I know my number.

I haven’t known my weight since November 10 of last year. I didn’t know it until yesterday. And now my whole world is crashing down again.

That number broke me. I had a set range I was at before in “recovery” so I put that as my limit. Realistically, I wouldn’t be able to be any lower due to the food intake needed, etc so  I felt at least partially okay as long as I stayed. Assuming this number is correct (it was at the doctor’s office, I read it online, and it slightly contradicts what my dietitian has said) its way above what I could ever imagine is possible.

I was already having probably the worst body image I’ve experienced. I cried almost every time I showered, got dressed, felt my body in any way, or looked in a mirror. I would sit and stare and wonder how I ever could get “this bad.” Could recovery be worth the stretch marks, cellulose, and tighter clothes? I hadn’t been able to answer that question and instead fell into the monotony of doing what I needed to and ignoring what I felt.

The past 24 hours have been pretty bad, some of the worst in a long time. I have had pretty minor restriction, lots of tears, guilt/shame, and depressive and self-hatred thoughts. Its hard to focus on anything but how I feel about my body.

I don’t know how long this will go on or how it will affect my recovery. I’m going to try to do better than I have in the past, although that number I now have in my head isn’t making this easy. I can always get back to where I was before. I know how. The question becomes: is it worth giving up all I have found in recovery in order to shrink my body and the number on the scale?

How do I have an eating disorder?

You’d think that after years of therapy, inpatient, residential, PHP, being told this could kill me, worrying my parents and those around me, support groups, etc, I would no longer ask myself this question. In reality, however, I wonder it just as much or more than when this all started.

Just as is typical with people who struggle with eating disorders, I denied its presence for a very long time. I only wanted to lose some weight so I could feel better about myself. My body image issues were completely normal. The fact that I exercised compulsively and solely to burn calories was fine and everyone did it, right?

Even when I switched therapists to someone who specialized in eating disorders, I knew I didn’t need or deserve to be there. When my psychiatrist mentioned Forest View, I brushed him off. The day my mom cried over my weight loss and restriction then called to send me into treatment, I still couldn’t believe it. I was just taking control of my life, weight, exercise, and size. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it!

It was probably a few days in PHP when I saw that maybe I had a little problem going on. At first I refused to speak it out loud, but finally muttered “I struggle with anorexia” despite not fully believing it.

What started out as typical denial has since transformed into a mixture of guilt, shame, disbelief, and self-criticism (hatred seems too strong). I mull over this all the time. Am I really, truly sick or did I do this on purpose and harm so many people, ruin my life, and cost money/time? Didn’t I want an eating disorder so I got one? Can’t I just snap out of it? How has my life been revolved around this all for so long? If this is all my fault, I must be a terrible person.

I somewhat doubt all of the negative beliefs tied to how/why/if I have an eating disorder will ever go away completely. It really messes with how I view myself and whether I deserve help. Regardless, I’m trying to not get so caught up in finding answers and instead fight for recovery with as much strength as I can.

Spring break bust

I’m not one who really likes to whine and complain about things on and on, especially not when its something I should be enjoying. I just got back to school after a week off for spring break. Honestly, I hated it.

I went home from last Friday-today. I’m somewhat jealous of others who were all over the country having the greatest experiences. I really wish I would have done at least something fun, but I didn’t.

I started off the week sick with a nasty sinus infection that I am still recovering from somewhat. Friday I was dragged to my brother’s high school by my mom to take pictures of costumes for his musical (which I didn’t actually need to do at all because a professional was too). I came home exhausted and basically stayed in the chair with Olive, watching Netflix and sleeping. Monday I was forced again to the school for more pictures although I got about 3. The rest of the week I was mostly home alone and it was also too cold to do much outside. Plus,, sinus infection so I’m not sure I would have wanted to do anything anyways. Friday I went shopping (holy shit bad idea but I needed clothes). Yesterday we went to dinner then the musical and then headed back to GR today.

Break was hard for a few reasons (thank you sinus infection), but I would say my depression and ED take the number one and two spots.

Even before break started I knew I was going to fight a battle with negative/depressive thoughts. I already felt really shoved aside since my family was going to be so focused on my brother and the musical. I feel terrible for that, but I guess its only natural to have some sort of expectations for your only week off from school. More than that, I just felt so worthless and alone and like no one cared that I was alive. I say felt but all of those are here with me now, especially as everyone else is happy and talking and catching up while I sit here alone (of course).

I also knew the ED was going to give me shit as well. I felt overwhelmed the last time I went home for two days, so 9 would be terrible. Anytime I’m off routine it gets so hard to remember eating and fulfilling my meal plan. I’m also still dealing with little to no appetite, which means forcing myself to eat every bite. Without actively trying to restrict I skipped many meals and snacks simply because I can’t remember and don’t feel the least bit hungry. I’m having problems (more than usual) with body image to fuel ED thoughts as well. Overall it plain sucks. There are plenty of moments where going back to behaviors seems better than this, however, I won’t believe that lie.

I don’t want to forever regret and focus on how bad this spring break was. That will only send me into more of a negative spiral. Instead, I will be thankful for the rest, time off school, and time spent with the best cat ever.

Losing the skinny identity

“Skinny Minnie.” “You’re so lucky to eat and never gain weight.” “I wish I was your size.” “You’re so little!” “You have to weigh like 2 pounds.” “If you can keep this up when you get older I’ll be so jealous.” “You have the body of a gymnast.” “You’re SO thin and muscular.”

These comments and more I’ve heard all my life, minus around a year or two after my surgery. Now, other than the occasional “you look healthy/better,” no one says a word about my body and especially not that I’m thin.

Small is not just something I happened to be. It was my whole identity. I hated myself in so many other ways but this was the one thing I could at least somewhat believe. Skinny made me worthy and lovable. If other girls and women said my body was desirable, that must mean I’m not quite as terrible as my thoughts told me.

After my surgery and before eating disorder behaviors was a period of time with the worst body image I had yet experienced. I could hardly handle the ways my body was changing, let alone deal with the lack of any positive reinforcement about my thinness. What would I be if I wasn’t skinny?

Once I finally started losing weight again it was great. I suddenly was getting all of those longed-for compliments and I felt on top of the world. I stared at myself in every mirror or reflective surface I could find. When I received a good comment or restricted/exercised, my body would shrink and I could see bones, less fat, and a smaller me. I would feel more confident. That all went away when I was either forced to eat or unable to exercise. Suddenly I would balloon outward and grow to an impossibly large size. Depression, anxiety, self-hate, and eating disorder thoughts skyrocketed.  The only thing that kept me going was working towards my next “you’re so skinny.”

Fast forward to today. I haven’t received a “skinny comment” since before entering inpatient treatment last August. Honestly, even if I did I know that what I see in the mirror doesn’t match up. Still, most of the time I cry standing in front of the mirror. I half expect that what I see will be thin. Hard doesn’t begin to describe it, but I am working to change the way I view my body and self.

I’ve realized, to at least some extent, that skinny isn’t an identity at all. I hid behind it for a majority of my life. I yearned and still yearn for it to be true. Despite that, I am working each day to lose all honor and pride I put into thinness. Skinny is conditional. It doesn’t make you a good or bad person, determine your worth, make you beautiful, or define you. There are many multitudes of other qualities that make each of us unique.

I may never get called “Skinny Minnie” or thin or any other of the various compliments I received before. I can’t be bothered by that. My identity cannot be based around something I don’t truly want to attain again.  I am not skinny, and skinny isn’t all I ever was. That chapter of my life spent waiting for each new comment on my thinness is over. I’m moving on to better things.

Ensure.

I drank an Ensure tonight. I wasn’t forced. I didn’t want to. I easily could have avoided it. But I didn’t.

I always equated Ensures and supplementation in general as a punishment or sign of failure before. Truthfully, that’s exactly how Forest View used it. If you needed supplementation, you did something bad to receive it. Because of this, I rebelled and refused to drink them every single time. This has carried over, even up until tonight. I would avoid using supplements when I really needed it. Each time I actually forced myself to drink one it had a “well I won’t do that again” and “I am terrible now” effect. I felt disgusted enough by the Ensure that I would attempt to “do better” for a while.

For obvious reasons, that view of supplementation hasn’t helped me. I never felt I could actually reach for an Ensure without extreme shame and fear. Admitting I had to drink and Ensure to my therapist, friends, dietitian, and support people was almost always tear provoking. Supplementing meant I had somehow failed at recovery. I felt worse about myself if I used one than if I had just restricted.

Tonight was the end of that. I’ve been having a hard time eating the past week or so due to a basically nonexistent appetite. Although I’ve managed pretty well so far, today was just too much. ED thoughts took over and I just knew I wouldn’t be able to give my body all it needs through food. I made my decision to supplement and drank my Ensure.

There’s been a big shift in my thinking tonight. Sometimes I may have to use supplementation, and that is okay. Its another way to get calories in. Sure, its not ideal or anything, but if I can’t handle the food its better to have Ensure than nothing. Choosing to continue nourishing my body is the bravest thing I can do.

Four things – get to know me!

Four things people call me (other than my real name): Emmy, Em, Emmenem, Emmy Jean

Four jobs I’ve had: housekeeper, babysitter, youth leader (not paid but definitely counts), photographer

Four movies I’ve watched more than once: John Tucker Must Die, She’s the Man, The Veronica Mars Movie, The Blind Side

Four places I’ve lived: Norton Shores, MI; Grand Rapids, MI; San Diego, CA (for 5.5 weeks!); Ludington, MI (my second home)

Four things I’d rather not eat: legumes, cottage cheese, hot cereal, ensure, ensure, ENSURE, ENSURE!!!!

Four people I look up to: my mom, Demi Lovato, K, Mrs H

Four fears: tornadoes, throwing up, being alone forever, not being able to have kids one day

Four accomplishments I’m proud of: completing early college, breaking up with my ex, going to CFD, recovering for ME

Four favorite foods: ice cream, nachos, mashed potatoes, cauliflower

Four TV shows I watch: Grey’s Anatomy, Law and Order: SVU, Survivor, Chicago Med

Four card/board games I love: Settlers of Catan, Apples to Apples, up and  down the river, euchre

Four favorite US Women’s soccer players: Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Sydney Leroux

Four songs I never get tired of: “I,2,3,4” – Feist, “Fight Song” – Rachel Platten, “Warrior” – Demi Lovato, “On Your Porch” – The Format

Four things I’m looking forward to this year: NEDA conference, impacting more people with my story, rediscovering me, soaking up as much knowledge as I can

Four things I’m always saying: “On a scale of 10 to ensure, that was a ___,” “I did ___ and injured my ___,” “This one time at CFD…” “You have to see this picture of my cat/chinchilla”

Four places I’ve visited: Cocoa Beach, FL; Toronto, Canada; Niagara Falls, Mackinac Island

Four books I’d recommend: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult, If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski, any of Jenni Schaefer’s books

Four places I would like to be: on a California beach, under warm blankets next to a fire, in a hammock on a nice warm day, Ludington in the summer (can you tell I’m sick of the cold?)

Four exotic pets I do own/want to own: chinchillas, prairie dogs, sulcata tortoise or really any tortoise, hedgehog

Four of my favorite people: my mom, Livvy Lou, Lily, my brother Alec

Four places I would like to go: Australia, back to Mackinac Island, California, Grand Canyon

Four hopes for the future: be very solid in my recovery, work to help others with eating disorders and mental illness, have children and be the best mom I can, grow closer to God than I ever have been

Four college classes I’m looking forward to taking: community based mental health nursing,  more psych classes, nutrition, pregnant women/infants/children/adolescents nursing

Four favorite DBT skills: kinetic sand, lentils, frozen orange/clementine, scented play dough

Four creative outlets I use: blogging, photography, journaling, origami

Four affirmations: I am doing the best I can, I am God’s masterpiece, I am worthy, I am not my eating disorder

Four things I love taking photographs of: anything in Ludington, flowers, beach, nature in general

Four core values: learning, compassion, resiliency, honesty

This was fun! 🙂 If anyone else wants to do this you’re able to make as many categories as you’d like. I’d love to read any too so you can put a link in the comments too!

 

I am grateful for…

Hope for a new future. Returning hunger cues. A great support system. My family who have stayed with me even through the hardest times. Center for Discovery. Practicing imperfectionism. The hard days that will mold me. Enjoying food again. Being healthier than I have been in a very long time. The brave souls I’ve met on this journey. My amazing treatment team. Forgiveness. A good kick in the butt when I need it. Being able to share my story. Every single challenge I’ve faced. Rediscovering who I am. God’s grace. My own strength. Good insurance. Ensure when I need it. Finding joy in the simplest things. A new friend and mentor who shows me what recovery can look like, encourages me, and is incredible. The people I have touched and will touch. Lily for walking along with me and being the best big sis. Livvy for being my person, my best friend, and inspiring me every day. Weekly ED support group with some amazing girls. Slowly making peace with my body. Feeling like a semi-normal college student again. Measuring my own progress. Everything that will come in the future because I’ve chosen to recover for real, for me.