Mistake/”failure” -> strong emotions -> ED thoughts and behaviors

I’ve noticed this has been a pattern in the past, but yesterday post clinical brought it back to the extreme. I was rushed to grab my things from the locker room to get to post-conference, and I ended up grabbing someone else’s coat that was very similar to mine. I didn’t notice for the almost hour I was there, and only realized after taking the shuttle back to staff parking. This lead to an immediate freak out. Would this person call security? What if they have to wait a long time and aren’t able to go home? Will they accuse me of stealing? Are they going to freak out too? These thoughts kept coming and I began to panic. I ended up calling my professor, which was a second huge mistake. I forgot that she was in some meeting (which is why we ended early), so when she responded with that immediate guilt rushed over me. Suddenly I had screwed up twice and had no way of contacting the floor secretary. Instead, I had to sit in my emotions and wait for the next shuttle. It took over a half hr to get back. I quickly went up to the floor and did my walk of shame as the secretary led me to the locker room. I ended up switching out the coats without anyone noticing, thankfully. It should have been over right then, but that was far from the case.

Pretty much immediately after discovering my first mistake, Ed made up a new rule: no eating lunch until I returned it. This wasn’t so bad in my mind. It was around 12:30 at that point and waiting another half hr wasn’t going to kill me. As the disordered thoughts and emotions strengthened, Ed created more rules. I couldn’t eat until I got home (which would be an hr or so after getting up to the floor). If the person was angry or anything, I wasn’t able to eat at all. I could only hit x exchanges for the day because I didn’t deserve food. Exercise was necessary and needed to be vigorous to make up for my inadequacies. Even after all was fixed and I left the hospital, the guilt/shame, frustration, anxiety, disgust, and intrusive thoughts persisted.

It’s been around 22 hours since everything went down and I am still preoccupied with it all. I can’t get over my mistakes and how that must define me as a person. As much as I truly want to let this go and focus on other things, I don’t think that will be easy at all. It seems a little ridiculous at this point. That doesn’t change how I feel right now.

I want to try to accept where I am instead of beating myself up even more for feeling the way I do. I have to be patient with myself. Today begins the fight. I want to only focus on behaviors for now as a priority, because the thoughts can return later. This cycle can’t continue to snowball and affect my recovery any more than it already has.

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.

 

 

 

Not doing so hot.

If “doing cold” were a thing I certainly would be there or very close. This is the worse I’ve been behavior and thought-wise since before I went to treatment. If it continues I could be back there. That’s scary.

Even a few weeks ago I was at a much better place with behaviors, but I can also see that many of my thought patterns began well before my actions changed. My body image has grown worse over time since discharge. That alone is a huge part of my downward slide. My appetite has been wacky and near nonexistent for well over a month now. That’s made me much more prone to guilt and not wanting to eat. Seeing my weight last week really started the behaviors again and multiplied ED thoughts.

I have been restricting heavily. I haven’t met close to what my meal plan is, or even the 75% goal my dietitian gave until my hunger cues normalize. In addition to that I started exercising again in a very compulsive way. Because of these things I feel weak, exhausted, dizzy, and just out of it a good majority of the time.

Its amazing how incredibly addicting my eating disorder is. I feel so high when I’m restricting or exercising, just like before. The ED is enticing. It reminds me of all the reasons I should choose to use behaviors and let thoughts grow. What I see in the mirror is constantly growing closer to something I can be okay with, so long as I continue following the eating disorder’s ways.

I know what happens down this road. It feels great, oh so wonderful, at first. You become delusional and hold on to that feeling while your entire life spirals out of control. I am not going there again but I need help.

I reluctantly emailed my dietitian the truth today. I see her Tuesday but I wanted to hear any suggestions when it comes to food and getting exchanges in somehow. My therapist has been sick. I met with a different one at Broene yesterday briefly. He encouraged me to go back to all of my skills again. I am hoping to meet with S tomorrow. I really need her no-BS push in the right direction. I have been honest with a few people. My last two days at school before the weekend wont be as secretive as it has been.

I have work to do if I’m going to move out of this cold spot. Recovery is never easy in the least bit and its like I’m just now seeing that for the first time.

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.

“You look really, really good!”

Yesterday I finally got to meet with my normal therapist at school, S. I was so excited to see her again. I wanted to share all about residential and the growth I’ve made. The first thing she said once we started talking was “You look really, really good.”

I teared up. She didn’t have to explain herself to me. I didn’t fight it. ED thoughts never took hold to decipher what she really meant by “good.” I knew.

I’m not ready yet to look at my body and be okay with the changes. I feel it all of the time: me taking up more space than I used to, more than the ED would ever allow.

What I am ready to recognize and share is that I DO look good. I smile and radiate the joy that everyone at CFD so hoped I could have. The worn out look I had every single day has disappeared. My skin has a little color to it. I look more alive than I have in years.

My appearance does reflect my recovery in this way. It isn’t about the weight gain. That can happen without any change on the inside. I have put in hard work. My soul, the real Emily, she’d coming back more each day. I may have bad thoughts and sometimes give in to them, but my life is not the ED’s anymore. I am truly living.

Three months ago I would have argued with S. I could never accept that compliment, or any. All I would hear is the ED’s voice telling me how fat I must be for her to say that. I would have left her office feeling down and disgusted. I might have still cried but for a much different reason.

Right now I am thankful, empowered, proud, courageous, and so happy. These tiny changes I’m making are truly paying off. Its easy to forget the amount of change that has taken place until someone points it out. Moments like these affirm how much recovery is worth to me.

For now, I will bask in the fact that I do look really, really good. I’ve earned it!

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How I look and feel are two very (very, VERY) different things.

A month ago, I was losing fast. If I had continued for even another week longer than I did in that extreme restriction, I would have been sent inpatient immediately. The ever-growing, disordered part of me wants to be back there. It wishes I didn’t decide to fight this like hell. It craves the bones, the emptiness in my stomach and soul, the sense of power.

Above all, I want to look sick. I want to be thinner. I want my outside to match this inner struggle I face all day, every day. I feel guilty that it doesn’t because that means I am not following through with restriction and ED behaviors. I feel dirty and gross and huge. I feel like I have cheated on this ED.

I know this is irrational. I realize that being thinner wouldn’t be any better than at the weight I am now. But te thing is, my ED tricks me into thinking it would change everything. It says that I’ll love myself more, won’t cry when I look in the mirror, will feel comfortable in a swim suit. Basically, thinness = happiness. I can look back at those times at my lowest and although I remember being more comfortable with my body, I wasn’t really happy. I was too exhausted and numb and near death to truly enjoy it.

The worst part about this period is that I’ve gained some weight back and fixed my eating patterns to a degree, but I am not okay. Far from it, actually. I don’t look sick though, so certain people (cough cough my parents) assume I’m fine. I guess there are “perks” to looking sick but the one I’m really missing now is that my mom doesn’t get how much I still need therapy and support. I am completely freaking out about next fall and finding treatment at college, but she barely feels its necessary. In fact, she told me I should only go once every coul\ple weeks. She figures that since I seem to be eating fine and look normal I should be healed. The words “mental illness” don’t register. It’s hard enough that my body is changing so much faster than my mind. I just wish others would realize my struggle now as much as when I was smaller. I still need help and support and encouragement.

Update before camp

Here we are, on our way to NTS Camp in Chicago! I’m nervous and excited and amazed that I’m even headed there. I nearly backed out of this opportunity more than once. Way back, it was Kim telling me I couldn’t go if I didn’t start eating and taking care of myself. Then I struggled with going again due to my own fear of change and attachment. And just this past week I was completely discouraged following some mean comments by another leader. Everything was against me going but here I am, headed out anyways. I truly believe God must have some awesome things planned this week for Satan to fight so hard against it. That’s my prayers and hopes, at least.

The past weeks has been nothing short of insane. I’ve been packing and dealing with a lot of things emotionally as well as working. I’ve had so many thoughts on things that it was hard to even put it down. This will be a quick update on life and then I probably won’t post again until after camp!

ED wise I am pretty powerless. I’ve eaten enough to not raise questions at meals. I’ve thrown away food. My behavior at work alerted a coworker and I know it won’t be long until she sits me down to talk about it. As far as camp goes, I have a food plan and I’m sticking to it best I can. I won’t allow myself to show any ED behaviors or restriction while I’m there. I’m not talking about it and I’m not drawing attention to my eating. This week is about me serving them, and if I’m having a hard time I will contact support. It’ll be good. At the very least I will be as healthy an example as I can be.

As far as recovery goes I really feel hopeful. This book I bought for Kim and myself is so good. I believe that I can change. I know it will be the hardest thing I ever do but I don’t think I’m a lost cause. Kim isn’t either and together we will grow stronger.

I’ve reconnected with God more each day. I feel full. I am going in the right direction and have spent lots of time in prayer and the word for camp already. I have this need that only He can fill and I know that by focusing on faith this next week it will give me less time for the ED. I want a spiritual renewal and I hope each of the girls will get that too.

Everything feels out of control right now and the only thing I want to turn to is the ED. I’m going to do my best not to though. I will get through camp and I will make an impact. It may be challenging but it’ll be worth it.