misgivings over someone who has fat, or cellulite, and I think no less of them as a human being.  I do not believe that anyone’s outward appearance has an impact on their worthiness, worth, or value as a person, or their worthiness of love, care, compassion, or happiness.  And I would NEVER, EVER, say that I am better than anyone else based on my outward appearance.  However, for some reason, I do not hold myself up to the same standards.  I value my outward appearance highly.  I value what I physically look like too highly.  And as much as I do not judge others for how they appear, I am terrified of appearing larger, or with more fat, or less tone.  This value interferes with my life.  It gets in my way because it results in me missing opportunities and not being present in my relationships in the ways that I want to be present in them.  And because I value this so highly, it often results in me putting my outward appearance ahead of a lot of other things in my life that it should not, that I do not want it to be ahead of.

Phew.

And it angers me.  And I’m working on the acceptance part.

HOWEVER, here’s that part where I luck out at having guilt as my ally!  Guilt has helped me by pointing out what I value… let’s add to the Brené Brown quote:

I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.  Guilt acts as a lighthouse guiding you home to both your true values AND your MISPLACED values.  And as a result, you can work on changing them for the better.

Mind blown.

Yes, just because you hold something as a value, doesn’t mean it needs to stay a value.  Just because it’s engrained into your psyche as something of critical importance, doesn’t mean that it’s a part of you.  Your values are not your genes: they’re not a special CATGGATC (isn’t that the four nucleotides?) sequence that can’t be altered without some fancy GMO.  If you change your values, you won’t create cancer or suddenly grow 12 arms or bananas with breasts…

I don’t even know where that came from.  Moving on…

It takes work, it takes conscious effort, and it takes immersing yourself completely in new ideas and ideals to change your values.  But it can be done.  And you’ll know when you’ve achieved it:

You’ll eat that brownie without a second thought.

You’ll go out for pizza with your friends and then eat breakfast the next day. And snack.  And lunch. And dinner.

Your burger will come with a side of fries instead of a side of guilt.

Your blessing in disguise will be your guide.

 

50 Shades of… pizza?

Good morning all!  Unless of course you live in another time zone, which I mean if you live in the majority of the world you do, in which case it’s a good afternoon, good evening, or good night.

Wasn’t there a movie that used that line?  Probably… oh wait!  The Truman Show!  Tell me you’ve seen the Truman show… hang on, I’m Youtube-ing…

I’m actually kind of impressed with myself for remembering where that was from.  I’m usually that person that will be talking about movies with someone and they’ll say, “Have you seen _____?” and I’ll be like, “Um….. maybe?”.  I never remember titles.  I also tend to forget actors/actresses names unless they’re like fantastic (Johnny Depp or Meryl Streep anyone?), so a conversation gets a little sticky quite quickly when you combine the two together.  It typically goes something like this:

Me: “Have you seen that movie… oh I can’t remember what it’s called.  It’s the one with the guy… oh crap… That guy with the hair?  You know, he was in that other movie?  The one where there’s a big misunderstanding (aka every movie ever made!).”

Yeah… it doesn’t go over well.

I think it’s genetic.

I know, I know, blame the genes.  But seriously though, I grew up mostly with my grandma because my parents worked, and she was the champion of “the thing”.  You spend enough time with her and you learn to read her mind at least a little, or you’d get a seriously riled grandma on your hands.  And if anyone knows my grandma, you don’t want a seriously riled grandma on your hands.

“Get me that thing, from the place over there.  No not that thing! The other thing! The one next to the big thing with the grey stuff on top!”

Like I said, genetic.

That was like the other day in the truck with my boyfriend… I was trying to explain the defectiveness of my thermos and justifying it by the fact that two different people tried to open it but couldn’t.  In the end we destroyed the rim on it because we got so desperate to open it that we tried to open it with a jar opener.  Anyways, I couldn’t remember the word jar opener, so I said can opener… but I totally knew that wasn’t it.  I did get it eventually, but it took longer than it should.

Side note:  those jar openers are handy, aren’t they?!  I mean, it didn’t work on my thermos, it just destroyed it. But that thermos is just evil. For other jars they’re great!

Double side note:  I’m not totally hopeless.  I don’t forget everything.  Just had to be clear on that.

Moving on.

So something major happened since we last chit-chatted:

It was my birthday!

Yay!

Remember this post?  I started it off by being oh so convincing and telling you it was my birthday.  Guess what?  I’m doing it again!

IMG_3199Actually, I’m not.  It was my birthday!  That right there is an awesome peanut butter birthday cake, stuffed with peanut butter chips, frosted in peanut butter frosting, and decorated with mini peanut butter cups.  It’s a plethora of peanut butter!  And I didn’t even have to make it myself, because someone gets me! This is the corner slice, aka the best slice, because it has the most frosting and the most peanut butter-ness.  Win.

And I was spoiled.  I was treated to the most amazing massage at the spa, which was so needed because I kind of suck at self care, as most eating disordered people do, and I have such a hard time sitting and relaxing.  I had this pesky knot in my shoulder, which had been bugging me for at least a month, and now it’s gone.  And I’m like…

polar bear butt1

Oh yeah…..

Then there was a homemade panini lunch, followed by the aforementioned cake, a slice of which ended up in my face…

Side note:  Apparently this is a semi-common tradition?  It was a new one for me…

Add on a gorgeous apron from London, and a beautiful scarf, and you have me completely spoiled.  And of course this brings up an all too common eating disorder emotion:  guilt.

Why do we engage in eating disordered behaviours?

Guilt.

Why do we restrict when we eat a forbidden food?

Guilt.

Why do we suck at self care?

Guilt.

Why are we always keyed up and can’t relax?

Guilt.

Why are we afraid of certain foods?

Guilt.

Why are we so secretive, and don’t want to include other people in our struggles, or open up?

Guilt.

What keeps us stuck in our eating disordered ways?

Guilt.

I swear you’d be hard pressed to find someone with an eating disorder who doesn’t struggle with a guilt complex.  In my experience it is the most pervading emotion that finds its way into every nook and cranny of my life, and it would actually be a challenge to find a moment in my day where I’m not feeling guilty about something.

Guilty about sitting and relaxing instead of “being productive” and doing work.

Guilty about living with my grandmother for a time and helping her to stay in her house for as long as possible, while others claimed I was “sponging off of her”.

Guilty about living at home with my Mom and contributing as much as I can to household expenses, while once again other people claimed I was “taking advantage”.

Guilty about being lactose intolerant and needing the more expensive soy milk.

Guilty about dropping out of school multiple times and not “living up to my full potential”, disappointing others.

Guilty about being the one to pick an activity when spending time with friends or family, because of the chance that they might not enjoy it, or be bored.

Guilty about the amount of carbs I’ve eaten today.

Guilty about the lack of vegetables I’ve eaten today.

Guilty about that slice of cake.

Guilty about opting for a burger instead of a salad.

Guilty about adding a flavour shot to my latte.

Guilty about being so “indulgent”.

Guilty about spending money on new clothes, even though my assignment from both the doctor and dietitian is to gradually replace my whole wardrobe with clothes that I can’t associate with a certain weight and fit before recovery.

Guilty about being on exercise restriction, and relying on others to drive me around.

Guilty about being inflexible and/or anxious at times when it comes to food and certain food related behaviours.

Guilty about doing the opposite, not paying attention to my eating disordered behaviours and not being so rigid, thus obviously overdoing it and being a gluttonous pig (although apparently I’m the only one that thinks that when I relax I overdo it…)

Guilty about being something other than perfect.

Perfect at recovery.  Perfect at anorexia.  Perfect daughter.  Perfect student.  Perfect at eating “clean” or “healthfully”.  Perfect friend.  Perfect girlfriend.  Perfect caregiver.  Perfect body.  Perfect shape.  Perfect weight.  Perfect size.  Perfect plan for success.

Having everything perfectly under control and perfectly planned out.

Needless to say, perfection is impossible.  Perfection is unattainable.  Perfection is limiting, and it’s black and white.  Perfection is not reality.

Perfectionism and guilt, not always but often, go hand in hand.  They both live in the land of black or white, good or bad, all or nothing, and as such one influences the other heavily.

Pick a burger —–> Judgement:  There are so many healthier choices! (aka not the perfect choice) —–> Not perfect= completely wrong, self indulgent, lazy, and lacking willpower and drive —–> guilt and shame for making that decision and for being the person I am

Choose to leave school —–> Judgement (self inflicted or heard): Wasting life, too stupid to stick it out, was going to fail anyways —–> Not perfect= completely wrong, stupid, lazy, self indulgent, and lacking willpower and drive —–> guilt and shame for making that decision and for being the person I am

Pick an activity that others seem uninterested in after the fact —–> Judgement: The activity bores them, even though I enjoy it.  Therefore I’m boring and stupid for enjoying it.  There are other things I should be more interested in doing. —–> Not perfect= completely wrong, selfish, self indulgent, lazy, and lacking willpower, drive, and interest —–> guilt and shame for making that decision, and for being the person I am

Need I go on?

You could pick any of the scenarios listed, or create your own.  Realize what process is going on in your head:

Decision/Action —-> Judgement (self inflicted/heard from others) —-> Emotion

which ultimately leads to some behaviour positive or negative to cope with or manage said emotion.  And let’s be clear also on the judgement stage: The judgement can be heard from others, but ultimately it comes down to you taking on the judgement and claiming it for yourself as truth.  Ever heard the saying “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”?  Yeah, it’s true.  But that doesn’t make it easy to not adopt the judgments that you hear around you.

Guilt is a difficult emotion because it’s sticky and uncomfortable.  I’m not saying that no one has difficulty coping with joy, because I have met people that struggle to be okay with being happy.  Although, in my experience, oftentimes people struggle with being happy because they feel guilty about feeling happy.  It’s a judgement of an emotion.  Oh wait!!! I forgot to mention, you can totally flip that equation:

Emotion—-> Judgement (self inflicted/heard from others) —-> Decision/Action (coping mechanism potentially)

MIND BLOWN!

Side note: I have this uncanny ability to attempt to turn everything into a mathematical equation similar to the equations above.  X+Y=Z, or if this train was leaving Kansas at this time, then as a result I’m eating sushi in Canada. Yeah, that made no sense.  But there’s probably a mathematical reason for it.

Moving on…

Guilt.  It’s sticky.  Oddly, it’s one of those socially acceptable emotions.  And by socially acceptable, I mean, we’re expected to have it and it’s somewhat praised… at least in the sense of, if you do wrong you should feel guilty about it, so that it prompts you to make amends.  And if you do wrong, and you don’t feel guilty about it, it’s frowned upon.

That whole conscience thing.

And I mean it makes sense.  Like if someone murdered someone, I would hope they’d at least feel a little bit guilty about it.  If we didn’t we’d all be running rampant, looting, stealing, pillaging…

Apparently in my mind we’d all be pirates.

But there’s this whole other side of the coin, this part where you feel guilty in a situation where you have nothing to feel guilty about.  Unjustified guilt.  And as useful as a conscience is, when it comes to unjustified guilt some of us don’t have that filter.

Now, if there is guilt around food, I can pretty much guarantee you it’s unjustified.  Unless you murdered someone by flogging them with a day old baguette, knowingly fed them something that gave them an anaphylactic reaction, or purposely had them choke on a cannoli.  If this is the case, go ahead.  Feel guilty.

But, listening to what you’re craving and eating that, eating something new or different, taking advantage of what is available that is not always there, or sometimes eating past comfortably full don’t qualify as things that you should feel guilty about.

AKA:

Guilt about the amount of carbs eaten = unjustified

Guilt about the lack of vegetables eaten = unjustified

Guilt about a slice of birthday cake = unjustified

Guilt about opting for a burger instead of a salad = unjustified

Guilt about adding a flavour shot to my latte = unjustified

 

Or some typical ones:

Guilt about having seconds just because it tasted that good = unjustified

Guilt about not going for a run after eating Christmas dinner = unjustified

Guilt about adding ice cream to the top of a slice of pie or cookies = unjustified

 

I don’t care if it messes with your macros, adds extra calories, adds extra fat grams, or “goes straight to your thighs” (hint: it doesn’t!), that guilt is still unjustified.  Unless you have a medical condition, like diabetes, that makes counting your sugar grams very important, you should never feel guilty about having a brownie.

With eating disorders, guilt surrounding food or the guilt about not following rituals based around food is a constant issue.  When I was in residential treatment, after every meal we’d have a process time where we were expected to share how we were feeling having completed the meal.  Most of the time, everyone would go around the circle and say, I feel fine, good, bored, tired… and while if you were close to having a mental breakdown you’d often admit to the guilt, often times it was left unsaid.

It wasn’t because we didn’t feel it.  It was because we all were ashamed of having eaten at all, and wanted to ignore it.  We wanted to avoid it.  And we all knew that we felt it, and didn’t need to open up that can of worms.  Once again, I reiterate, if we share how we’re feeling with other people we’re putting our troubles on them, and we feel guilty about it.

Guilt about feeling guilt.  Unjustified guilt sandwich that doesn’t taste near as good as a pb&j.

And I’m not going to say that it’s a bad emotion, because we all know there’s no such thing as good or bad emotions.  They all have their purpose and it’s important to allow yourself to feel it.  It’s just how you try to assuage it that makes it a little more complex.  Most people with an eating disorder will feel so guilty about having eaten that they need to do something to assuage the guilt.  If the guilt was justified, such as the guilt you feel when you hurt someones feelings, it’s a harmless fix.  Say you’re sorry, and the guilt is at least mostly gone.  With unjustified food guilt, this “righting of the wrong” is usually a behaviour, and not a healthy one.

Restriction for the next meal, snack, day, week, etc.

Purging.

Laxatives.

Going for a run… or nine.

Self harm.

Seems ridiculous to those who don’t suffer.  Heck, it seems ridiculous to those of us that do.  We’d never tell someone else to do the things we do… but rules of kindness and self compassion don’t apply to us.  We’re different, of course.

So how do you deal with unjustified guilt?  Specifically unjustified food guilt?

You sit with it.

Oh I’m sorry, did I disappoint you?  I know you were hoping for a miracle pill just like those fat absorbing tablets you can down after your meal to assuage the guilt you feel for a burger from Wendy’s.  Or perhaps you were expecting me to say, “Well, the guilt serves a purpose: is healthier than so the guilt you feel is kind of appropriate.

There is no kind of appropriate.  There is no coming at it half way.  You can’t say, well I’m going to beat my eating disorder, or my disordered eating (because the majority of the world suffers from this) by allowing myself to eat a burger 3 times a week, or a brownie once a month.  Let’s be honest here.  What happens if you’ve already had 3 burgers this week, and then suddenly your boss decides to have a lunch meeting at Smashburger? Or if you happen across an amazing bakery in your travels with these incredible looking brownies that you only have the one occasion to try, but it’s only 23 days since your last brownie?

You’ll find yourself in one of two scenarios:

  1. You “indulge” in the food, either with a normal portioning or to excess because “I’ve already screwed up”, and you feel a profound sense of guilt, shame, and decreased self worth for “being bad” or “lacking willpower”.
  2. You flat out refuse the food, and then spend a large chunk of time feeling unsatisfied and unhappy because you didn’t listen to your craving.  And then potentially this leads to an eventual binge because you’ve deprived yourself.

I don’t know about you, but either scenario sounds rather depressing to me.

pretzelguilt

The Guilt and Deprivation Balance (aka why ED sucks), and a homemade pretzel!  Twas my first time making pretzels… did you know that if you add baking soda to water, it explodes?!  I now know… and so did my completely white stovetop.  But the deliciousness factor was so worth the clean up.

Because, when deprivation is high, your guilt is low.  Sounds good right?

Except you’re deprived.  And no one likes to feel deprived.  No one deserves to feel deprived.  And eventually, and understandably, you will rebel and the balance will flip.

There is zero deprivation (may or may not include a binge), but your guilt is so high, it’s unbearable.  Cue compensatory behaviour.

So how do we even this out?  How do we not make that scale so black and white, guilt or deprivation?

You gotta get rid of the unjustified guilt, THROUGH a lack of deprivation.  So when the guilt is unjustified, you sit with it.  You sit with all of the uncomfortable feelings, the urges to compensate, and the shame that comes alongside of the guilt, until eventually it subsides.  And then you do it again.  You do it over, and over, and over, at high frequency until you no longer feel the unjustified guilt for eating a burger, pizza, or cake.

For me, this has entailed a systematic reintroduction of all my fear foods one at a time, but at a high frequency.  We’re talking EVERY SINGLE DAY, again and again and again, until I’m not only sick of the food, but I AM NO LONGER SCARED OF IT.

Not one or the other.  Both sick of it, AND not afraid of it.

I’ve done this in my previous attempt at recovery, but it was different.  It wasn’t every day the same food, AND I was still allowed to exercise.

Let’s be honest again: this solves nothing.

I’ll eat anything if you allow me to run for three hours afterwards.

So really, when I thought I was no longer afraid of things, that really wasn’t true, because I was always compensating and slowly becoming more and more hooked on exercise.  Until eventually, I was exercising for more than six hours a day, and once again decreasing my intake more and more and more.

AKA: Relapse.

So this hasn’t been comfortable, because for once I’ve actually had to sit with the fears.  Literally sit.  Literally shake.  Literally bawl my eyes out until I have no more tears left in me and I’m severely dehydrated.  I’ve literally had to get my Mom to physically hold me down while I thrashed and kicked and screamed trying to claw my way to the treadmill.  I’ve screamed at myself, called myself vicious and horrible things, and practically clawed my own eyes out.  And my anxiety has been at some record highs.  Duh.

And, here’s the thing:  You can expect a TOTAL MELTDOWN for every food.  Yes, it sucks.  BUT, eventually, it passes.  And eventually it gets easier.  And eventually the fear goes away.  It might take weeks.  Yes, weeks of the same food every day.  But this has also been an occasion to get really creative to keep myself from getting bored.

My first food was… dun, dun, dun… Pizza.  And it took over a week.  So what did I come up with?

pizzacookie1

Breakfast oatmeal pizzookie topped with greek yogurt, peanut butter, bananas and raspberries

IMG_3279

Made up recipe: Apple crumble pizza, with a graham cookie flour (aka ground graham crackers instead of flour 🙂 ), cinnamon cream cheese sauce, toasted pecans, caramelized apples, and a brown sugar butter crumble

IMG_3204

Dessert for Two’s chocolate raspberry almond pizza: melted dark chocolate chip “sauce”, raspberries, toasted coconut and almonds, and a white chocolate drizzle

IMG_3201

Pita pizza, topped with butternut squash purée, chard, onions, crispy chickpeas, a little bit of cheese, and alfredo sauce

IMG_3321

Painting day, and take out greek and chicken pesto pizza

IMG_3325

Polenta pizza crust, topped with black beans, mozzarella, avocado spinach purée, sautéed onions and spinach, scrambled eggs, tomatoes, greek yogurt, and cilantro

IMG_3326

Thin crust pizza topped with a roasted garlic butternut squash purée, kale, sautéed onions, bacon, mozzarella, and alfredo sauce

And since then we’ve moved on to loafs.  Anyone following my instagram will have seen my current fascination with french toasted banilla (aka pumpkin, banana, vanilla bread) from How Sweet Eats.

frenchtoast

And so far, the loaf is taking much more out of me than the pizza… but I have some serious sweet bread issues from the hospital, so that would make sense.  And the rest of my list is long… so I’ll be at this a while. But that’s okay, because you’ll be here to take the journey with me.

And in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight.

jim-carrey

Ahh Jim Carrey.