Two Letters

Dear Body,

I hate you. I have never felt more disgusted by all that you are. You have grown too large for me to handle. I cannot hold back the tears at any glimpse of you. I am not allowed and have no desire to learn how much you weigh. I know that it is far beyond what I could ever be okay with. I can feel myself packing on the pounds and fat every second. I feel the intense need to fix you. If only I restrict and exercise. Then, I can fit you better into my definition of good. I honestly would give just about anything to shrink you down to something I am comfortable with. Maybe that could mean being happy with you. Anything is better than having my disgust for you overrule my day. Please just be willing to let me fix you.

The Disordered Emily

 


 

Dear Body,

I am learning to appreciate you. I have never had such a difficult time in doing so. You feel too large to handle. The dysmorphia means that mirrors or any glimpse of you only brings tears. I am not allowed to know how much you weigh and I have no desire to. I know that number would only threaten my recovery. It feels like I can tell that you keep growing larger, but this is only one of Ed’s tricks. Ed wants me to focus my life on fixing you. I refuse to go back there because it won’t help anything. Shrinking you means shrinking my spirit and all that is me until I am just a bag of bones. I will never be happy with that mindset. I can work through the disgust I feel now. It won’t last forever. I am so sorry for trying to fix you for so many years. Instead, I will work on acceptance of where you are.`

The Real Emily

Dear body – end of 2016

Dear Body,

I would like to thank you for the 21+ years you have given me. You’ve faced many challenges, illnesses, injuries, surgeries, and everything I’ve done that brought harm. Despite it all, here you still are.

I am grateful what you have allowed me to do. You gave me the strength and endurance to play ten years of soccer. You make every summer in Ludington magical with all the activities you make possible: tubing, running down sand dunes, walking in the state park, swimming in Hamlin Lake, fishing. I am able to give and receive hugs with those I love most. My obsession and love for yoga wouldn’t be possible if you weren’t flexible and strong. I couldn’t dream of being a nurse one day and helping others without you being healthy enough to withstand the demands of the job. Someday I will chase my children and grandchildren around. You have gifted me endlessly. Even the parts of you I hate still are a blessing for reasons that are beyond what’s on the outside.

I am sorry for my abuse, hatred, neglect, and harm I have given you.

I am wearing you down. I know that if it doesn’t stop I will push you too far. I really can’t promise all of this will end soon or ever. I am going to try. When I’m stuck in that dark place, when I hate you and wish you were anything but the way you are, I hope I can remember the good. I will look to what you have given me and not what you are like on the outside.

I want to make amends. You deserve my love. Please be patient as I learn how to feed you, exercise in a healthier way, listen and cater to your needs, be nonjudgmental, repair as much of the damage I’ve caused that is possible, appreciate you more, be your friend and most of all, love you.

2017 will be different. I promise you that.

Emily

Stages of (Restrictive) ED recovery – where am I?

Lately I’ve felt pretty terrible, not going to lie. I am really sick of recovery, at least parts of it. Body image has been consistently the hardest part and recently is at an all-time low (I’ve said that before but now is the worst I can remember). I’ll talk about that more in a moment, though. Once again I’m not hungry and food doesn’t usually sound good. I have some feelings of jealousy and resentment. There are so, so many benefits and things I am thankful for that can only happen because of my recovery, but those aren’t at the front of my mind right now. I’ve been beating myself up over this. How could I still have negative feelings when I’m this far in (~7 months since starting resi, 5-6 true recovery)?

I ran across an article I have read a few times before, “Phases of Recovery From a Restrictive Eating Disorder.” Every time I previously skimmed this I was either very sick or in quasi-recovery. It scared the shit out of me. I am a very logical person and use it to calm me, but the ED was way too powerful for that to work here. I’m luckily in a much different head space now and can use the information to further not hinder my recovery.

Currently, my biggest threat to recovery is my body image. I only see myself ballooning more and more when that part should be over by now. I see my stomach which protrudes no matter how much I try to hide it, my hips and thighs that are incredibly large, stretch marks multiplying everyday that all the positive spin in the world can’t help, piles of clothing that no longer fits, fat instead of tone, everything larger than ever in my life. At times it takes every ounce of me to stop from tearing away at my skin. I wish, at times, that I could give in or give up recovery altogether just to make it go away.

Reading this article today has given me hope. I first was sure I was in Stage 3, maybe 4 (the ED fueled horror when I feared it may be the case). I’m actually quite certain my body isn’t there yet, but in Stage 2 still. I obviously have not experienced any sort of weight redistribution or really stopped gaining. That alone has caused hopelessness and other negative emotions. Another clue I may not be in 3 is that I feel like my body is off. I have hunger all over the map. I’m having issues with fatigue, GI problems, and food doesn’t give me the expected energy it should. Lastly, I’m barely at 7 months in recovery max with around a month of relapse. It feels like forever but with all the damage I’ve done it really isn’t. My body doesn’t trust me enough to move past the fear of starvation and pain again, and I don’t trust it in the least bit to handle food correctly, keep from forever ballooning out, and give me correct hunger cues.

Initially knowing I had more ahead until my body would be healthy again was disappointing. I have worked hard, yet none of it was enough to make my body okay again? I’ve thought about that more and now see that this is a good thing. I am still not comfortable – with my body or in my body while experiencing physical issues. This isn’t the end, though, which means that it still gets better from now. I can look forward to more acceptance and the return to a new normal in the future. It really helps me breathe a sigh of relief as I’ve felt so hopeless about the future of my recovery.

On the other side of things, I have become more cautious and aware. I had a relapse because of my failure to accept where I was at physically and not attempt to “fix” it. I know now that this is part of a normal process but one that can be a trap from the ED. This is all temporary that eventually will lead to a healthier me, both inside and out. I need to accept and fight the feelings that threaten to send me back into sickness.

Lord knows I am not healed mentally from my eating disorder. In many ways I never will be. The same thing applies physically. My body isn’t in the end stages of recovery yet, but that is okay. I need to give it time. Now is the prime time for relapse. I can’t go down that road again. It was terrible and terrifying all in one. Right now I need to trust: God and His ability to be my strength in this, my body as it heals, that my disordered thoughts are not real, the truth that it will get easier. I am healing each day and reviving myself more and more.

*Note: I don’t agree with all Your Eatopia has to say on this topic or in general. Nonetheless I do believe this is a good resource.

Stretch marks

Warning: this post is real and raw, as is the photo included. It is exactly what I see and feel everyday.

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I noticed my first stretch marks a few months after discharge from Forest View PHP. I was appalled and I remember crying for well over an hour. It sent me into a small spiral of restriction. Back then I felt like many other women: stretch marks and any scars or other “imperfections” are seen as disgusting and unwanted. That is why I couldn’t handle looking at my thighs for a long time. I closed my eyes anytime I was getting dressed. The only time I wore a swimsuit was with shorts on.

As time went on and I stayed a stable weight, thanks to mild restriction, my marks faded.I could barely see them which meant others couldn’t either. My body image improved in the slightest. Honestly I just forgot I even had stretch marks for around a year since I had so many other ED thoughts/body image issues/behaviors/etc to deal with.

Coming back form residential I couldn’t hide from it anymore. I gained more stretch marks than ever before and I’m not using my eating disorder to distract me. There are the old, white and subdued, and new, angry red and impossible to ignore. This is what I see every single time I look down at my thighs. Its my choice how I let if affect me.

I won’t lie, this has been HELL to get through. I have broken down and doubted my recovery over some imperfections in my skin. How incredibly sad is that?

My view of the stretch marks is slowly changing. I didn’t gain them for nothing. They are a package deal with my recovery, and I want that more than anything. My body has grown bigger and stretched in ways it hasn’t in years. I neglected and starved it and upon receiving nourishment it became healthy again. There is no way at all I could be so committed to recovery and life if my body wasn’t changed to the way it is now.

I have earned these stretch marks. All of the ensures I’ve downed, tears I’ve cried, emotions I’ve dealt with, thoughts I’ve overcome, and every ounce of strength has resulted in them. I am proud of the work it took to come here. My body is not perfect by today’s standards but it is healthy. It deserves my love.

My stretch marks will probably never go away on their own. I fully believe I can get to a point where I won’t want them to. They signify my struggle and resiliency. My entire recovery is represented in those lines. Its time to own it.

I may not be able to say I love these marks yet, but one day I will.

 

 

 

My body

I still wake up, some mornings, surprised by the size of my body. I look in the mirror, expecting to see less than what’s really there. I notice what I’ve lost: muscle, protruding bones, the extra space that is now filled. I’ve gained so much more.

This body doesn’t struggle through hours on the treadmill. It is not wasting away. My hip bones no longer scare my mom. It doesn’t ache constantly. I can sit and lie down without feeling pain.

My body is soft. It supports me as I go about my day. It is growing stronger. It allows me to do yoga each day simply to enjoy. It has stretch marks to remind me where I’ve been and that I have fought hard to come here. It is well-nourished and healthy. It isn’t perfect, and that’s okay. It deserves my love.

It is exactly what I feared for so many years. It is different than I expected. It is more than what I was okay with. It is more than I could ask for. It is different, but that is a good thing. It is exactly the way its supposed to be.

My body is more beautiful than ever before and I am beginning to see it.

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?

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.