Tag Archives: Choices

RecoverED.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on here, so buckle down: it’s gonna be a long one. It’s funny how the things you need SO MUCH at certain times in your life suddenly aren’t as central anymore. At one time, this blog was an important recovery tool for me. It gave me a safe place to learn to use my voice, to admit to people the things I thought were to shameful to share, and a chance to figure out and define my beliefs about the world, apart from the influence of the eating disorder.

I don’t need it anymore.

For more than a year and a half, I have been “in recovery”. I’ve had a few lapses (or more than a few, but who’s counting?), and have sometimes been dragged kicking and screaming away from my eating disorder, but the general trajectory has been towards recovery. And, after a year and a half “in recovery”, I can now tell you honestly that I am RECOVERED.

I often wondered how I would know that I was recovered, or if it would really happen. Most of the time, I believed I would live in a half-recovered world, holding onto a few restrictions and a few rules, but be mostly okay. You know what? That’s BULLSHIT. ANY eating disorder is too much eating disorder. Full recovery is possible, and you have to fight your ass off until you get there.

This January, I realized it was the 17 year anniversary of my eating disorder. I decided I wasn’t going to let it get to 18. 18 year olds are considered adults. I was NOT going to have an adult eating disorder.

I started challenging. I ate foods I never thought I’d eat again if I couldn’t throw them up or exercise compulsively til every last calorie was used up. I cried and choked and gagged at first, but I kept doing it until the scary foods no longer triggered an emotional response. I thought I’d end up overdoing it on the forbidden foods, once I let myself have them, but once they’re not forbidden anymore, I can have a normal relationship with them. Sometimes I want one thing for snack, sometimes I want another. For those of you wondering, eating those foods did NOTHING to change my body, either. All of my pants still fit comfortably, and my bicep is looking more ripped than ever 😉

I started challenging the emotional stuff, too. I had given away some of my stories, but I was still holding back on a few. They were all variations on a theme . . . if I told one, I’d told them all, right? Wrong. Once they stopped festering inside me, and I learned that people wouldn’t think any differently of me if they knew them, they stopped invading my thoughts. Now, they sort of float in and float out again. Sometimes they make me upset for a moment, but it isn’t all-consuming anymore. I’ve learned to sit with whatever comes up, and still be okay. It didn’t happen right away, but the more I let go, the more the thoughts and memories and flashbacks let go of me.

And, because we know recovery isn’t all about food, or the body, or even our backstories, I’ve started challenging life. Now that I’ve separated enough from the ED voice, I know when something challenging is good scary, or bad scary. If it good scares me, I do it. If I don’t want to do it, I do it.  If it makes me uncomfortable, I do it. If it makes me look foolish, I do it. I spent far too many years not living life, so now I’m going to travel, and play, and do headstands (safely – still getting the bones back), and jump in puddles, and eat things I’ve never eaten before, and postpone studying to hang out with a friend, and wear a bathing suit, and do yoga on a mountain top and . . . well, I’m going to do it all.

So how do I know I’m recovered? It’s not like all of my past suddenly went away. It’s still a part of who I am. I can just live with it now, and not have to fight it all the time. Good things happen, bad things happen, days get rough, but I’m still okay. I can walk down the street and think to myself, “I’m happy” – without any backlash, or thoughts of undeservedness, and without needing a reason why I’m happy. There are still things I don’t like about my body, but I can live with it, and I’m not going to make it do something it doesn’t want to do. It has earned a rest. I think this quote sums it up the best:

Peace

 

Being “in recovery” doesn’t always feel good. It really kind of sucks. “In recovery” is all about hard work, and learning new ways of life, and challenging everything. “Recovered” is still hard work, but it feels SO much better, because you’re stronger now. Nobody recovers because they’re strong. The act of recovering makes a person strong. Someday, you’ll be strong enough to know you’re okay, and that the fight was worth it. It is. It’s so much better on the other side, my friends. I can’t wait to see you all there.

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Moving On Up

I’d like to start out by apologizing for my lack of posting. I know I promised a series on “How x Saved Me From My Eating Disorder”, but it somehow fell by the wayside. I spent my holiday trying to maximize my free time, and see friends who were only home for limited stays. Then, I ended up falling into a place of uncertainty about using my voice. I tend to be an “all-or-nothing” kind of girl, and when I found out that my voice had been used for harm instead of good, I chose to shut it down completely. I slowly came to my senses, and found a balance.

Since then, I’ve been working on creating a blog/website for my new holistic nutrition business. (If you’d like the link, please contact me. I don’t necessarily want to link all the personal stuff I’ve posted here to a business I’m trying to keep somewhat professional). That, plus school, plus managing a store full time, plus board-of-directoring, plus therapy, plus trying to maintain some semblance of a yoga practice and social life has left me somewhat burned out.

Today, however, I made a big decision, and I thought it should be shared:

I’m selling my Wii.

If you haven’t been reading, or don’t remember, my Wii is the only scale in my house. I figured it was safer than a “real” scale, since it takes so long to boot up (is that the phrase you tech-savvy kids are using today?) and I couldn’t bother booting up more than once a day (usually). Turns out, there is NO SUCH THING as a safe scale. I was still obsessed, and now I had an on-screen chart showing me a graph of my weight loss, and then weight gain. OH! And did I mention that a little voice tells you, after the number flashes on the screen, “That’s Underweight!” The day when it announced “That’s Normal!” nearly did me in. Standing naked on a Wii balance board, sobbing, while being stared at by a computer animated version of yourself is an experience that I don’t recommend.

So this sale marks the end of another piece of my imprisonment. Just maybe, by unchaining my leg from the scale, my heart will feel a little lighter, and my mind a little freer. Oh! And my wallet a little fatter. And you know what? I think I’m okay with not knowing. I’ll never know til I try.

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Dammit (Janet) – Exercise Addiction

I’m sick. It’s just a cold, but it’s my first one in a year, and it’s taking it out of me.

The bigger problem: I’m supposed to be going to yoga class right now.

Now, as WGT well knows, while I admit to having overexercised in the past as a part of my eating disorder, I will SWEAR UP AND DOWN that I do not now, nor have I ever had an exercise addiction. As far as I am concerned, the mechanism of my eating disorder was based on a series of obsessive calories in/calories out (and then some) calculations, and exercise was obviously a big part of those calculations. But when I decided to recover, I considered my exercise obsession a thing of the past.

Today, however, I’m beginning to have doubts.

Dammit.

I had a midterm and a presentation today at school, and was fully planning on leaving at lunch (long presentations prevented that), but was still planning on going to yoga class. I have a studio introductory pass: I have to get the most out of that 30 days for $30, don’t I?

So I’m sitting on my couch, binge-drinking water, Emergen-C, and tea, and trying to psych myself up to get out the door for class. It’s cold and rainy in Toronto today, though . . . surely that will make my cold worse? And if I get sicker, and I have to miss work, it’s going to really mess me up financially, especially since it’s the holidays.

But . . . in all honesty, my body has been freaking me out lately. My thighs seem to be touching  differently,  and my waist is looking more solid these days. I haven’t weighed myself in about 6 weeks, which is the longest I’ve gone in, well, ages, by about 4 weeks.  It’s a combination of trying to overcome my obsession with the number on the scale, and the fear of what that number will be . . . as well as the fact that the only scale in my house lives in the form of my Wii Fit Plus, which I only use as a scale. If I stop weighing myself, I can sell it and put the money towards more yoga classes!

Long story short, I didn’t go to yoga class. And I’m freaking out. I’m freaking out about my body, and I’m freaking out about being a lazy person, and I’m freaking out about being faced with the fact that I have to admit to an exercise addiction.

It’s so frustrating. Everyone else seems to get to exercise as much as they want, without anyone telling them it’s a problem, and without having to exercise as much as they can. (insert pity party here)

So I’m sitting with it. I hate it. I keep debating whether to run myself through a yoga sequence at home, or just take a sick day. (Sick days? What are those? As it stands, I’ve only had 3 days off in the past month . . . most of which have been spent studying.)

The moral of the story is: I’ll survive. But it sucks.

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Get Out And Stay Out

Get Out And Stay Out, from the musical 9 to 5

This was my “Get out of my head, ED” song during my recovery. This is not my bootleg, nor do I condone bootlegging, but I thought you should see the whole video. SJB is pretty stellar, and you should see her whole performance. 

Have you ever seen the movie, “Sleeping With The Enemy?” Julia Roberts plays a woman trapped in an abusive relationship. She fakes her own death to escape her husband, but he figures it out and tracks her down. *SPOILER ALERT* She kills him.

But what do you do when the abusive relationship is in your own head? It’s not just the eating disorder voice. That one I can recognize and separate myself from, but there is another voice. It’s been with me from my earliest memories, at 2 or 3, standing, staring in the mirror, telling me I’m fat and ugly, that I hate myself, and tearing chunks out of my thighs. That voice uses my own voice. I don’t know where it begins and I end, or if it is, in fact, me.

I was horrified this week in school learning about the extent of the irreversible damage starvation can do to your body. It made me realize: I wasn’t waging a war with my body, I was waging a war with myself. I don’t want to destroy my body, I’ve been trying to destroy myself, to kill off the part of me that is so unworthy and unlovable. I don’t know what part that is anymore.

But how am I supposed to leave my abusive relationship? If I run, it comes with me. If I hide, it’s right there beside me. I feel like it’s come down to the final showdown. I can’t live my life with this battle in my head anymore, but I feel like if I try to run, it’ll kill me anyhow. It’s “kill or be killed”, but it’s me either way.

It’s like being trapped in a burning building. Do you try to jump out the window and take your chances or give up and let yourself burn? I’ve got to find the courage to jump. I’m scared of what will be waiting for me. I’m afraid of what will happen if I catch up with myself. This is it: the big battle. This is where it started, and where it has to end.

Wish me luck.

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Eating Disorder Recovery: Clothing On A Budget

You’ve made it to Part 3!

As tricky as general life and food are, clothing is no less traumatizing. What once fit suddenly doesn’t. You watch the numbers in your pants change week after week. Early in my recovery, I could fluctuate 2+ sizes in a single day due to bloating. Clothing was not fun.

Here’s the thing: whether you are on a tight budget or have limitless funds at your disposal, you’re not going to want to buy too many clothes during the recovery process. Yes, you need to accommodate your changing body (ugh, this is starting to sound like a puberty pamphlet), but the more you buy, the more you’ll have to throw out when your size changes. There are ways around this, however.

  1. Stop reading fashion magazines/blogs/etc.  Not only are they bad for your self esteem, but you’ll just make yourself miserable knowing you’re not able to stay “on trend”.
  2. Leggings. Buy the biggest size you can get away with now, and they’ll last you through many pounds of weight gain. But please: leggings are not pants (unless you are going to/leaving/in a yoga/fitness class). Make sure your bum is covered.
  3. Dresses. These are more forgiving than just about any other clothing item. They fit through many sizes and can be paired with tights and sweaters to get you through many seasons.
  4. Jeans. Yes, this is the one thing you’ll need to buy over and over again. Everyone needs a pair of jeans. Get rid of them as soon as they don’t fit, and try to limit yourself to one pair at each size (less to throw out).
  5. Flowy tops. I’ve been accused many times of hiding in my clothes. I am the queen of “you can’t see my silhouette”. Yes, I’m uncomfortable with my body, but also, the same flowy tops have gotten me through many size changes. It’s economical. If I had purchased fitted tops at my smallest, I would have had to throw a whole lot more clothes out.
  6. Keep it simple. If you stick with basic cuts, classic pieces, and minimal patterns,  you can get away with wearing the same things over and over again. Accessorize to make it fresh.
  7. Thrift stores, sale racks, hand-me-downs. These will be your best friends. Another great option is having a clothing exchange. My friend Tess’ mom Nicky (Hi ladies!) hosts one twice a year, and I always get lots of great new stuff. Everyone brings things they don’t want anymore and throws them in a pile. Then, everyone climbs in and hunts for buried treasure. I scored an awesome pair of Theory dress pants last time.
  8. Fall in love with shoes. My friend Michelle calls shoes “the great equalizers”. They fit at any size. If you have cash to burn (ha!) focus your spending on shoes.

I waited until my weight was stable for 6 months before I started buying clothing that fell outside these rules. Sometimes I even show my waist. It really sucked wearing the same things over and over again, but I’d ask myself, would you rather have that new shirt or a fifth of a therapy session? Therapy almost always won out. Making it my choice made it easier when the green-eyed monster reared his ugly head. So my last tip, borrowed from a great survivor/thriver:

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Eating Disorder Recovery On A Budget

Settle in, folks. This one is going to be a series.

There is a major problem with how people with eating disorders are treated. I recently read a story about a girl in the United States who died from her eating disorder while her mom was away learning to be a truck driver. It was the only job she could find that would give her necessary insurance to get her daughter treatment. It’s not an uncommon story.

In Canada, it doesn’t matter if you have insurance. There are too few resources here and, as a result, anyone without a whole lot of private funding gets put on waiting lists for 6 months – 2 years. It can take a lot less time than that to die of an eating disorder. And even if you get approved to be sent to an American treatment centre, your insurance can back out after on a technicality and leave you stuck with a bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Having found myself fired from my job because I “no longer met the requirements” for my job (ie. your bones are creepy, so you can’t work here any more), I had zero money and a big problem to tackle. I was too sick to work, and was on long waiting lists for treatment. I had to figure out a lot of things really quickly. This is what worked/didn’t work for me. You may disagree with what I’m saying, but I invite you to take the parts you like and throw the rest away.

  1. Decide how badly you want recovery. You’re going to have to do many things you don’t want to do. You’re going to have to get really honest with people you don’t want knowing anything about yourself. You’re going to have to humble yourself time and time again. If shame is a big trigger for you (I know it is for me), get used to it. 
  2. Find any and all (legal) sources of money. Get on unemployment. See if you qualify for disability. This is the tricky one: come clean with family members about what you’re going through, and find out if they’re able/willing to help you cover costs.
  3. Try to find a therapist who operates on a sliding scale. They charge according to financial need. (If you’re in Toronto, drop me a line. I know a couple of good ones and can point you in their direction.) If you already have a therapist, you’re going to have to decide how important it is for you to stay with him/her, or if you can look for someone who charges less.
  4. Get ready to make sacrifices. Food, housing, and therapy. Those are the things you need. The rest is optional. Seriously. Get ready to dig into the back of your cupboard to use the ends of all the shampoo bottles, etc. you have stashed away. I started this in May and made it til Christmas before I had to start using Vaseline instead of moisturizer. (Do not recommend. Break-out city.)
  5. Google. It will be your best friend. Search out drugstore, grocery store, etc flyers so you know what weeks you can buy the necessities on sale. Find free festivals, movie screenings, etc. in your city so you have at least some “entertainment” options. Enter contests. You can win some fun stuff.
  6. Sell off anything you don’t need and won’t miss. Save the cash. You’ll need it.
  7. Learn to knit. It’s a great way to pass all the time you’ll have not working, not going on expensive outings, not shopping, and not engaging in eating disordered behaviors. Also, it’s an inexpensive way to do Christmas/Birthdays/etc. I learned to knit in October, and had 5 scarves ready for gifts by Christmas.
  8. Give of yourself. You may not have money, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to offer. Help people out without expecting anything in return, and karma can surprise you. Not only will you feel better for having contributed something, but I have done “good deeds” that led to jobs 10 years later, and have volunteered for things that have turned into paying jobs. Don’t do more than you are able, but know that you don’t always have to be paid “now”. Karma’s got your back.

These are the basics to start you off. Upcoming in the series: Food, Clothes, and Yoga on a budget. Anything I’ve missed?

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The Sadder But Wiser Girl

I’m exhausted. I know, I know. That seems to be the human condition these days: everyone is tired. But honestly, I haven’t felt this bad physically since the depths of my eating disorder. I’m worn out, dizzy, weepy, and a flight of stairs can do me in. My naturopath says this is normal, as everything in my body and mind is shifting, and the only remedy is rest.

Rest. Totally got it. Work a 9 hour shift, sit on my ass for the rest of the night. Go to yoga, do a bridge instead of full wheel. Go to ballet, do single pirouettes instead of triples and mark the jumps.

Apparently, that’s not resting. I don’t know how to rest. Even now, as I recline on my couch, I’m doing research, cleaning, and blogging. I’m constantly terrified of what my mind will do if I let it be. I can deal with it in controlled doses, but if I gave it free run of the place, who knows what it will come up with? I prefer my brain safely battery-caged. And if I don’t exercise . . . well, there’s no telling what my body would do. It’s a process.

Interesting things have been happening emotionally, too. It’s funny how out-of-control exhaustion makes me feel. Historically, I have tried to control my emotions through silence or cover them with a mask of anger. If you’re silent, nobody knows you’re feeling anything. If you’re angry, people leave you alone. But if you’re sad . . . people can sense weakness and exploit it. It’s a dangerous thing.

Yesterday, in group, I decided to try to express myself without using anger to cover it. My usual response to everything: “This is BULLSHIT! This doesn’t actually work for real people. I’m SO DONE!”. Not so productive, but it’s my way of saying “I disagree, I don’t understand, I’m feeling hopeless” without sobbing. Yesterday, I tried the latter. And sobbed. And sobbed. I don’t remember the last time I cried that hard. It kind of sucked. But you know what? Don’t tell WGT, but I actually feel somewhat better. When I don’t let it out, I ruminate and just get angrier until I explode. When I explode, I feel like an asshole, and hate myself even more.

So now I’m living with sadness. I’m really sad. I have a lot of years of unexpressed emotions to work through, and it’s not going to be an easy or fun process, but on the other side of fear is freedom. Gotta hope.

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