A Slice of Humble Pie: “But I’m Not Small (Sick) Enough…”

***Potential Trigger Warning: Anything and everything can be a trigger. But this is a forewarning, I do get into my own story here and there is as always the potential for comparisons.  It is up to you to decide if you are in a place mentally in this moment to be able to cope with this. If not, be gentle with yourself and respect that. I won’t be offended. There is no shame. ❤ ***

Happy (mirrorless) Monday everyone!

Oh wait, it’s Monday… ahem… I mean, it’s Monday, FML.

Isn’t that the general consensus?  Actually, for me, Monday isn’t horrible. Probably because for me, Monday is my Wednesday and not the start of the work week.  Ah, the joys of being an adult that doesn’t have a Monday to Friday work week!

So I got this really great response to my last post, and not only does that feel incredible and warm and fuzzy and fantastic, but it gives me great ideas for future posts!  See, collaboration, team work… all that jazz makes the world go round!

Or was that peanut butter?

Peanut butter makes the world go round… yeah, that was the saying.  Obviously.

Distracted… moving on.

So when I get positive feedback, I can never understand it.  Someone says, “Wow, your blog post was really powerful!  I learned so much!” and I’m honoured, truly I am, but I’m like, come on, it wasn’t that great…  Or someone says, “You articulate so well!  I’m touched!” and I feel super uncomfortable and squirmy because I don’t take compliments well, and as fantastic as it makes me feel, I’m like, I’m just a nobody who wrote some rambles on some paper and hit publish.

 

While some people might call this being humble or modest, it poses a problem. See, often we are taught growing up not to “toot our own horns”, for fear of being perceived as vain or arrogant.  Yes, repetitive self glorification is a problem in its own right if it results in the belief that you are ALWAYS right, or better than everyone else, or worst of all the purposeful diminishment of others.  However, to always take the humble road and not acknowledge your own strengths or accomplishments often leads to many other problems, such as a lowered sense of SELF worth, value, or significance.  AKA, low self esteem, but even more so, a sense of not being good enough or worthy enough of any type of positive reception or caring actions.

Ah, self esteem.

I love (hate) to always come back to you.

Let me translate:

Come on, it wasn’t that great =  I don’t have the skills or the smarts to create something meaningful or worthy of praise

I’m just a nobody who wrote some rambles on some paper and hit publish = I am insignificant as a person, and my thoughts are so small, foolish, and worthless that I can’t understand why on earth you are lying to me and just trying to stroke my inflated ego.

Need I mention that the whole first half of the sentence basically proves that the inflated ego part isn’t very accurate?

Now, it’s not a direct translation- I didn’t write a self esteem dictionary.  But if you peel back all the layers of crap that you’ve built on top of it, that’s basically where you end up:  your core beliefs about yourself.

I believe:

  • I am worthless
  • I am insignificant
  • I am not good enough
  • I am stupid
  • I am ugly
  • I am undeserving of love
  • I am boring
  • I am lazy
  • I am selfish

Whew! What a list.  Now, don’t go getting all concerned and teary eyed for me.  Do I believe all of these things at the same time?  No.  At least, not anymore.  But, do I still struggle with all these thoughts individually at one time or another?  Yes.  Do many of them come up on a daily basis?  Yes.

Do I let these core beliefs about myself dictate everything I say or do? NO!

Not anymore.

I can guarantee you for those who suffer from eating disorders, this list of core beliefs rings true on most if not all points.  You would be hard pressed, if not unable, to find an eating disorder sufferer with good self esteem.  Poor self esteem is like the eating disorder’s peanut butter: it’s what it lives off of, feeds on, and manipulates in order to get you to listen and heed its vicious call.

Except unlike peanut butter, it definitely doesn’t taste delicious.

Here’s the thing: when you feel like crap about yourself, things lose meaning and purpose. You no longer enjoy things you once did.  You want to run away and hide.  You want to cut yourself off from the world, and at the same time find something to fill the void where your positive self should be.  And you’re so desperate to find some way to make yourself feel better, feel happy, feel like you have worth.  You need that! It’s a basic necessity to feel a sense of value, purpose, and worth. The thing is that what enters to fill that space, while tantalizing and seemingly promising, doesn’t fit the bill.

Enter the eating disorder.

Not-Thin-Enough

image source Running with Spoons

I would feel better about myself if I lost 5 lbs…

It didn’t work.  I still feel like shit.  But I’m getting some positive feedback from other people, and that feels good.  So another 10 lbs will work for sure!

My pants just fell off.  But I still am worthless!  I’m still ugly!  If only I could get rid of my muffin top, then that will be enough!  Then I’ll be thin enough that everyone will love me and I will love myself!

What happened?  How did I end up on the floor?  I’m bleeding and I cut open my chin… I don’t remember falling?  Last thing I remember was being on the treadmill… Pinch an inch.  Shit.  That flab is still there.  I need to lose at least another 5 lbs.  5 more lbs and I’ll be done.

Hint:  It’ll never be enough.

I struggle with posts like this one.  I never know whether sharing my own personal struggle in detail will be helpful or triggering.  The eating disorder is based on comparison, and the reality is that comparisons, particularly from a starved and malnourished state are NOT ACCURATE!

Now, let me iterate, STARVED AND MALNOURISHED DOES NOT MEAN UNDERWEIGHT!

It can mean underweight.  It can mean having a body fat percentage so low that your brain can’t function properly.  It can mean that you have whole periods of your life that you don’t remember because your brain didn’t have the energy it needed to create a memory.

I don’t remember the week before I was hospitalized.  I have journals that I wrote that tell me what happened, where I was mentally, and the people that I was with that describe it to me, but in my own head, it’s a black void.  I remember the car ride to my Grandma’s house, and about three quarters of the way there, that’s where the memory stops.  The next thing I remember is lying in a hospital bed with a bowl of soup in front of me- A WEEK LATER!  A WEEK!  I remember nothing.

I don’t remember a few weeks this summer.  I managed to stay out of the hospital.  I remember what I did to do that, deceitful and tricky things before weigh ins that I WON’T list here because I am NOT PRO-ANA.  I remember working, but it’s a blur, a mix of fuzzy images that aren’t a total void like the first time, but still nothing concrete.  I remember using my breaks to exercise, and eating a ton of dry cheerios and carrot sticks.  That’s it.

But that’s me.

As I said, STARVED AND MALNOURISHED DOES NOT MEAN UNDERWEIGHT!

You can be a normal weight, and still be just as sick as someone who is underweight.  You can be a normal weight and still be not eating enough, or purging it, and your body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs to function.

I repeat.  You can be just as sick as I was.

But regardless of whether you are underweight or overweight or normal weight, your eating disorder will always tell you you are not small, or sick enough to deserve help.

Remember, you are starved, you are deprived, you are malnourished, and your body and brain are not functioning properly.  Your eating disorder is feeding off of your low self esteem, throwing tantalizing, seemingly true ideas at you about the next 5, 10, or 15 lbs you can lose.  Your eating disorder is distorting what you think about yourself, inside, outside, and all over.  You are NOT seeing clearly, you are NOT thinking clearly, and you have such a low opinion of yourself that you take a slice of your humble pie and minimize your suffering.

Come on, it wasn’t that great = I don’t have the skills or the smarts to create something meaningful or worthy of praise

I’m just a nobody who wrote some rambles on some paper and hit publish = I am insignificant as a person, and my thoughts are so small, foolish, and worthless that I can’t understand why on earth you are lying to me and just trying to stroke my inflated ego.

Find your thesaurus:

I don’t have the skills or the smarts to create something meaningful or worthy of praise = I am stupid and insignificant I’m not enough = I’m not small enough = I’m not sick enough

I am insignificant as a person, and my thoughts are so small, foolish, and worthless that I can’t understand why on earth you are lying to me and just trying to stroke my inflated ego= I am selfish, insignificant, and worthless= I am ugly (as a person) = I’m not pretty enough (external/internal) I’m not thin enough = I’m not sick enough

It all comes down to the same thing. You have low self esteem, you believe the lies the eating disorder says, and you don’t want to appear vain or selfish by admitting that you have a problem or that you need help.  You don’t believe you need it because you can’t see it, because your eating disorder is showing you all the ways in which you are fine, by distorting your perceptions.

This was me, a week before I ended up in the hospital:

Photo on 2012-08-15 at 12.55

I didn’t believe I was thin enough, or sick enough.  I can’t remember anything starting the day after this was taken.

This was me the day I had the soup in the hospital:Photo on 2012-09-02 at 10.57 #2Side note: See those electrodes?  Yeah, they knew my heart could stop at any moment so they wanted to be on top of it.

Double side note:  I still didn’t believe I was thin enough, or sick enough.

This was me this summer:

Photo on 2015-06-14 at 12.34 AM

And believe it or not, there was only about 6, maybe 7 lbs difference between the top picture and this one… baggy clothes cover things up, but they don’t hide everything.

Again:  Still didn’t believe I was thin enough or sick enough.

This is me at this very moment:

Photo on 2016-01-11 at 9.46 AM

Almost weight restored.  Same sweater as above for the win!!

But yet again: Still don’t believe I’m thin enough.  But I do believe I’m sick enough to need help, and to pursue it.

Like I said, I struggle to be this overt with my own story.  I don’t want to encourage comparisons, and that is not the purpose.  The purpose here is an illustration:  It doesn’t matter what picture you pick above, what I see in the mirror is still the same:

anorexia_HR

And chances are the next time you look in the mirror, what you see is similar, and it’s not what is there.  It feels like it is, it looks like it is.  It’s as if I we were standing in front of a chair and I’m there trying to tell you that the chair isn’t there.  You don’t believe me, because you can see it.  Dear Lord, I know you can see it!  I can see it too!

But this is the one time that I’m going to be on this site and tell you not to eat!  DON’T TAKE A SLICE OF HUMBLE PIE!  Don’t minimize yourself.  Because you are sick enough. You are thin enough.  You are worthy.

And you’re enough.

 

 

Flexibility Part I: Fearing Change

Howdy! It’s been a while.

Have you ever had one of those spans of time where you’re just… blah?  It’s not for a particular reason, and it’s not that you’re angry, or sad, or depressed, or scared, or feeling any one particular emotion. You’re just… blah.

That’s been me the past few weeks.  In particular, that’s been me the last week.  And in some ways, I guess it has translated over to my writing too.  I haven’t wanted to write… and I certainly didn’t know even if I did WANT to write, what to write about.

I mean, I could do a post on a particular food.  Like dates, for example, or coconut.  And I could rave about why that particular food is totally awesome, taste-wise and nutrient-wise.  The date one could definitely have been a thing, as it’s been causing me, or rather the eating disordered part of me, endless vexation.  But I was uninspired.

And I could also have done a post on some incredible macronutrient that we all love to hate and hate to love.  You know the one… that big gooey one.  That deliciously fluffy yet smooth one that just sneaks its way even into the strictest of diet plans…

FAT!

I just realized those descriptions could have also described an undercooked muffin, brownie, or cookie… and hence CARBS!  But I was really thinking about fat…

And now I really want an undercooked cookie…

Moving on!

I could have written about fat.  I will write about fat.  But again, I was uninspired.

And I could have responded to a Liebster Award nomination… which I TECHNICALLY have, but have been unable to post because I’m having a heck of a time coming up with bloggers to nominate with less than 200 followers!! Hence my lack of technical skills rears its ugly head. (Side note:  if anyone can help me find WHERE to find how many followers a blog has, this would be super helpful!)

Anyways, as you can see, I was uninspired.  And I was unmotivated.  You see, because when you go through a good two years with a thigh gap (yes, I know this is an unrealistic and unhealthy ideal, but it’s an ed thing) and then suddenly it no longer exists, as much as you want to say it doesn’t matter, it does.  And it’s a grieving process, and an acceptance process, and a depressing process.  And it leaves you unmotivated.  I’m working through it.

On another note, mirrorless Monday is becoming easier on most fronts.  I’ve decided to totally cover my bedroom mirror with a curtain of sorts, which helps a lot when you wake up at 5 in the morning and forget what day it is.  Plus, the bedroom mirror is, at least for me the most unforgiving and the cruelest.  So actually, I’ve decided to keep the curtain up and closed on this one!  Now, when I want to use it, it actually gives me the space to stop and think first:

  1. Do I really NEED to look in the mirror right now? AKA, is there spinach in my teeth?
  2. Why am I looking in the mirror right now?
  3. Is it going to help me, or is it going to harm me to look in the mirror right now?

And when you have that space to ask yourself those questions, believe it or not I’d say 80 % of the time it results in me walking away from the mirror without having opened the curtain to check at all.  Except for this morning, even though it’s mirrorless Monday.  BUT, I think it’s a legitimate cause to look in the mirror when suddenly you have blood flowing down your face and you have no idea where it’s coming from…

Side note: I apparently picked a scab while I was impatiently waiting for my oatmeal to cook.  TMI probably, but just so you all know, I’m not dying!

So, what am I actually going to talk about?

Yesterday, and I guess today, if you think of the stat holiday as a holiday, was Canadian Thanksgiving!  Or, as one of my best friends puts it: “anxiety+family+food” day!  Which pretty much sums it up.

Thanksgiving is horrendously wonderful.  Turkey day even gets its own slot on the hunger/fullness scale, with 1 being dizzy and weak, and 10 being binge full (Thanksgiving full actually is 9, just in case you were wondering).  So in terms of notoriety, it’s kind of the Madonna or MJ of the food world.

I just had a vision of a turkey, wearing a white glove, and dancing the slide to dark or white (like dark meat/white meat, instead of black or white skin…).  You kinda had to be there.

Moving on.  As such, it is one of those holidays that people with eating disorders love to hate.  I mean, it’s a holiday that celebrates food in all its glory.  It’s a holiday where it actually is normal to eat past comfortably full.  It’s a holiday that delights in fear foods (gravy, creamed sauces, probably some nuts somewhere, dessert, pie, whipping cream, ice cream, pie, alcohol perhaps, CARBS, pie…).  It’s a time of family and friends, which even in the best relationships often gets stressful.  Whether it’s people interrogating you on where your life is going, who you’re dating, offering their unsolicited opinions on what you SHOULD or SHOULDN’T be doing.  Plus, house of 30 people, roasting hot oven= heat stroke, lack of space, lack of air, and irritability.  Or at least, that’s how it usually is in my family.

And believe it or not, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  This Thanksgiving for me… well I’ll be honest, it kind of sucked.  No, it really, really sucked.  And it wasn’t because I had to eat turkey, or gravy, or cream sauces, or deal with unending questions of how my life was going or whether I was living up to expectations.  It was because it DIDN’T have any of that.  For a girl who is used to being with family and going through the anxiety provoking yet necessary yearly rite of passage, it was a let-down.

I had to work.  AKA I had to pay bills, which means that I had to work.  Which means, that I didn’t get to drive out of town and spend the holiday with all my family.  It sucks, but it’s life.  It saved me from a lot of food anxiety, as it was a day like any other, and a lot of relationship anxiety, but it also made me feel quite down in the dumps most of the week, and especially yesterday.

I did buck up last night, get angry that I was doing NOTHING Thanksgiving-y, and decide to create a recipe for single-serving pumpkin pie.  It turned out quite tasty, but it was more of a cake because if you don’t have 6 hours to let a pumpkin pie set and cool before eating, you kind of have to go the cake route.  Plus the crust needs a bit of work… it’s not much of a looker either… basically it’s a work in progress.  And it did trigger a rather large ED meltdown afterwards.

Oh the joys of Thanksgiving!

But this Thanksgiving taught me a little lesson.  Actually this week taught me a little lesson: You have to be flexible.

Flexible.

Let’s see… the definition of flexible… ah here we go:

Flexible

  1. capable of being bent, usually without breaking (emphasis on the USUALLY for me)
  2. susceptible of modification or adaptation; adaptible
  3. willing or disposed to yield; pliable

Flexible.  It is one of those qualities that I really wish that I could add to my list of personality traits!  And it’s super funny, because on one hand I’m about as flexible as a piece of plywood, yet at the same time I am so frustrated by inflexibility (including my own) that I will go out of my way to avoid it or push against boundaries.  Hence, my tendency to change my hair quite frequently, or constant need for variety in my diet.

I’m a walking dialectical oxymoron.  Yes… I do use words like that in real life.

Side note: my dietician got a good laugh the other day.  Here I am, bearing my soul in peanut butter and chocolate, and she was stifling a laugh because I’m the first person she has heard actually use the word “whilst” in a sentence!

Double side note:  I’m not actually mad about this… it makes me happy when I amuse people.  Because I believe I am one of the most boring people ever so it shocks me when it happens.  Moving on.

Flexibility, or rather, inflexibility is a big issue in the eating disorder realm.  Our world is ruled by a set of guidelines that supposedly maintains the safety, structure, and certainty of our existence, of our diet, and most importantly of our weight, or weight loss.  We are completely convinced that if we do something the same way and it has always been safe then we will continue to stay safe doing things the same way.  I remember one therapist I once saw told me that one of the key personality traits for someone with anorexia is inflexibility/rigidity, along with high levels of harm avoidance.  So I mean it logically makes sense; why change something that isn’t broken?  Why do something differently if we don’t know what will happen when we do?  If there is a chance that we might get hurt, that the sky will fall, that the pain we fear will come to meet us?

Answer:  Because there has to be something MORE.

There has to be something more than doing the same thing over and over.  There has to be something more than eating the same meal over and over.  There has to be something more than not settling for something that you’re only kind of happy with, or maybe not happy with at all.  And maybe there isn’t something more.  Maybe there isn’t something better.  Sometimes we change something, only to find that it IS worse than before.

But guess what?  You can always go back.

Well maybe not ALWAYS.  This isn’t “Back to the Future”. But with a lot of things that we fear to change, we often forget that a change doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  It doesn’t mean switching one rut for another.  Just because you make a change does not mean you have to stick to it if it’s not working for you.  As I often have to remind myself, going backwards isn’t the same as quitting or giving up, it’s simply re-routing.

And sometimes, when we make a change, we find out that there was something MORE.  There was something BETTER.  And we luck out.  And we grow, we expand (in personality, in depth of character, not necessarily in waistline), and we become MORE than we were before.

Like when I first started with my new dietician, and I said, “I don’t want to try a new breakfast because I’m so scared that I’ll hate it and then I’ll have wasted my calories.” For someone who is starving themselves every little calorie you allow yourself to eat is precious.  You cherish it.  You plan for it.  You savour it.  Or at least I did, because I never knew when I would be able to have it again.

But if I hadn’t tried something new, I never would have discovered baked oatmeal, overnight oats, or the wonderful thing that happens when you blend an avocado into a smoothie, or slap some scrambled eggs on a waffle (if you haven’t tried either of these ideas, stop reading NOW, and go do it!  I can wait!  Preferably at the same time, because you can have a smoothie and a waffle and an egg (and cheese) at the same time (with some spinach and milk and banana and almond butter thrown in, hint hint), preferably for lunch, because there are NO RULES, and it is DELICIOUS!) And my body would never have learned how to digest food properly again.  Okay maybe that last part was more along the lines with just eating properly again and not just the breakfast shift, but you get the point.  The change was good!

Or this past week.  I had to go in for weigh in, but my doctor called me the day before and said that he had to move my appointment from 11 am to 1 pm.  And this was my face:

And I had to be flexible.  I had to adapt.  Why was this a big deal you ask?  Because I MUST get weighed at the same time of day, wearing the same clothes, after having eating at the same exact times I do every weigh in day!  It must be consistent or the world will END!  My weight won’t be accurate, I’ll blow up 10 extra pounds because I ate lunch first, I’ll retain some fluid…

So I planned to skip lunch… or rather not skip it, but wait until after 2 to eat.  At least, until my dietician reminded me not only how ridiculous my reasoning sounded, but how impractical this plan was since I still had a snack to fit in before dinner.  So I had to adapt, and I had to be okay with eating lunch before a weigh in.  I had to be okay with the possible water retention (that is NORMAL), and the possible fluctuation of weight (that is also NORMAL).  And I had to be okay when I finally decided to eat lunch on the way and what I was going to order had something I was allergic to in in and I had to pick something else in the spur of the moment.  Pressure + me = RUN!

IMG_1278

Except nothing happened.  Nothing.  The world didn’t end.  And assuming that no one is lying to me, my weight increased the same amount as usual… the same amount that it’s supposed to be increasing by.

I had to be flexible when I realized I couldn’t spend the holiday with my family.

I had to push my boundaries.  And yes, it created a ridiculous amount of anxiety!  Yes, I wanted to panic, yes I wanted to run away, yes I wanted to restrict, yes I wanted to jump on a treadmill, yes I wanted to physically cut the fat that suddenly seemed to appear when I did look in the mirror off my body.  Yes it was uncomfortable.  Yes it hurt.

Yes, there was something more.  Yes, I did survive.

And there will be more surviving.  This morning my meal plan changed, and needless to say I am terrified.  We went from avidly counting calories to food exchanges… and now that that has just turned into another set of rules like calories we have to switch it up again.  Once again, this lack of structure cued my face:

It’s more of a “flex plan”, that gives me room to play and try to identify my hunger and fullness cues.  There is a basic structure, but I have wiggle room.

In my mind, this could result in either massive restriction or me blowing up like a balloon.  Of course this is black or white (dark meat or white?), and completely illogical, but thats just how it feels.  But what is the alternative?  Staying the same.  And there has to be something MORE.

I want more.

So I have to be flexible.

And because this is getting long, I’ll call this part I, and end it here.  Actually no, I’ll end it here, because I’m all Thanksgiving-y and pumpkin-y and it’s necessary to have a killer oatmeal recipe in your arsenal for those mornings where you just can’t wait a half an hour for your breakfast to bake.  I might have made it this morning…

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Minding My Mirrors: Proportion Distortion

So there are a whole slew of things that I’m admittedly terrible at.

1) Any sport. No seriously, pick anything and I am horrendous at it. Perhaps this is due to my high pain avoidance (I avoid things that have the possibility to cause me physical pain. Sports= a cornucopia of ways in which I can experience physical pain). Most of it though I think is because I legitimately have pretty terrible hand eye coordination, which my parents can’t figure out because they both were pretty into sports and had excellent aim. I tried to land something in a trashcan two feet away from me the other day and missed and hit the window. Yes, seriously.

2) Saying, “good enough”. I really struggle with this. Part of it, I’ve realized in the past week particularly, is because I literally have no self-trust or belief in my own abilities to do something correctly. I know, perfectionism, but it does get in the way. Especially when you’re trying to get out of work on time, but still insist on completing every item on the checklist when the world actually wouldn’t end if you missed one of the minor things.

3) Repetition. I hate doing things that require a lot of repetition with very little deviation. I get bored way too easy, cue the distraction and complete unwillingness to actually get the task done. Hence why studying and monotonous rote doesn’t work well, practicing piano never happened (I always played I just never practiced), and also why I literally spend all my time cooking my own food and making every meal different. The idea of having the exact same thing twice in a row or even twice in a few days bores me to tears!

4) Unpacking a Suitcase. So not only am I a last minute packer, which can be a problem of its own, I have this inexplicable inability to unpack a suitcase. Thankfully, dirty laundry is instantly taken out, but other than that I will just systematically take out things item by item as I need them until eventually my suitcase is unpacked.  I think the longest my suitcase has sat on my floor after a trip was 2.5 months.  Yes, really.  And there has really only been one time where my suitcase was instantly unpacked when I arrived home, and that was when I was going through a change-all-your-non-productive ways-and-judge-yourself-on-every-move-you-make-phase.  It was fleeting, and as I said it only happened once.  (Side note:  this is just reminding me how my suitcase is still on my floor from a trip I took last week… perhaps I should deal with that…)

5) Cooking fish. My love of fish is huge, and there are a couple (actually one- basa fillets) that I’ve mastered. But this more so is because I know my oven, and not because I really can cook the fish. Either way I always, ALWAYS get someone to double check because me+salmon=overcooked. And I like my fish just barely cooked, or I find it dry and unpalatable. It’s a work in progress.

6) Folding sheets. It doesn’t matter how many times someone shows me, or how many times I practice, they always end up a crinkled mess. I’ve since given up and just morph them into something between a pancake and a muffin top shape and call it a day. If bed head is considered a legitimate hairstyle, there’s no way my sheets need to be smooth.

I could go on. That’s life. Hopefully one day I’ll marry someone that can barbecue a killer salmon, doesn’t need to play soccer or go for jogs for “fun”, and can fold at least the guest room sheets like a beast. Currently accepting applications.

There are also some things that I’m crazy good at though!

1) Word games. You name it. Crosswords, Boggle, Pick Two (my favorite!), Scrabble… I’m a beast. It actually seems to drive people nuts, to the extent that they don’t want to play with me anymore (other than my Aunt Lucy… her goal is always to beat me!). It’s kind of sad though because I’m not TRYING to win… there are just so many good words right there in front of me!

2) Numbers. Addition, subtraction, algebra. Now I don’t mean that I find these things particularly FUN (although algebra can be a neat game…), and I certainly don’t want you to come up to me with a two trains meeting question because I will run away screaming with my hands in my ears (actually I’ll probably run and trip over something, hence the lack of coordination…). But I’m good with them. Like I can add sums really quickly, and I tend to remember them well. Hence the whole calorie counting thing and anything you can really put into quantities has always gotten me like a magnet.

3) Listening. I’m a killer listener. I prefer to listen really, and I don’t actually do well when it comes to the relation and talking part of a conversation (especially with people my own age… I have no opinion on Nicki Minaj and probably couldn’t even pick her out if you showed me pictures…). But if you need someone to sit and listen to you mull a problem over, or just listen to really anything at all, I’m your girl. I’ll even listen to a conversation about Nikki Minaj with vague interest. Just don’t ask me my opinion. (Side note: my knowledge of Nicki Minaj is so vast that I actually had to look up how to spell her name. I totally spelt it wrong.)

4) Looking in the Mirror. No, I’m not vain. Don’t get me wrong here. I don’t spend hours in front of a mirror, primping and preening, and I don’t actually seek out mirrors to check myself out. But I know how to use one really well. And by really well, I mean something like this:

Oh look, a mirror/reflective surface that I happen to pass by. Just a quick glance. Hmmm, wow, my thighs are really big. Yep, they’re at least an inch wider than last week. Soon they’ll touch, and then I’ll want to die. Never mind my chipmunk cheeks. You can’t even see my cheekbones anymore. I wish my hair would grow out faster so that I can cover them up before this weight gain phase is over. And my ribs… ha, well you can’t even tell I have those. Yep, I’m a cross between a chipmunk, the Pillsbury Dough Boy, and a marshmallow. Ha, remember that episode of Arthur where he gets a really puffy green jacket that makes him look like the Michelin Man? Yep, I’m like that… but I don’t need a jacket.

Yep that’s my thought process, or something remarkably similar, usually actually ending with the Arthur memory. Did anyone else see that one?

So unsurprisingly, this pretty much makes me feel like crap, makes me anxious, and kills any positivity I might have been experiencing. So needless to say, I don’t specifically SEEK out mirrors to make myself feel shitty. I just seem to have a laser ability to find them, or at least, when I happen to notice my reflection in something, I can’t help but stop and look, just to double check that I haven’t ballooned up like a blimp. Except that while I might not be exactly Mr. Puffy (I’ll stop with the Arthur references, I promise), I always seem to find something that appears bigger than the “last time”, even if the last time was earlier that day or (more usual) a few days ago.

Mirrors are tricky. When I first entered residential treatment, a few days after I arrived they decided to do a little experiment where they covered all the reflective surfaces and taped over all the mirrors in the house for two weeks. We couldn’t see ourselves for two weeks, and some odd things happened. At this point I was in the honeymoon phase of recovery where I truly believed everything would eventually be fixed by gaining weight and it would be like a temporary thing that I could totally be rid of once I completed my prescription of poundage. So I didn’t really have this crazy urge to look at myself in a mirror. I didn’t find a roll of tape and sneak into the bathroom, peel off an inch section to body check by standing in the sink and re-tape it so no one would know the difference. And I didn’t find myself suddenly lifting the semi opaque kettle at odd angles to try and decipher some sort of image in its barely-there sheen. (All things I saw/heard about other people I was with doing). In a weird sense, I felt liberated. I felt calmer. And while it probably was the start of my bend over, head between the legs thigh checking, in other ways it made me freer than I had been in a long time.

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Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles

Here are the things we tend to forget about mirrors:

1) Distortion. Yes, the ED brain comes often with some body dysmorphia. It’s like, if we were sitting in the living room and I pointed to the rocking chair and tried to tell you that that plain as day chair in the corner wasn’t actually there. It’s all in your mind. Crazy and hard to believe, right? It’s hard to not believe in something that’s staring you in the face. However, there is also mirror distortion. Mirrors reflect light, that’s all they do. So if there’s a divot, or a crack, or an uneven surface, the image reflected back to your eyes is not going to be accurate. Think of a funhouse with its wonky mirrors and associated distortions.

2) Fear amplifies things. Think of something you’re afraid of. Perhaps it’s spiders. Now, if you’re afraid of spiders and you see a spider on the wall, to the unaffected friend sitting next to you it’s nothing more than a tiny common household pest, but to you…man you could swear that thing was the size of a tarantula! Or at least half as big as your hand… it doesn’t matter! It was HUGE! Fear makes things seem bigger than they are… it’s a self-preservation thing, a survival tactic. So if you look in the mirror, and you fear seeing fat on yourself, guess what you’ll see? Or at least, guess what will look more prominent than it actually is?

3) They’re not a measure of health, or of worth. Cue the violin solo and the inspirational I have a dream speech. You are worth more than what you see in the mirror. A mirror doesn’t show you how your heart is functioning, how your brain neurons are firing, or how well your liver is detoxifying your body. And the size of your body is not an indicator of much. Some people are genetically larger. They have bigger bones, they carry their weight in different places, they have a higher natural set point. Does this make them unhealthy? No. Does it make them fat? No. I sound like a recording, a psychotherapist, and a hypocrite all rolled into one. How does someone who is clearly so affected by her reflection feel she has the right to tell us not to be affected by what we see?

I don’t.

It’s a work in progress.

Anyways, the point is, mirrors don’t help much. Sure, they can tell you if you have a mascara spider or spinach in your teeth, or if that red hat really doesn’t go at all with that blue jacket, but beyond that they’re kind of toxic.

And cue my brainwave of last week.

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The Hall of Mirrors again at the Palace of Versailles… for once these mirror shots are bringing back positive memories… but I still judge what I’m seeing even now.

I like naming things, often alliteratively. See there’s Fear Food Friday, and Survivor Sunday, TBH Tuesday (that’s a new one I just thought of… will have to explore that more). So I figure that Monday has to have something too, right? Because Monday kind of gets the short end of the stick… for many it’s just kind of a crappy day. It’s the start of the workweek, it has a lack of good late night TV, and it reminds you of the homework you didn’t get done on the weekend that was due. Oops.

Anyways, Mondays suck. And I’m not all into the whole Man Crush Monday shenanigans, and while Mugcake Monday holds promise, it is a little bit of a drag if I either felt like having the mugcake on a Tuesday, or simply didn’t feel like one on the Monday… and Muffintop Monday sounds delicious but can be taken in too many more destructive ways…

Distracted.

So Monday! Let’s throw some self-compassion, or at least take a stab at it, into a crappy day. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Mirror-less Monday.

Yep.

One day a week where you don’t look in a mirror, and you avoid all reflective surfaces. Psshaw, sound easy? You’d be surprised…

So I came up with this cockamamie idea on Sunday, and being the type of person I am, I thought hmmm let’s try this, and decided the next day I would dive into it.

I don’t wear makeup. I think I stopped during my hospitalization 3 years ago and just never started again. Once you see how much nicer your skin health is without it, it’s hard to go back to foundation-induced pimple-land. So I mean, aside from spinach in my teeth or out-of-place cowlicks, my actual NEED for a mirror is quite minimal. But hey, we already determined that bed head is a legitimate look now. I can just elect for the grunge look and fake it till I make it.

I’m kind of lucky in the sense that my house has a general lack of reflective surfaces. We’re not that decorative, so it’s not like we have these little knickknacks with mini mirrors or a lot of silver decorations everywhere. And I’ve found that if you actually leave the exterior of your windows dirty, you don’t see your reflection near as much… logically this means that it’s a wonderful idea to never climb on a ladder outside to wash your windows. I have just been unconsciously planning ahead for this project!

So basically I’m faced with three-ish overt mirrors that I regularly come into contact with: my bedroom, my bathroom, and the door leading outside. I’m not someone who spends time really in my bedroom, so my contact there is minimal- getting up in the morning and going to bed. It also tends to be one that hates me often, as you tend to get dressed in your room and thusly can see that much more of yourself.

Note to self: Take a note from treatment facility for next week and at least make a board or something you can place in front of the mirror the night before when going to bed. Then you don’t have the instant, I’m-not-thinking-straight-because-it’s-5-am slip up when you first get out of bed, and have forgotten today’s goal…

But I digress…

The most frequent one I come into contact with is the bathroom, because I’m almost never in the other bedrooms, and let’s face it: nature calls more than once a day. So the practicality of this one is a little different, as I can’t just cover up a common bathroom mirror that everyone else uses. The most effective strategy seems to be leaving the lights off when I’m in there, as it has no windows, and we only have a tiny nightlight that really only spreads enough to see where you’re going and give you a vague outline of your shape in the mirror with no specifics. So technically, assuming you remember not to turn on the light that one should be easy enough.

Work is actually the easiest place to avoid seeing my reflection because there are literally almost no reflective surfaces, other than in one section that I very rarely have to be in. The only real cincher here is the bathroom. Obviously, it has no nightlight, and leaving the lights off is not an option unless I leave the door open. Obviously, that’s a no go (I’m sure the other employees appreciate my conclusion on this one too). I think that one is just going to take a bit more practice.

The side view mirrors in the car… another one that you just have to try to remember. I can see all kinds of bad things happening if I tried to cover those guys. And because I’m not allowed to exercise at this point, various external reflective surfaces are at a minimal because I’m not going out for a jog or a walk. Check and check.

So it’s a work in progress, but I think it shows promise. And I invite others to join me, regardless of sex, age, condition, constitution… we all could use a break from the scrutiny of the silver eye. Screw Man-crush Monday, Meatless Monday (because I just like chicken, okay!), and Mimosa Monday… actually wait, that last one could be delicious.

And just because I can, I’m going to end this by sharing a recipe I’m currently crushing on at snack time.

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One bowl wonder!

Because little, round cookies don’t need a mirror either to embrace their cute chubby perfection.

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Mid delicious creation…

So if you love the wonder that is peanut butter, love one bowl dishes, don’t feel like turning on your oven, or just need to remind yourself what deliciousness is…

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Second batch I made- drizzled with peanut butter chips instead of dark chocolate chips, because peanut butter.

Try these no bake peanut butter chocolate drizzle cookies.

Tada!  Original batch I made.  Chocolate and peanut butter heaven :)

Tada! Original batch I made. Chocolate and peanut butter heaven 🙂

Now. No really. Right now.