One of my favorite recovery stories I have ever read. “Do not be afraid to struggle some now and again. After all, recovery isn’t a straight path”
I just finished watching the documentary “Hungry for Change” and I took 7 pages of notes. About 10-15 minutes into it I felt compelled to jot down a few things. And a few things turned into me pausing the documentary so I could finish a thought or get a statistic. Now I won’t share everything…or I will I’m not really sure…but here goes.
I grew up being taught to hate my body and to shame myself if I ever thought I looked good. My mom and my sister would often reiterate.that and make sure I knew that yeah my outfit is nice but my skin is a mess or I wear glasses or my hair looks bad. At the end, one of the guys posed the question, “do you love yourself?” And my answer was no. I feel like I have been so shaped by not only my family but my friends and society to shame myself for even thinking about loving myself. And not just my body. But me. As a person. A human being. Why is it so horrible to love who you are? One of the guys said, “I would wake up in the morning and immediately be aware of my body and that I didn’t like it.” That’s a lot like where I am right now. Most people look in the mirror and are just unhappy with what they see and they tell themselves that that are a power and no good.
They talked a lot about sugar. And a lot of things hit home for me. Sugar is like cocaine. It is a drug. And I abused it and am addicted to it. When I’m stressed, I want sugar. When I feel depressed, I want sugar. Because sugar creates a high for me. And the more I consume it, the more I need it and crave it. I have been sweets free for 3 weeks. And there is a difference. When I would walk in the grocery store during week 1 and 2 it was painful to walk through the Easter candy and the cookies and ice cream. It actually hurt me to know I couldn’t have that stuff. But as I am starting week 4, my cravings aren’t as strong. I have the thought that the documentary stated much more eloquently than I can. “I want that but I can’t have that versus I can have it but I don’t want it.” Hi. Hello. Who remembers my not so secret love affair with reframing? Raise of hands? Yeah. Awesome.
A lot of this documentary was really placing emphasis on not being in a diet and putting good things into your body. At the end, one guy said each time you eat, ask yourself, “Where does my food come from? What went into it? What are my intentions with the food?”
This is jumping around a bit, but I also really want to being up this. Obesity is a solution to a personal problem. Now I have never been obese, but I am rounding the corner of having an eating disorder for 11 years. And its not the food. Its me. Its a personal problem and I use food to cope with my problems. So why am I not satisfied with life? As annoying as it sounds, my job. And the answer has changed over the years but the way I cope never has. When I feel inadequate and not good enough, which is a common reoccuring theme for me, I cope with food. I have those feelings with my job right now. I’m so unbelievably frustrated that I worked so hard throughout grad school just to be essentially a secretary. Not doing anything I love. I’m constantly unhappy and unsatisfied with my job.
There is some more good stuff. From what I could tell, they brought in some good experts. I didn’t agree with everything that that said, but the documentary sparked thoughts for me. I recommend watching it.
I’ll end with this. I want to see what being recovered is. But I’m scared that it is a fairytale that doesn’t exist. I’m scared that I am trapped in this hell. I don’t know how to get out. But I refuse to stop trying. I refuse to give up. I refuse to not pick myself up every damn time I fall down and try again. I may never see the fairytale, but I’m going to right like hell to escape.
Sometimes my sister and her friends irritate the shit out of me. “Happy New Skinny Year!” “Going to the gym, skinny thoughts!”
I’m so fucking sick of everyone in my life fixating on being skinny. I’m sick of people trying to shove down my throat how I should be skinny, get skinnier, lose weight, “new year, time for a diet”
I’m so fucking sick of it. I’ve spent most of the past 10+ years killing myself trying to be this “skinny girl” and constantly yo-yo dieting.
You want to know what I want? I want to eat what fuels my body to be stronger, faster, and better. I want muscle definition, not bone definition. I want to punch everyone in the face that keeps trying to tell me that I should want to be skinny.
Sorry, but no.
I’m done restricting. I’m done purging. I’m done dealing with a society that values a girl that looks like she is about to collapse. I don’t want to be seen as frail or weak, ever.
Breakthrough moments at work.
Growing up, I was accustomed to my mother constantly weighing herself and placing value on the number on the scale. Her days were dictated by what that number was. She would parade around bragging how much weight she lost or throw a fit and refuse to eat anything but veggies for supper if the number was higher than she liked it. She went on crash diets constantly and weight was always a topic of discussion with actual numbers never being revealed. It was always understood, though, that the lower number = better and higher number = horrible.
I have always had a scale wherever I live. During my therapy/counseling sessions my junior year, it was discovered that a scale signifies home to me. Some people have a piece of art that they hang up, others have pictures, but to me a scale has always been a staple of my home life. It has also been a staple of destructive behaviors for me.
At the height of my restricting days, I would weigh myself constantly. Anytime I thought there might be a tenth of a pound difference in my weight, I would weigh myself. Anytime I walked by the bathroom, I would weigh myself. My mood was entirely dictated by what the number said on the scale. When I would drop weight, I would be ecstatic. When it would increase even just a little, I would punish myself. I would make myself workout more, eat less, and restrict myself to only eating veggies. Even when I was purging, I was constantly weighing myself. Hell, even when I wasn’t engaging in restricting, binging, purging, or anything else, I was constantly weighing myself.
I have a hard time putting into words the amount of anxiety I have stepping on a scale, even now. My heart starts to pulse as the numbers are blinking waiting to register my weight, which I have inadvertently linked to my self-worth.
There are a variety of pictures floating around on various different social media sites that advocate that a scale can only measure “your numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. That’s it. It cannot measure your beauty, talent, purpose, life force, possibility, strength, or love.” My feelings towards the scale have never been framed in that way. The scale has been, for so long, a measure of self-worth.
This morning, as I contemplated doing my “Weigh-In Wednesday” I had a violent thought. All I wanted to do was take this fucking piece of shit thing and chuck it out the window. I hadn’t even stepped on it yet and I was just angry with it. I was angry that for SO many days and weeks and months and hours and minutes and years (I get that I didn’t order those correctly, but I don’t care) I have let my self-worth be determined by this stupid, idiotic thing. I have let these numbers dictate a good day or a bad day. I have been chained to this fucking thing. And I have never let myself cut my way free.
I have never had this thought. Even when the scale would say something I didn’t like, I would blame myself, not the scale. I have for so many years measured myself in terms of the numbers on the scale and not in my talents or strength.
It’s a new step. It’s a different step. It’s a weird step.
“I did not like to be touched, but it was a strange dislike. I did not like to be touched because I craved to too much. I wanted to be held very tight so I would not break.”
I am re-reading Wasted with a different perspective than I have ever had in my life and reading this book. Reading it from this new perspective is like looking back on someone else’s life. So much of what she wrote I sit there with my jaw open and think (or write in the margins) “yeah…that’s how I felt.”
One of my favorite analogies (Marya writes the best analogies…seriously)
I look back on my life the way one watches a badly scripted action flick, sitting at the edge of the seat, bursting out, “No, no, don’t open that door! The bad guy is there and he’ll grab you and put his hand over your mouth and tie you up and then you’ll miss the train and everything will fall apart!” Except there is no bad guy in this tale. The person who jumped through the door and grabbed me and tied me up was, unfortunately, me. My double image, my evil skinny chick who hisses, Don’t eat. I’m not going to let you eat. I’ll let you go as soon as you’re thin, I swear I will. Everything will be ok when you’re thin.
Liar. She never let me go. And I’ve never quite been able to wriggle my way free.
…it is not something that you just “get over”…it is something that will haunt you for the rest of your life. You may change your behavior, change your beliefs about yourself and your body, give up that particular way of coping the world. You may learn, as I have, that you would rather be a human than a human’s thin shell. You may get well. But you never forget.
When I first bought this book, I bought it because a pro-ed community that I was part of was reviewing it and chatting about it. I got it and ate up the “wisdom” of Marya when she was in her ed. I have never read this book when I was on a positive side of recovery. It was always the downward slope that I would start reading this book…because it would motivate me to eat less, purge more, burn more calories…I have never read it from the perspective of …my perspective now. Of being accepting of my body and wanting to improve my health. Of wanting and desiring to no longer be attached to the identifier of someone struggling with an ed. Of not wanting my ed to be in my life anymore. Of wanting and desiring to break it, for good.
Naturally, I am going to blog about my thought process with this book. I’m fascinated with studying myself (now) studying myself (then) studying this book. (Studying-ception? or just plain weird curiosity?)
I’ll give you a second to collect your jaws as I am sure they have just hit the floor…:)
1.) I have not had a single B/P episode since I have moved out and back on my own.
2.) I have not consciously restricted since I have moved out and back on my own.
3.) I have regained my self-confidence in my body
4.) I have been active in working on silencing that little disordered voice inside my head.
5.) Everyday is still a challenge, but everyday it is getting easier and easier.
After 10 years, perhaps it is time for us to part ways. I have had bouts of highs and lows in my recovery and for the first time, I feel like attaining that status of “recovered” is an actual achievable accomplishment.
I blame it on running. 100%. Running has saved me in more than one way. But most importantly, running has saved my soul and my mind. When I say little does more for me than running, I truly mean it. Running allows me to see what this body and mind is capable of when I fuel it and train it healthily. Running allows me to see how strong I am, regardless of what my stature may suggest. Running helps me escape. Running helps me make sense of life. Running…is the greatest thing ever.
This has been a positive update.
I will not be posting my intake because I purged again today. I restricted heavily this morning and then lost my mind. I literally cannot explain it. If you have been through the restrict/binge/purge cycle you know what I am talking about. The entire day my thoughts revolved around food. How little can I eat? How many calories have I consumed? How many calories can I burn? And then before I knew it I was in the check-out line with a basket of junk. I stopped at the park to run to try and clear my mind of food but all I could think of for the whole 2 miles was food. When I got back home, it was not pretty. While my head was in the toilet and I was noticing where I missed some spots cleaning I had these thoughts:
“Why am I doing this to myself? Is this really what I want out of life? Can I not be better than this? Can I not find my way out? How can I realistically get out of this without just faking it?”
I then took a shower and it gave me time to process the questions. I am out of control. I have been for awhile. I need to be honest. I need to be in control. And I need to be courageous. I need to have a plan.
Part of my plan will stem from my “failure” at the bank. I have that $25 gift card that the temp agency gave me as an apology. Originally I was going to use it to buy candy because they have an excellent candy store in the mall that I have the gift card too. Instead I am going to use it as motivation. I have packed on a good 4-6 pounds that is not all muscle. I can tell because I have lost a lot of definition. Which means I need more cardio. And I know that.
My plan. I want to get back to my 122-124 range. I weighed myself tonight (I know, it is night time so my weight is a little higher) and I was 128.2. I want to get back into control on my intake. I need to ensure that I am eating a good breakfast. And getting a good amount of protein for my “snack/lunch” because I always run when I get off work. I need to make sure that I am getting enough sleep. I need to make sure that I am happy. Because when I get sad and depressed, I turn to food. I also need to figure out why I am sad and depressed and process through these feelings instead of eating them. I hate when you see things on tumblr that are “how to stop a binge” because binges are usually emotionally triggered and the tips for how to stop a binge are physical. It isn’t dealing with the actual emotions. And if you want to stop binging, you probably have some emotional processing that needs to be done at a deeper level than I am sad/depressed. Why are you sad and depressed? Why do you feel that food gives you a comfort? Stuff like that (although I am not a counselor or clinical psychologist, so take my advice with a large grain of salt).
The direction of this blog will still be me posting honest, real things. It will be centered around my recovery (part 23094239423454) process and me processing emotional things. Be prepared for personal posts, emotional posts, and probably more information about me than you would ever want to know. I will ask you this, if you judge others easily or if you prefer to not read about recovery and personal posts, please unfollow me. I will not tolerate hate for my process.
Step 1, acknowledging that I have a problem.
My name is Vanessa and I am bulimic. I struggle with body dysmorphia as well. In the past I have been anorexic, EDNOS, and over exercising. I have dealt with this since I was 14 (I am 24). I have a master’s degree in psychology (I/O).
I remember my sophomore year of undergrad one of my roommates was talking about one of her friends that was using diet pills and had lost a ton of weight. She said she tried one and her heart started racing and she never would take diet pills again.
After I graduated from my undergrad, I moved back home until I moved to Kentucky for grad school. I hit a low that was different from other lows I had experienced before. I gained 20 pounds. I was working two jobs and never had time to work out. One job was mindless and the other job sucked the life out of me. I had no control over my eating. I was binging and purging more than ever (at the time I thought it was the worst I would ever get-a couple times a week-I later would find out how far I would fall with b/p). I would work 16 hour days and eat my emotions. The way I felt coming home from the job that sucked the life out of me (I was a counselor for teen girls that were pregnant or parenting, had behavioral issues, substance abuse issues, educational issues and were court ordered to live in the facility) was something I had never experienced before. I would spend hundreds of dollars buying food to binge on. I would go to my gym and purge it all up and then work off whatever I could until I was falling asleep on the equipment. And I still couldn’t lose the weight.
One night while walking through Wal-mart, I walked past them. Hydroxycut. I remembered what my roommate had said about them. I picked them up. I started out taking the recommended amount, but I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted to lose the weight. So I started doubling the dose. At the same time I was taking caffeine/energy pills because the vicious cycle I found myself in was…well…exhausting. And I didn’t have the energy anymore. I didn’t have the energy to work. I didn’t have the energy to deal with the girls at work. I didn’t have the energy to deal with the stress of living with my mom and step dad. I didn’t have the energy to deal with not knowing if I got into grad school. I didn’t have the energy to live in a town where I had no friends. I didn’t have the energy. So I took the pills. I took the pills and tried to fake it.
The day I found out that I was accepted into grad school was the best day. I quit my job as a counselor. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or I thought I could. I stopped taking pills. I started having more time to work out, but I was still eating my emotions. It was still stressful to live at home. My mom was extremely against me going to grad school. She frequently would send me messages saying that I would not go and I was not able to financially support this decision. She sent me a message that ended like this “Sorry to see you blow this opportunity.” Before I had even left for Kentucky. It was a very hostile situation to be in.
The moral of this story is not about my mom or about how I eat my emotions. It is about the scary situation I got myself into with diet pills. I sometimes feel my heart racing faster than normal. When I wear my heart rate monitor, my heart rate is always much faster than it should be. I am always worried about the damage I have done to my body in my attempt to get skinny, and abusing diet pills certainly did not help the matter. I am terrified to go to a doctor and get a physical or go to the dentist because I am scared that my secret will get out. I am scared that the doctor will find irregular heart beats and the dentist will see the scratches in my throat. I was even scared that the eye doctor will see something in my eyes. Like he can see the pain or the look in my eyes after I purge. Like he can see into my soul and see the truth.
Sometimes I forget that I am my biggest trigger both in my mentality and in my body. Especially now that I have been working out a lot, my weight is at the lowest I have been (121.2) in a long time. Today I was getting dressed and I caught a glimpse of my back as I was bending down to pick something up and realized how different it is. Yes it is more muscular, but I was shocked how much my spine and ribs were visible. I was even more shocked when I stood up to look at my back and my spine and ribs were still visible. I felt the little diseased voice in my head start to perk up as if to encourage me to go down that path. I then just stood up and faced the mirror straight on and was like “well that would be stupid. My body looks like this out of hard work. Hard work that consisted of staying fairly healthy (yes, I have had some slips-some rough days) and working out. I didn’t get this body, these muscles, this endurance from starving or purging.”
The past couple weeks have been rough. I’m not perfect. I’m not immune to being triggered. But like I have said, I believe that I am in control of myself and how I respond to being triggered.
So a girl that I follow is in recovery for anorexia and someone told her she needs to be eating 4500+ calories a day.
First of all, if you aren’t her doctor or nutritionist, then you don’t get a say. And if you yourself are not a doctor or nutritionist, you don’t get a say in how someone is doing their recovery telling them exactly how many calories they should have. Just because you may be “recovered” doesn’t make you an expert for multiple reasons. Every person is different. Every body is different. Every one is in different stages of recovery. This girl is actively going to treatment. She actively meeting with a therapist and meeting with a nutritionist. She is seeing people that not only know her as a person but know her body composition, stats, medical information, etc. that are CRUCIAL for creating a plan to recover. From what I know, she sees these people on a regular basis and uses her tumblr to document her recovery experience.
Second of all, for a NORMAL AVERAGE human being, eating 4500+ calories a day is absolutely insanely ridiculous UNLESS you are burning around 3000 calories a day. Again, NORMAL, AVERAGE are KEY words here. For an AVERAGE female, you should consume around 1200-1700 calories on a DAILY basis not including any working out that you would be doing.
That’s really all I have to say. I am SHOCKED first of all that this girl got so many messages (she responded publicly to them which is the only reason why I know this) telling her that she is not gaining enough weight or eating enough calories, and she handled herself extremely well. Extremely well. I’m not sure I could have dealt with those messages in that way. Or I would have deleted them. It’s just ridiculous the amount of hate mail that I have seen the past couple of days on my dash.
First of all, this is a must read story. This guy is awesome. I have run some races that he is also running and he is one of the nicest guys ever. He is 40 and competing 14 minute 5ks. He is training for the Olympics. His story was published today in the area paper and I have been inspired to think about what running has done for me.
Today I looked at my legs and realized how much strength these legs have. My muscles can easily be seen. They are defined legs. I looked at my legs and felt so grateful to have such strong, powerful legs.
I cannot say that even a year ago I would have been grateful to have legs like that.
Since I was 14, I have been counting calories. Since I was 14 I have been on a diet. Since I was 14 I have hated the girl in the mirror. I am 24 now.
I still have days where I restrict. I still have days where I lose control. I still have bad days. But most days, I look at running as my escape, as me time. I look at running as something I work for, not a way to burn calories. I look at working out as a joy and privilege.
Today I was thinking about my running times. I did my first 5k almost a year ago. My time was 28:35. A couple weeks ago I ran a 23:29 5k.
What running has done for me was allowed me to see how amazing my body can be. Not in looks, but in what my body is capable of. It has given me the confidence that I need to move forward in my life and not let disordered thinking take over my life.
For the first time in a long time, I being more open about my struggles with EDs. I use to hid the fact that I struggled with it. I use to keep it quiet. I think this is a valuable part in my life-long recovery process. I am able to verbalize things that I have been keeping quiet. For me, I am a very private person. And being able to verbalize anything in regards to this horrible, dirty secret that I have been keeping is huge for me.
On a separate and unrelated note, my thoughts on recovery. I think recovery is a life long process. I do not think that you are ever recovered. I think that you are still susceptible to being triggered and falling victim to those triggers. In my experience, and yes, I have been battling EDs for 10 years, I can go months without binging, restricting, purging, over-exercising, having negative thoughts about my body, etc and just ONE THING will trigger me and I will start to spiral. But what I have learned is that I am stronger than my EDs. I may start to spiral, but I can pick myself back up and be back on track.
I have said it before, and I will keep on saying it, recovery is a life long process. It isn’t something that you wake up and you are recovered. It is a struggle, a battle, a decision, and something that you work extremely hard for. It isn’t handed to you on a silver platter. At least for me, this is the case.
I follow a few recovery aimed blogs and I find that sometimes they are triggering for me. I read their stats and start to feel that click in my brain. It reminds me that even though I am physically fit and healthy, I am not recovered. And as messed up as this sounds, a part of me never wants to recover. A part of me longs to be that girl.
Super messed up. Extremely crazy messed up. Welcome to the brain of someone that has been battling EDs and negative body image for 10+ years. I have spent a decade of my life restricting, binging, purging, over exercising, hating the girl looking back at me in the mirror, weighing, measuring, comparing…it’s exhausting.
I was around 8 or 9 one summer when I was watching The View. They had two girls on that were recovering from eating disorders. One girl just caught me eye. She was so slim and pretty. She talked about how she would go on these “pro-ana” sites to get tips on how to be anorexic and get support from other girls.
When I was 14, I started restricting and measuring myself. I always thought of that girl.
When I was 17, I was in a college writing course and we had to do a research paper. I chose to do body image which quickly spiraled into “researching” anorexia. My mom was extremely strict with me growing up and I was only allowed monitored internet usage. But with this project, I was finally able to start going on to these “pro-ana” sites for “research” purposes. I quickly joined this community that I had kept in the back of my mind for all those years.
I started restricting even more. I dropped from 130 pounds to 117 pounds in 6 weeks. I dropped even further down to 113 pounds. I was weighing myself around 20 times a day. In a week I would consume 4 slices of bread, a handful of carrots and a few grapes. I would work out for a couple hours a day.
I was incredibly weak during those workouts. My saving grace was tennis. My senior season was coming up and I wanted my last year to be great. I knew that I was weak because I was not fueling my body properly so I started eating more. I caught myself in a downward spiral and brought myself back up.
I never got rid of restricting though. But I knew I was no longer in danger of getting as bad as I was. I went to therapy to work on my body image and I said all the right things to my therapist. But I knew that I was not “recovered”. I knew that I was just saying things to appease my therapist.
Flash forward to my senior year of my undergrad. I bought a bag of Halloween candy. And ate the whole thing. I tried to think of a way to rectify my mistake. I started purging. I looked in the mirror after I washed my hands and saw something in my eyes I had never seen before…I can’t explain it. It wasn’t everyday. It wasn’t all the time. Just on rare occasions when I would lose control. I graduated from my undergrad and moved back home until I moved away for grad school. My eating was horrible. I started binging and purging more and more until I was in the b/p cycle a couple times a week. On top of that I was working out a couple hours a day. The pounds started piling on and it was the first time I realized how important diet is. You can work out all you want but if you fuel your body the wrong way, it won’t matter.
I moved away for grad school. 143 pounds. My highest weight. I was miserable my first semester. I was 700 miles away from everyone I knew. I had no friends. I turned to food. I would inhale pizza, breadsticks, anything. I started b/p everyday for every meal. I started noticing teeth marks on my knuckles. I started noticing that I was not capable of keeping food down. People would bring food to share all the time, and I couldn’t eat it for fear that I would immediately throw it up.
I started running, again, outside. I needed an escape from my apartment. My first jaunt out I could barely make it a mile. But I kept going out everyday. I just needed an escape from being in my apartment and seeing all these triggering things. I needed an escape from being alone. The more I ran, the more accomplished I felt. 1 mile turned into 2. 2 miles turned into 4. I kept piling on the miles. I started seeing results. I started looking at my body differently. I started fueling my body differently. I started, for the first time ever, valuing health, fitness, and well-being.
I still struggle. I still have days where I go crazy, lose control, binge and then purge. I still have days where I severely restrict. I still have days where I realize that I am not recovered. And honestly, I do not think that I ever will be recovered. I think that recovery is an on-going process. I think that recovery looks different to every single person. But what I can tell you is this, I am stronger. I am stronger because I have been weak. I have been low and had to build myself back up.
I have never, healthily (I cannot believe that is a word…) seen this number on a scale. This is the lowest I have weighed while still being healthy. When I saw this number on the scale, I thought it was a fluke. But the next day it was the same. It is weird seeing that number on the scale. Even more weird to me when I think about the fact that I am seeing this number on the scale without restricting or purging.
Somehow I need to capture this moment in a bottle and tuck it away for when those thoughts come creeping back.
Also, I gave up sweets for lent…I might try and keep that going. I am impressed with how much my cravings for sweets have subsided. Some years for lent, I give up something and just decide to never take it back (flash back 5 years ago when I gave up meat for lent and I only eat poultry and fish now).