Thursday, November 29, 2012

The breaking point

I realized today that I have already reached, and passed, my breaking point. 

I hit a breaking point when I realized that my eating disorder was becoming a problem again. 

I hit a breaking point when I heard that my dad had cancer. 

I hit a breaking point when I realized that I had so much more work to do on myself before I could grow into an effective leader. 

I hit a breaking point when I realized that my self had already been fractured at least 3 times in the last several months. But the thing about it is, that breaking wasn't a bad thing. When I realized that my eating disorder was again becoming a problem, the center of my world, I went to a bookstore and got a few (now 5) books on how to deal with and overcome it.

When I found out that my dad had cancer, I decided that I was going to be there for him every step of the way; that that is what's best for me, for him, and for my sibs, and other family members. 

When I realized that I had so much more work to do before being able to grow into the leader that I want to be, I decided that I must stick with my growth and leadership plans above so that I can get to where I need to be to get to where I want to be. 

I guess it's not about how much a person can handle before they break, but how the react to hitting the breaking point. Some people look to self-destruct, I decided that I was done self-destructing and it was time to do something different. That's why I've been sharing all of this with you. At some point, I hope it makes an impression that allows you to have the same revelations and make the right choices when you hit your breaking point.

So, I don't really know what broke, exactly. Maybe it was ego. Maybe it was attachment to the way things were before. I do know that it was a good thing that whatever broke broke, cuz now I can fix what's actually wrong.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Post-it Note Therapy

A friend of mine keeps a pack of Post-It notes in her purse so that she can leave positive little notes for people at random intervals. (This goes very well with the friend of mine from college who would collect notes she found on the street...) Anyway, my friend does this to remind people of things they probably already know, but forget throughout the day. It's the same idea of all those positive little messages on Facebook...
Yeah, those.
But in real life. 

Anyway, the other night I was expressing my frustration with how much people whine at me (the general population has been warned, and a few people have been all-but cut off), and I suggested that The Emperor (who is chief offender only because we live together) make list of things that he's grateful for when he's in a really good mood, then place that list somewhere he will see it when he's in a bad mood. That way, he can be reminded of all the good things going on in his life, and the things that go wrong, as the inevitably do, he won't lose his shit quite so badly.

Of course, I'm an evolved person, so when I make a suggestion for someone else, it isn't long until I say "hey that's a really good idea, I bet it would work for me too!" and think of ways I can implement it in my own life. Then I thought of my friend and her Post-It notes. I do have a few signs posted in the house affirming me, or reminding me of things, but I don't have a list of gratitudes. This would have been a great project for over Thanksgiving weekend, but I didn't lose my mind and start crying until Sunday night, so oh well; but one of these days maybe we'll sit right down and make a few lists to place in our grumpy places. 

I, then, would need to put some in the kitchen reminding me why it's a good idea to eat at regular intervals. I have a number of reasons, and the list grows by the day as I keep up with this recovery thing, but it would be good to have it handy so I can remind myself when my blood sugar starts crashing and I go into that place where the idea of eating makes me want to throw a puppy off a cliff*. My recovery book recommends affirmations, and suggested the phrase "food is my medicine", with the idea that if a doctor prescribed you an antibiotic 3x per day, you'd take it because you wanted to get better and not have whatever infection requires 3 antibiotics a freaking day (like TB or something). It's the same idea... of course, when my doctor did tell me to eat more and regularly, I lost my mind, but that was a couple of years ago, and now I seem to be on a quest to find it again.

I dunno, maybe this post is a little more boring than the ones where I flail, but at least you know I'm not all drama**. 

*And now you know why I'm not allowed near cliffs.
**I swear to dog I'm not all drama. Just lately. Also why I'm not allowed near cliffs.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Week 4 of recovery: Thanksgiving and other tragedies

After last week's cry for help, I got a really good response, and I'm really thankful to have so many wonderful people in my life. I may have said this already, but it means a lot for so many people to be reaching out in support.

To that end, this week was a lot better than expected, and about 30 times better than last week. I almost didn't fast/restrict at all, I even ate breakfast several days this past week, (it was pie...), and mostly stuck to my lunch dates with myself, with the exception of Wednesday. 

Wednesday was different because I was up at 6:30 (eating pie at sunrise is kinda nice...) because I was going to a thing I'm going to choose to be cryptic about for the moment. I ate lunch at 11:30, then, and the circumstances of the day ended up with me having dinner after 7. However, we went to my favorite restaurant, and I had some A-M-A-Z-I-N-G food. It was so good, so made by someone's Mexican grandma, and I had just enough liquor in me that my attention to my meal completely blocked out the usual tapes, and I was totally satisfied with my normal-person-with-normal-eating-habits portion. I felt zero need to continue to eat until my stomach hurt, I didn't feel like I had lost control and compulsively cleared my plate (I even left some food on my plate); I didn't feel hungry or unsatisfied in any way, and I felt no guilt. 

I realize that this is all probably kind of confusing for the people reading this who don't have eating disorders. "You're supposed to feel like that when you eat food made by someone's Mexican grandma," you're saying. I know, I hear you, and I get it, I just have pretty much never felt that way (or at least the times that I have felt that way are few and far between). Usually when I have any kind of gourmet meal, I feel somehow unsatisfied because I've not given myself permission to enjoy myself enough, or I feel guilty because I somehow enjoyed myself too much. I'll go "oh wow, this is so good" over lots of things, but rarely will I have a completely peaceful and satisfying eating experience with myself (this is often why I don't usually eat around people I don't know, and really dislike eating alone in public). 

Whisk! Whisk! Whisk! Whisk! Whisk the 
turkey gravyyyyy! 
I rolled a 17 on my Make Gravy check, but
but only a 12 on my Make Turkey check.
Anyway, that bit of peace, (which was helped along by overwhelm and exhaustion in other areas of my life - cryptic again, sorry), rolled over into Thanksgiving so while I did restrict/fast early in the day, I gave myself permission to enjoy as much Thanksgiving food as I wanted. I even made gravy (without makeup on! - I even kinda like this picture). And, for the first time, I was able to help my mother-in-sin with some of the cooking - I don't often get an opportunity to spend quality woman-stuff time with my MIS, and it was nice to kind of kvetch with her about stuff.

I feel like I'm starting to be able to mimic how a normal, non-dieting person eats. I'm trying not to weigh myself or care about it, and while I'm kind of consumed by other thoughts, I'm still a little obsessed over food and weight and all that non-sense. It's a process, and I'm getting better.

Some of the reading I've been doing still makes me feel pretty broken, but I guess it's better than not reading it at all. It's so weird to be reading clinical stories of other people with eating disorders and think "wow, go her". No, that's not weird. It's horrible. She was really sick, I want to tell myself, not heroic. This is some serious shit. The women whose cases have been more severe than mine lost their minds to this, they didn't have better control of themselves or whatever. If anything, my body just really wanted me to continue surviving, so when I tried to force weight off by starving myself, purging, or over-exercising, it refused because my body knew better than my compulsions did. Good for me and my body. Maybe it didn't help the compulsions go away, (or maybe a lack of success did help my symptoms disappear for several years), and it definitely didn't make me less depressed, but at least I never got as sick as some of the people I've been reading about. 

One more note, while I'm thinking about this book:
Daughters who cling to the belief that they are "tragic victims" who can only control their living through food deny themselves the joys and pains of growth and the opportunity to develop competence, self-reliance, and independence. In blaming their mothers, they absolve themselves from personal responsibility and remain locked in the past, paralyzed in the present, and fearful of the future. They do not see their mothers as victims too and fail to understand and appreciate the pain and conflict that molded them.
Emphasis mine.

Monday, November 19, 2012

How You Can Help: Do you know what you say?

I want to first thank all of the people who reached out to me on Saturday to comfort and support me, and just generally be awesome. I really do appreciate the support I've received as I'm writing my way through this journey. It's a weird place to be, and there's no update for Google Maps that's going to give me a map for this thing.

A lot of people have asked me what they can do to help, or to let them know if I need anything. And earlier tonight, I decided to share with a number of my professional associates who are also my friends (emphasis because I'm not just randomly sharing this with people), which was kind of terrifying. Telling people in person, eyes fixed on my shaking hands, is a lot harder than writing about it into the internet where 6 (okay, 16) people will read it, and they're all people who know me well enough to want to know that this is going on... anyway.

So, since I've been sharing all of this, I thought it might be a good idea to start to try to answer this question of "how can I help?". The thing that comes to mind immediately is: don't talk about weight. My weight. Your weight. Some celebrity's weight. The weight loss of a woman we both know who has recently had a baby. This time when you lost a bunch of weight then put it all back on. Don't talk about that stuff.

It should go without saying that you should never offer a person with an eating disorder advice on weight loss (it doesn't); but just as importantly talking to me (or with me in a conversation among many people) about how you need to/will/want to/whatever lose weight is a really fucking bad idea. When we talk about ourselves, we say how we really feel about things. And you may not consciously think that I need to lose weight or am disgusting and awful because of something that may be as important to my value as my shoe size; but when you're talking about yourself that way, that's what I hear.

Now, it's not your fault. But the thing that I'm learning about people with eating disorders is that we are dangerously obsessed with comparing ourselves to other people as much as we're obsessed with food and our damaged body perceptions. And when you, who are much more successful than me, much thinner than me (in my eyes), so much more this and so much more that; talks about how you need to lose weight, I start to wonder "well what does she think of me then?"

I don't know what's going on in your head, and I'm not going to pretend to because I gave up omnipotence when I moved in with The Emperor, and I don't know if your desire to diet and lose weight is driven by the same obsession that has made me sick. I don't know if your weight loss is good for you or not*. And I don't consciously think that you think bad things about me because I'm not trying to lose weight, and am actually trying to be okay with where I am in my body and have a healthier image of it as it is. However, when you say something off-handed about weight or dieting, my brain goes into over-drive and I obsess about your one little comment, and start playing the tapes that tell me how worthless I am because my weight starts with a 2 on some days.

More importantly, if I ask you to stop, please remember why. My anxiety level is already so high right now because I'm fighting the status quo for my entire body that has been reinforced by just about everyone I know for my entire life. I don't know what goes on in your head when you talk about dieting and how you want to lose weight, but I know what goes on in my head when you do it, and it hurts me.

Finally, I want the people I love to stop talking shit about themselves. Seriously. If you wouldn't say it about me or to me, then don't fucking say it about or to yourself. I know better than a lot of people, as someone whose negative perceptions of herself has caused so much damage I can't eat like a normal person; that when you talk shit about yourself it does a lot of damage, and that damage is really hard to repair. If you're not trapped in an eating disorder cycle, you're already a step ahead of me in trying to heal that damage**, but for the sake of your innate beauty and divinity STOP TALKING SHIT ABOUT YOURSELF. If you can't stop completely, then stop when you're around me. I literally cannot handle it. It may or may not be true, but I view you as having a better handle on things than I do, so when someone I love and respect starts acting in ways that reinforce in me that appearance is important to beauty/value it tells me that it's okay to act like that. When someone tells me, however unconsciously, that it's okay to act like that, they might as well be telling me that I shouldn't bother with recovery and just go full bore into my eating disorder. You may not think you're saying that, but you are.

And, if weight isn't a number that is determinant in my value, then why does it have to be determinant in your value?

*I do know that 95% of people who intentionally lose weight gain it all back and more. I also understand some of the science behind why that happens. And it's not because people who intentionally lose weight lack self-control or whatever bullshit the Diet Industrial Complex is pushing this week. 
**Healing the damage done by talking shit about yourself, it should go without saying (but doesn't) is not going to happen if you continue to denigrate yourself by saying how badly you need to lose weight. You can't actually change the inside by changing the outside. You won't like yourself better thinner, you'll just want to be thinner still. That's how it works. That's how these eating disorders start. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Week 3 of recovery - Strengthening doesn't look how you want it to

This week was actually worse than last week.

Between trying to normalize my eating, avoid being a complete recluse, and recent developments in the health of a family member, I feel like I might actually break at some point here pretty soon. I feel really fragile, like that really pretty candy glass that's made out of sugar water or whatever... but then I wondered what it would take for me to break; and then what that would mean.

At this point, I don't have the option of finding out. Too many people are counting on me to come through this, and it's not how I would have chosen to build my leadership, but (as I've been saying to people this week), sometimes it takes a brick. The only trouble is that I feel like I have no support. I'm building the Tower of Babel by myself after the part in the story where g-d has knocked it down... and not only are the pieces coming apart, but no one is helping me, or even calling out when a piece is about to crush me. 

And sure, there are tons of people who will leave comments or send me messages "hey, you can talk to me", "let me know if I can do anything to help", and I don't want it to sound like I don't appreciate those messages of support or affirmation, but they really don't stop the feeling that I'm completely alone not only in this battle, but at least one other. I feel like I'm the only person invested in a particular outcome, because the people who I would look to, who I want to be in my corner, on my team, cheering for me; are too busy and lack the perspective necessary to realize that I'm in real trouble here and I need them. 

So, I feel like I'm made of glass, and that the next thing that goes wrong is going to break me. The entire operation feels futile, and part of me just wants to give up and live a life of mediocrity until I die alone and sad, but at least it would be over at that point*.

Anyway, this week was bad. 

I tried to eat regular meals (I even ate in a restaurant with a new friend on Monday, and it wasn't too bad, but my tummy hurt for hours afterward) for most of the week, but I lost control on Thursday and Friday, missing my lunch date with myself. I ended up eating one meal each day on Thursday and Friday, but I did have a midnight snack on Friday that was fairly reasonable (although, a little bingey because I ate half a box of stale crackers because they were there and I felt I needed to finish them). 

Today has been better, overall, but only through will-power. And I know why the last couple of days have been bad (I'm not going to publicize it in a public forum, but if we're friends on Facebook, you'll find out sooner or later), and I will find some way of dealing with that so that it doesn't prevent me from getting better - since this particular situation is not likely to be resolved in the near future... unless it is, but then there's so much more to deal with after that... sorry, cryptic...

I keep going back to a passage I read a few weeks ago that talked about architects and arches in buildings. It said that when the architect wants an arch to bear more weight (and be stronger), the architect just designs the arch to carry more weight. Bearing more weight makes the individual parts of the whole smush** together more, and when they're wedged together they bear more than they would otherwise. So while, there's a part of me that feels like the entirety of the last 3 weeks, 2 months, or 15 years have been gigantic (and cosmically hilarious) acts of futility, another part of me feels like there's some design going on here. I'm under pressure so that I can handle more pressure.

Or something. 

I don't know. Either that or the next thing that falls is going to take off my head.

*I just want to emphasize that I am not suicidal. Nihilistic, yes. Depressed, for fucking sure. But I'm doing everything I can to avoid self-destructing. I want life to be better, not over.
**Technical term

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What I'm afraid of...

Most of the time when we pick up a coping mechanism it's to deal with fear... or at least that's how it seems. We push people away because we're afraid of getting hurt by them (and by "we", I guess I mean "I"); even children cover their eyes to avoid being seen (I read some research or saw a TED talk about this recently and I thought it was interesting). And so, there's an idea in my head that a lot of this eating disorder stuff has to do with fear. 

I'm not afraid of spiders or snakes; darkness or ghosts or going to Hell*. I'm pretty much not afraid of anything that could actually hurt me**. I am afraid of gaining weight, though. I am afraid of all of the research linking "obesity" with "increased mortality" and "metabolic diseases". I'm afraid that I'll get or already have some kind of cancerous legions in my insides because my Celiac went untreated for so long. I'm afraid of ending up in the hospital, not being able to pay my bills and losing everyone and everything that I love because of an illness I couldn't control. 

I'm afraid that all the horrible things said about me in my youth are true. Things like how I'm lazy, how I'll never amount to anything, and no one will ever love me. I'm afraid of backbiting, and being called out for being fat. I'm afraid that the people I love will reject me for my shape and size, even though it's not like my habits or style of dress hides my body at all***. I'm afraid that my fatness - not my health, my fatness - will prevent me from being able to do my job, advance in my career and ever make anything of myself. 

Every time I feel the digestive grumblings caused by food going through me and having its nutrients absorbed to give energy to my body, I'm afraid. My workbook calls it the "washout period", where soon after you start trying to normalize your eating, you experience a lot of intestinal distress because your body got so used to the infrequent use of these vital organs, so it produces a lot of gas and discomfort. It hurts a lot, and has made the last few days a little extra awful.

I'm afraid that I'm wrong about everything, and that the tapes are right. That the people who recorded those tapes are right. That my value really is tied to the number on the scale. That "fat acceptance" is just a thing that lazy stupid fat people parade about to make themselves feel better, and that if I try to accept myself the way I am, I'll just get fatter and stop caring about my appearance, stop being loved, stop getting laid, and not be able to have the life that I want.

I'm also afraid that my eating disorder will keep me from having the life that I want. The people I love don't want to be around someone who obsesses over food, dieting; who can't keep up because she doesn't eat enough, or who secretly eats all of the ice cream at once, then feels like the worst person in the world and throws it all up. No one I know who cares about me at all wants to see me spiral into a place where I'll intentionally eat so much gluten that I make myself sick (and actually, the amount isn't that much); they wouldn't want to be around a person who would do that to herself.

So, I'm stuck between being afraid of never being loved because of my size and shape, and being afraid of being abandoned because the thing I chose to deal with that first fear will make me so sick I'd be impossible to be around, let alone be capable of returning any emotional investment. Which leaves me with one option: recovery... but that just brings up more fears. Fear of gaining weight, of never coming out of it, of not being able to hold on and actually going crazy not just feeling crazy; fear that I'm not ready to take charge, fear that seeking help through therapy would just send me back on a spiral downward because I have almost never met a doctor who didn't tell me that I was too fat and needed to lose weight****; and I've certainly never met a therapist whose competencies included working with eating disorders. I'm afraid to do it all on my own, and I'm afraid to ask for help. 

Sometimes - no, often - I'm afraid to eat. Right now, I'm kind of afraid to go to sleep. 

But, I decided before I started talking about this that I needed to face those fears. Because the thing that is worse than me going through it, being stuck in the place between two fears that is so scary it creates a third, entirely different set of terrors; the thing worse than that is knowing that there are people who are or will be in that place and in need of my help. I have the mind to make this make sense, not just for me, but for others as well, and I'm tired of knowing that other people feel this way too and they don't have a way out because they were never "sick enough" for anyone to notice that their lives were falling apart.

So, I expand the rituals and include a date with myself everyday to eat one meal. Some days, that will be the only thing I eat in any structured sort of way; other days, I'll have that meal and two others, maybe even a snack or two and it'll be okay because I gave myself permission. And I expand the social rituals to include a few new people or events, hope that I don't get too terrified when someone touches me. And I expand the rituals around my vulnerabilities, hoping to make them meaningful expressions rather than self-flagellating appeals for attention. 

My fear of not being loved is out-matched only by the fear of not completing my mission and leaving the world a better place for my having been in it. What scares me most is not being abandoned for my condition, but being unable to change it and thus unable to challenge the status quo that created it. 

*Boom, Jewish, already taken care of.
**However, I am fairly risk-averse.
***And usually by the time I am in love with someone, they've already seen me naked at least once.
****The doctor responsible for the "Independent Medical Evaluation" I was ordered to get after a car accident a couple of years ago even wrote in the goddamn evaluation that I was too fat and needed to exercise more and lose some weight to alleviate whiplash. Fuck that guy in a ear. Seriously. Dickbag. I'm still mad about it.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Recovery week 2

This week I felt like a crazy person. 

I rollercoastered all over the place, from feeling like I was totally fine to wanting to tear my skin off because I hated myself so much. I went from "I can handle this" and giving myself permission, to justifying not eating, and feeling like I had to either go straight to McDonald's and eat until I got sick, or never ever ever eat ever again. (Instead of either option, I took a very angry nap, then very angrily ate dinner. I didn't think you could eat angrily, but my body was very mad at me.)

I kept up my reading, and highlighted things that could be helpful; did all the exercises in both books, and even read from my devotional (for lack of a better term). I bought a pair of jeans that fit, and told myself that I could have them because I was rededicating myself to healthful, normal eating. I disregarded, then regarded, then disregarded, etc the notion of intentional weight loss. I even walked on our elliptical machine for about 20 minutes on Friday and decided that I would like to go swimming* on Monday; that I wanted to do these things because my body feels like crap and moving around will get it back to feeling better. After my moderate exercise, I even felt the emotional buzz of the neurotransmitters produced by the increased blood-flow to my brain. I told myself that exercise makes your brain work better, and that that was the goal, not being thin because, let's face it: I, Rachel Setzer, will never be thin. 

Meanwhile, a slew of men-folk have been so kind as to say (paraphrasing) "ERMAGERD YOU'RE PRETTY", which I can't deny makes me feel pretty awesome. And yeah, I know that there are guys who find me attractive, but it's nice to know that someone thinks I'm stupifyingly pretty. And (and and and), this is the first time in my life that this has happened. Kind of ironic, don'cha think?** 

My insides are starting to normalize-ish, after being sick for so long; although I still can't seem to handle flesh, dammit. And for the first time in a long time, I both wanted, and ate, a piece of fruit. I think my rational mind has decided it's okay to have some asparagus this week too. I've had salad this week (which I was avoiding because of the, let's say, discomfort, that had previously resulted from too much ruffage).

I worked this week. It wasn't a banner week, by any means, but I did work. I've kept my promise to myself to have 1-2 appointments a week, and while not all of my appointments have been profitable, getting back into the swing of things is a lot better than focusing on what I'm not doing. 

I celebrated the election returns with friends and fellow liberals, and even went to a birthday party where we made an epic blanket fort for my friend who was turning 31. I reconnected with people I hadn't seen in months, and made social plans for this coming week. And saw Skyfall with The Emperor. 

The week was okay. I had some wins, and I thought about things that weren't related to food or eating or hating myself for eating/not eating. I still haven't called either of the therapists that my doctor recommended, but I will do that eventually. I do want to get better. I do want to develop normal eating habits (and know the difference between hungry and nauseated... or nauseated and full), and I want to move on with my life. What's more, I realize it's going to take more than two weeks and a few exercises from a book about eating disorders to get to the point where I do have normal eating habits and the ability to live my life rather than spend it obsessing on food, eating, not eating, and hating myself for any of it.

Where I'm at sucks pretty hard, but I've been reaching out for loved ones and they've been reaching back, so I'm pretty sure I'll be okay.

*Year-round pool, bitcheeeeeeeez
**Aside: but then I see all these things on Facebook "seduce my mind and you can have my body blah blah blah", and I think, no, you know what? I want to be objectified sometimes. By guys whom I also find objectifilicious. And that is the difference in the ERMAGERDs of late.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Spoke too soon...

Today was a bad day. 

I didn't really sleep last night, and I can't tell you why, other than I was too fucking cold, so I couldn't get to sleep until after 3 (I didn't think to heat up my warm-thing until around 2). Then I woke up early cuz my tummy was rumbling, but I stayed in bed and tried to get a little extra sleep instead of having breakfast (this is common).

Then, I had to get ready in a bit of a hurry because I had a lunch meeting in Bellevue. As I was leaving, the Emperor said "you look tired". I almost lost my mind. In fact, when I got into the car and started driving to my meeting, I may or may not have had a clip of Glenn Beck saying "I THINK I'M GOING TO LOSE MY MIND TODAY" playing in the back of my head. 

At my meeting, I decided that I was only going to have half my lunch and take the rest for my proper lunch date at 2pm (the one time every day where I make myself eat something), and I was not feeling like my usual bubbly self, so it was kind of difficult to talk to someone new, let alone eat near them. It was a little embarrassing.

When I got home, I pretty much gave up on the rest of the day, cuz I felt like sleep-deprived, cold-symptom-having, fat, horrible, stupid, stressed out shit. Upon trying to illicit some sympathy from the Emperor, we had a fight instead. Yaaaaay. He admitted being wrong, and I laid down in an attempt to nap or something, but instead ended up in this really bad mental place where I wanted to drive to McDonald's in my PJs, order and eat half the menu - or eat until I puked anyway. (At this point in my life, with the celiac and all, there's no way fast food doesn't make me sick.) I also wanted to go to Whole Foods and buy a bunch of comparatively safe junk food and eat until I puked. 

Instead I took a very angry nap, but continued to hate myself for thinking these things.

When I woke up I was desperately hungry. I had nachos with black olives and half an avocado. A normal-seeming amount of food, but it made me kinda blerg anyway. Later I had a small baked potato with butter and sour cream, then laid down again because through all of this, I'm still exhausted as shit. A little while later, the Emperor came in to bitch about some work thing that I don't understand, and I imagined myself running past him to throw up.

Later still I received a a gchat from someone who makes me feel broken, and continued hating myself.

Then, finally, (or I guess not, since I'm still up), the Emperor wanted to listen to the podcast from last week's Bill Maher. The arguing of right-and-left-wing hacks, the sound of people screaming over each other, trying to force-prove themselves right, made me leave the room, grab my blanket and frog and curl up on the bathroom floor, telling myself that if I really did need to purge, it was okay. It's not a moral failing if you purge, I told myself, this is going to take time. I didn't purge, instead I painted the nails whose polish I had anxiously scraped off throughout the day. I'm surprised I had the skill for it, though, because the yelling in the other room was making me shake.

At this point, I'm wound so tight, I'm starting to wish I had a propeller. I'm even refusing the affectionate cuddles of my dog (which is unusual and kind of heartbreaking, when I think about it objectively). I just want to hop in my TARDIS and run away... or become someone else...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Feeling better doesn't mean I am better

I'm engaged in a process right now that is going to require a lot of me, and I have to remind myself not to let it go because the tapes have become quieter. Since I've been keeping my food journal, reading my books and writing to you to keep you updated, I've been more mindful of my value and the volume of Mable has been turned down. 

But she's not gone yet. This whole process is meant to give Mable a retirement. I want to get to the point where I don't need her, and where I can simply take care of my fuzzy-self (Emmie) without needing supervision or tapes of this subconscious creature that doesn't really know what's best, but has always been there for me. Mable isn't bad. She's not trying to destroy me, she's trying to protect me and when I'm not in an environment or situation where I need protecting, she'll take a backseat, but she's still there keeping a watchful, witchful eye. 

The thing though, even though she means well, is that she does destroy me. If I'm not careful about what I put into my head, if I'm not careful about my habits and my needs, she'll come back again. Feeling better, (which I do right now, after a week of giving myself permission both to eat and to not eat), does not mean that I am better. Just because my symptoms go away because I'm paying very close attention to them, does not mean that I am magically fixed. That was the problem the first time I dealt with this. I decided only to treat the symptoms, but I never had the tools to treat the underlying cause and prove to myself that I don't need Mable.

My circumstances are not what they were when I developed disordered eating. I almost never feel so anxious that the only way to alleviate it is to throw up (almost never). I almost never get lectures about what, when, how, or how much to eat or not eat. I am not surrounded by vapid teenagers (or adults) parroting their parents' views on what a person's body should look like. I am also not an awkward, ugly teenager. But I have been in touch with those feelings very recently, and it still stings. 

Actually, it doesn't sting. It hurts. It aches. It aches a lot. All that love from my childhood lost, and it burns from the core of me, destroying all of my good memories because sometimes it feels like Mable is the only thing I gained from my childhood. Now, I know that my various parents did the best that they could with the tools that they had. I know this because I developed a parent/care-taker in my eating disorder, who is still trying to do her best to make sure that I am taken care of and that my need to be loved is met.

That's all this is about, really. I needed love. I was taught that you couldn't be loved unless you did things a certain way. I was denied love until and unless I did things that way, and it taught me to have a disordered relationship with food, and that the only control I could have was through Mable. If my parents knew better, they would have done better. But they didn't, and that's not necessarily their fault now. Maybe they can be blamed for not knowing better then, but in order to do that, I'd have to get into my TARDIS* and go give them lectures.

That I feel loved now may eliminate the need for Mable to keep me "in line" and lovable, but it doesn't make her go away. My thoughts and tendencies aren't repaired because I've spent a week affirming myself, being affirmed by loved ones, and giving myself permission to feel my feels, rather than suppress them in an attempt to control my appetite. Feeling better doesn't mean that I am better.

But, you know what, I'll take it. It's a start.

*Time And Relative Dimension In Space; also, you can't travel around in your personal timeline, it causes problems, even if you are a Timelord

Monday, November 5, 2012

Naming and breaking

Last night I decided to give my eating disorder a name: Mable. So when I feel the need to restrict or whatever I can shift the shame from myself and onto the disorder who is to blame. Mable prevents me from being able to take care of my "fuzzy self", whom I've previously named Emmie. 

In talking about all of this, I've received a lot of support. My friends are praising me for my "strength", and they're proud of me for being open about it and sharing my struggles. On the one hand, I'm grateful for this perception and the support of people I love, but on the other hand it makes me sad. I'm not sharing my struggles because I'm strong, if I was strong this wouldn't be a problem. Either it wouldn't be a problem because I wouldn't have it, or it wouldn't be a problem because it wasn't interfering with my life. And yeah, I know, that's not necessarily what strength is about, but Mable thinks that I'm weak and that that's why I need her.

Eating disorders (along with a multitude other self-destructing behaviors) are defense mechanisms. The needs I fill with disordered eating are fairly normal needs: control, mostly, but also wanting to feel special, seeking power, seeking relief from stress and anxiety. Something happened in my life that made me turn to this defense mechanism for help meeting these needs. And, it's not good or bad, it just is. Everyone turns to something else when they're in need, and most people have at least one self-destructive habit that meets a need for them; it's not good or bad, it just is.

So, for me, and a number of other people like me, this is where Mable steps in. She's obsessed with portion control, my weight, how my clothes look, how my profile looks in the mirror, the texture of my skin, whether I'm eating vegetables or sugar... and on their own, these concerns aren't damaging, but put them all together and then obsess over them and you have a destructive habit that plays on insecurities and, in my case, makes me want to vomit pretty much all of the time. (But wanting to doesn't mean that I do it.)

And I go back and forth. It's a difficult journey with a lot of potholes, and I'm grateful for the encouragement I receive because it helps me to get up out of those potholes. But in a few weeks, when the novelty of a friend struggling with her eating disorder fades, I fear that I'll be seen not as strong, but as an attention-whore. (I think that may be the case in some minds already.) Dealing with something that has taken up such a huge part of my life is going to be on-going for a long time, and the front of my mind for several weeks, and I know how people are about things like this. At first it's all "hey, I'm here for you", then after a while you get sick of it and want to say "fuck, aren't you over that yet?". 

Or maybe that's just me. 

I know that, whatever else happens, I'm going to break more before I can put the pieces back together. This thing is so much a part of me that I pretty much have to be crushed into dust to separate Mable from me. I'm going to keep talking about it so that I can stay on track and not fall into my own "fuck aren't you over that yet?" trap, but I fear it'll wear on people. I know that this is why I need therapy, but I hope that those who have expressed their support will also be able to avoid that trap. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Soul Poverty (and week one of eating disorder recovery)

So, after my last post, I had a moderate amount of support from my friends, but I suspect a lot of people simply missed it because the last week has been pretty hectic for a lot of people I know - what with the holiday and everything. If you want to read my post on having an eating disorder, it'll get you caught up on some of what I'm going to talk about in this post.

This week, I started reading some books, and my doctor gave me a couple of numbers for therapists who specialize in eating disorders. One book has me keeping a daily journal of what I eat, when, why, and my emotions and compulsions surrounding food. I've noticed a pattern already: I skip at least one meal a day (usually breakfast); I feel the need to rationalize and justify everything I eat; I eat much less when I'm out and about all day; I have to focus really hard to enjoy my meal and avoid bingeing; and I almost always have tapes playing in my head yelling at me for one thing or another, and it's a real challenge to avoid judging myself for eating a meal or skipping it. 

At times, I feel more-or-less okay. At other times, I feel completely broken and hopeless. It's not completely dark in the place where I am, but it's grey enough to be overwhelming and everything looks and feels the same. (Of course, if we stick with our common wisdom, it's not what it looks or feels like that's important, but what it is like. However, at this point I'm so lost, I don't know what is from what feels. More on that in another post.) This brings me to the idea of soul poverty. 

Soul poverty is similar to a concept a lot of people know as "scarcity mindset" (google), but instead of being focused on there not being enough of anything ever, you've resigned to that fact and are stuck in this cycle of looking for ways to make your not-enough stretch. You pursue relationships, professions, hobbies, and so on that aren't right for you but they give you a feeling that you can push beyond your not-enough, and one day be enough. The problem with that, though, is that you can never turn your not-enough into enough through outside things. I will never become enough by pursuing a relationship that simultaneously makes me feel amazing and broken (I don't think the person whom I've pursued realizes that that's going on, but I'm grateful to him for his wisdom in that regard - bygones); I will never become enough by pursuing a Mary Kay career (and the thing about that, is that you already have to be enough and know it before you can get anywhere in any kind of business, let alone one that is all about leadership, consistency, and being able to "expend a significant amount of physical and emotional energy"). 

You can't become enough by looking outside yourself. Food doesn't fix it. Exercise doesn't fix it. Sex doesn't fix it. Shopping doesn't fix it. Church doesn't fix it. Books don't fix it. Soul poverty, that feeling of never being enough doesn't go away because you work hard, play hard, love hard, or give up entirely. The problem with this concept is that it's ingrained in you so deeply that no matter how hard you work or play or love or not, it gets worse. Because it's inside you. I would like to say that I know how to overcome it, but if I did I think I would have already. 

I haven't gotten that far yet, though. The comfort of the emotional ghetto (apologies) is hard to overcome. And not because I'm actually thriving in this inner-world that feels like a movie about growing up poor, it's comfortable because it's all I've ever known. I become overwhelmed when the Emperor does something that is good because he knows it's good and will help me; expecting no reprisals. I'm overwhelmed by the help offered by people I barely know. And I would like nothing more than to abandon this entire thing and pretend that I'm totally healthy again, but if I did I would be stuck here, in this place where I will never be enough, no matter what outside thing I try to be to make myself enough. 

I realize though, that this never-enough is what has been holding me back. It controls everything that I do and made me susceptible to having an eating disorder in the first place. I don't know if it would help to examine where that came from, but I do know that those are outside things and aren't going to make it enough. I don't think that my not-enough is the same as being broken, but it certainly makes me feel that way sometimes; however, I also don't imagine that if I changed it and was enough I would never feel broken again. Still, I have to change it, because I don't want to be impoverished in my soul. I want joy and fulfillment out of my life, not struggle and heartache. 

More importantly though, I want to be able to teach others how to be enough. This week I've realized that the struggle that I'm having is something that a lot of other people go through, and I want to help them out of it, but in order to do so I have to get to the other side. You can't give something you don't got, as the saying goes; also, the mess is the message.

You gotta get in to get out?