Peanuts are a great source of protein, anti oxidants, and have been shown to be beneficial to heart health. When I eat a peanut, my heart throws a little fiesta in celebration and uses every ounce of peanut to make itself extra awesome. When my imaginary friend Jimmy eats a peanut however, he explodes and turns into a bucket of water (Jimmy has a very severe imaginary peanut allergy. Don’t worry though, I gave him an imaginary unicorn to ride on as compensation for his unfortunate condition).
Clearly then, sometimes, things that are supposed to be good for us and that are supposed to be beneficial to our health don’t work for some people, and the same can be said of mental health treatment.
Now before I get carried away I would like to express that I am VERY grateful for all of the mental health treatment I have received over the years, even the things that haven’t worked out, because they have taught me what kind of things do and don’t work for me. I know I am very fortunate to have had so much and such a variety of support, as there are all too many people out there who don’t get any treatment at all and that is heartbreaking. Anyone suffering with a mental health condition should be able to access treatment, end of discussion, so I am not saying “screw all of you people who have never had any help, I have had some unhelpful help so pity me”.
Instead, I think it is important to look at some aspects of mental health treatment that can maybe cause more problems than they solve so that we can improve that treatment and make it better in the future. It is all well and good to say “all treatment is good treatment and you should just take it no matter what” but if we did that we would never move further in the ways people with mental health problems are supported and increase the benefits that support can bring.
Hundreds of years ago, people with what we might potentially diagnose with mental health problems, were seen to have evil spirits lurking inside of them and were treated by having a drill shoved through their skull to let the spirits out. If nobody had ever stopped to think “hey, maybe this bashing people about the head isn’t very helpful after all”, we might still be doing that today (which would make my weekly trip to my psychologist even more terrifying), so although I don’t think anything around today is as detrimental as head drilling, I have personally found some treatments to be quite problematic. In this post I therefore I want to be seen as looking at the peanuts and trying to keep all the goodness in whilst getting rid of all that stuff that turns imaginary people like poor Jimmy into imaginary buckets, rather than as throwing all the peanuts into the bin and declaring them all to be useless.
I am sure there are a lot of people out there who can attest to treatments that have been more detrimental than helpful in the sense that a lot of times, group treatments and inpatient settings can be rather triggering. I have known many people who have picked up behaviours from other people they have met in hospital, but I think this is less a problem of the style of treatment and more a problem with the competitive/comparative nature of certain illnesses themselves. It would be unrealistic to say that everyone who is ever hospitalised should be kept in a separate room away from other potentially triggering patients because that isn’t real life, there are always going to be people who trigger you no matter where you are, and the key is to learn to deal with and manage that.
When it comes to problems with treatment however, an important example for me in terms of an actual treatment style that made things worse for me, was a certain inpatient unit I was in for my eating disorder, and their extreme “this is the most important thing ever” focus on weight.
Before I went to that unit, I did not weigh myself, nor did I care about the number of kilos on the scale or what my BMI was.
My eating disorder was all about how I saw myself in the mirror and how I felt inside. Some days I would struggle more because I “felt” and saw myself as extra disgusting, whereas other days I would do better because I maybe didn’t feel as terrible about myself.
If I had been weighing myself during those times, there probably wouldn’t have been much difference between the numbers shown on the scales on the days that I “felt massive” compared to the days I “felt not as bad”, like I said, it was all subjective and all internally measured by my emotions as apposed to any little plastic square I could stand on that would then flash numbers at me. Ok, I counted calories obsessively, but when it came to weights, numbers were irrelevant to me, and if you had told me what I weighed it wouldn’t have had any meaning to me.
During my first inpatient admission for my eating disorder however, all of that changed, and it is since that admission that my eating disorder has progressed to the point where my it is still concerned with how I feel but also obsessed with the number on the scales and the great significance “what that means” (spoiler alert: it means very little nothing at all in terms of a person’s self worth or value on this planet. That kind of thing is instead measured by how lovely you are to people and whether or not you are one of those cheeky people who puts an empty carton of milk back in the fridge just to destroy someone’s morning hopes of a bowl of Coco Pops. THE MILK CANNOT TURN CHOCOLATEY IF YOU DON’T LEAVE ME ANY MILK).
I understand that in eating disorder treatment it is important to be aware of weight to a certain degree for various reasons (not that the weight of someone with an eating disorder will tell you how ill they are or how physically at risk they are of serious complications), but in this unit, weight meant EVERYTHING and every number on the BMI scale had a significant consequence to it. It would have been one thing if there was a rough weight band stage thing to use as a guide, but instead of that each number specifically told you what you were allowed or not allowed to do.
Some I could vaguely understand. There was a weight at which you were allowed to do yoga for example, a weight at which you could go bowling, and a weight at which you were given permission to walk around the grounds. It is the more arbitrary number obsessions that I think should have been focused more on the individual and their struggles/progress, rather than simply basing it on silly numbers. For example there was a weight under which you were not allowed to pick your own food at lunch and instead had to keep your fingers crossed that the nurse wouldn’t pick the one option that you genuinely hated for reasons outside of your eating disorder, a weight at which you were allowed to pour your own milk into your cereal, even a weight you had to reach to earn the right to spread butter and jam on your own toast.
Again I get the importance of this, very early on in treatment people may be unable to spread an acceptable amount of toppings on their toast or decide what option to chose at lunch so that extra support may be warranted, but who is at what stage should not have been decided by weight alone.
For example what if someone who was severely unwell came onto the unit above the weight of toast spreading privilege. Was it fair to leave them wrestling with the marmalade on day one just because their weight was a few digits out? And what about people who mentally progressed very quickly and although they came in at low weights were able to manage marmalade responsibility before their weight reached acceptable levels. I knew of several people whose bodies struggled to gain weight no matter what they ate and they got frustrated in feeling mentally held back by not being allowed to spread their own toast or pick from the options at lunch themselves, skills that would have been beneficial for them to practice to carry out responsibly.
Obviously if they had started demanding dry toast and a celery stick for meals it might not have been the best idea, but neither is holding people back or pushing them forward simply because of a number that doesn’t measure the mental part of the mental illness.
Like I said, before that admission, weight was not a concern, but ever since then, what I weigh has always been significant, and I still think of my personal weight as a measure of how well I am to some degree, regardless of the mental struggle. Even now I still see those weights as the “well enough to spread jam” weight which allows my head to use these opportunities when I am at these weights to convince me that I am “ok now” (clearly when one has the ability to spread jam on one’s own toast it means that a person is fully recovered and needs no other progress to enable a healthy life…YAY EATING DISORDER LOGIC.) It just seems a bit confusing to me how so many therapists and eating disorder services over the years will tell you to “ignore the number” and tell you that “it doesn’t matter”…yet then go on to measure your level of wellness by that number and dictate your rights accordingly, showing that it actually matters and means a lot…contradictory much?
The second example of treatment that I personally think caused more problems than it solved was my first admission to hospital when I was about 11. Admittedly I needed to be there, my OCD behaviours were controlling my life, everything was completely out of hand and someone needed to step in, but remember I was a scared 11 year old suddenly waking up in this mental hospital and living away from home for the first time. I needed treatment yes, but primarily, I needed mental support, and that wasn’t what I got.
My shower and soap rituals were instead physically controlled by means such as locking me out of the bathroom and stealing my soap. Now, exposure therapy for things like OCD is a very valid method of treatment, you are scared of something, you expose yourself to it, people help you through that exposure with support and you keep practicing until it isn’t scary anymore.
Problem was, I had nobody to help me work through that exposure, all treatment was physical and ironically there was no mental support whatsoever despite the fact it was a mental hospital.
Therefore, instead of working through my problems, I was just traumatised for weeks and left to struggle alone in absolute terror, so naturally, when I went home, I was not a fan of psychologists and would refuse further treatment. Had they worked with rather than “on” me, I would have trusted them and would have seen them as people I could work with to get through my problems, but in my 11 year old brain that experience taught me that therapists were nasty people who take you away from your parents, lock your bathroom, leave you to suffer alone and then send you home with all the mental pain you had before plus a little bit of bonus anxiety. Consequently, there were several years where I refused to see therapists and would lock myself in our home bathroom when they came to visit, refuse to go to clinics, or “forget” to leave lessons when they came to visit at school for sessions (that’s right…I hated therapy so much I voluntarily stayed in Maths lessons that I was allowed to get out of…MATHS!)
It has taken a long time for me to get to the point where I can trust therapists again, actually talk to them, see them as humans rather than soap stealing villains, and still every mention of exposure therapy sends me bananas because my first bad experience of it has not left me excited to give it another go…
So, can certain kinds of mental health treatments actually make a person worse? Well, yes, and though I think it is important to try new things and approaches, it is equally important not to label all treatment as helpful and to be able to critique the bits that maybe aren’t as helpful and could use a bit of a rethink so that we can improve them, keep the good and edit out the bad, or else we would still be in the time of drilling people in the head, and nobody wants that. By all means use a drill to put up a nice painting or build a table, but when it comes to my noggin, I would rather you kept all power tools at a safe distance.
⁃ 1 cup of arguments ⁃ 1kg of facts and evidence ⁃ 4 cups of care and support from family ⁃ Eternity of love and support from your partner ⁃ 2 heaped teaspoons of massages ⁃ 4 handfuls of art therapy
You need to mix for a few days with a wooden spoon. Then leave it in the fridge for a few weeks … In the meantime, put your feet up, walk in the trees and feed your body and soul.
– Sift 7 cups of psychology, dietitian and psychiatry appointments – 4 cups of food that is good for the soul – 4 cups of food that feeds my body well – Add several cups of work and study – Try to add some anger in there somewhere …. you know you want to – Also add crying and laughing to the mix over and over again.
*make note: You will make mistakes and that’s okay. Sometimes when it is ready to come out of the oven it will be burnt all over, overflowing or it will taste awful. But other times it will come out tasting delicious and you will be wanting to share with all your loved ones. It might take a few years until you feel like you have perfected it. That is okay …. it is a process and you need to take your time to unpack and just be with the recipe.
Note: This post originally appeared on amytitch.com and has been cross-posted with permission.
I’ve just stepped in the door and sat myself on the couch after a long drive home, from a lovely weekend back down South with my family…
And during my journey, every hour I heard this in the news on the radio:
That UK Doctors are going to receive funding to help serve those of us with an ‘eating disorder’, better.
And it got me thinking about a few things…
About the times I visited the Doctor during my troubled eating days (because my Mum made me).
And those days, quite frankly, sucked.
I hated every time I visited my Doctor about this topic – because NONE of it was helpful.
Ok, my mindset may have been cloudy, hurting and stubborn at the time – but truly, the advice I was given, sucked.
First I got told to ‘try eating some more’.
‘Oh yeah, good one Doc. Just eat some more when that’s the last thing I wanna do right now.’
Then I got ‘educated’ on what a healthy meal looks like.
‘Like I don’t already know, Doc. I’m kinda obsessed with food right now and know that I should be eating, but I’m scared to.’
Then I got told to ‘gain some weight’.
Oh and then, that I should see a counsellor.
‘Ok, mayyyybe a bit better, but I still don’t wanna.’
Anyway, here’s my point – that if the Doctor had maybe said something different, it might have struck a chord with me…
Telling me things like:
How not eating, binging, and purging would affect my body.
How it would leave me feeling lifeless.
How it would damage my relationships with my family and friends.
How it would affect my metabolism.
How it would make my knees hurt so much that as each day went by it grew more and more painful to walk and I’d be in tears that I couldn’t go burn X calories on the treadmill (no joke).
How it would mean missing out on socialising – because food brings people together and creates memories to cherish.
How I’d grow to fear my most favourite holiday of the year, Christmas. Because I’d be calculating every calorie in my head, and planning exactly WHAT I was going to eat, and how I was going to get rid of it.
How it would drive me further and further away from loving myself – the most important journey for us to never stop experiencing.
How I’d waste money on clothes so tiny that when I do finally get out of the dark place, wouldn’t fit me anymore.
How it would stab to death my lust for life.
How I’d lose my desire to be in a romantic relationship.
That it would make me freezing cold, even in the Summer, and want to take a hot water bottle with me everywhere I go.
That I’d be frightened to even eat a raisin or two.
That I’d be tired. Oh so tired. But unable to get solid nights sleep without waking up several times.
That exercise wouldn’t be enjoyable, and that I’d use it as a punishment.
And that I was enough, beautiful, strong and capable just as.I.am.
The list goes on, and on, and on, and on.
But maybe, just maybe if I was made aware of the reality of what I was doing – I may have wrapped my head around it quicker. (And I know it’s not the Doctors fault! Unless you’ve experienced one, it’s so tough to know what guidance to give).
Now I was lucky, I made the decision to STOP and heal after a year and a half of putting myself through that hell.
But for others, this lasts for years more… and I want you to know that even if the advice you’re being given right now seems ridiculous and you want to fight it – you’re enough, and,
You DO NOT deserve to put yourself through any of the s*#t experiences a troubled relationship with food, hands you.
You really don’t.
If I could say something to the past me who was scared to death of food, I would tell her that she is enough, just as she is in every present moment. And I’m telling you the same thing.
Recovery from an eating disorder is possible.
Choosing recovery each and every day will enable you to discover your true self and to reclaim your life. You should not have to suffer in silence – in fact DON’T, my guidance from others was the best, most powerful thing, and has given me the confidence to embrace any experience in life.
Note: This post was originally posted on mommystrongtx and has been cross-posted with permission.
The #1 question I hear in the eating disorder community is:
“How do I recover?” That’s it.
People suffering from an eating disorder want OUT, but don’t know how. So, here I am to share…
TRUTH 1: While recovery is NOT linear, you are always moving forward. Each moment takes you closer to recovery.
TRUTH 2: There are no failures. When something happens that you want to call a failure, it’s really an opportunity to gather information about yourself for next time.
TRUTH 3: Recovery is a process, not perfection. Processes require editing, adjusting, and discovering. You’re not meant to be perfect at recovery. In fact, that’s not even a thing.
TRUTH 4: Do the next right thing. Focus on right now, this moment. “Recovery” is an overwhelming goal (as is “intuitive eating” or whatever else you call your ultimate goal with food). Have a daily intention, morning intention, or breakfast intention instead.
TRUTH 5: Have a treatment team. You may not think you need professionals, that you aren’t “that bad”. You may think you can quit seeing them after a while, that you’ve been doing well. Without support, though, your recovery can fly back in regression. Stick to your team.
TRUTH 6: Listen to your treatment team. You’ll think they are insane or out to have you gain weight sometimes, but they really do have your best interests in mind. Your head is swimming with ED thoughts; you have to listen to the professionals.
TRUTH 7: Have your “person,” at least one person you can talk to when you are overwhelmed by urges. Call that person BEFORE you give in, even if you have every intention of giving in.
TRUTH 8: Feed yourself recovery-focused information. Make sure the messages you’re getting are moving you in the right direction. Delete triggering email subscriptions and social media. Subscribe to email newsletters, follow social media and blogs, whatever you need to do to get true messages about your body, weight, size.
TRUTH 9: Share your story. Others will relate, I promise. Use your experience for good. It has helped me so much to have this blog and “come out” about my eating disorder.
TRUTH 10: Plan ahead. Plan for you want to happen, and plan for what you will do if that thing doesn’t happen.
I would love to hear from you in the comments:
Which truth do you struggle to believe? What action could you take today towards recovery?
Do you remember when we feasted like kings in summer, bathing in the royal treatment center lather, tipping vile laden tines to cautious puckers
In hopes of curing wounded bodies, minds, every crevice cluttered, clenched in fangs of some obsession, that summer venom slithered into cerebellum
And remember when we erased the spaces chiseled by those nights lapping ink-brewed emptiness and neurotic tabulation, perspiration, calculating each aerobic nimble drip from our fanatic brows in summer
Do you remember when we sat, granite statues, stillness marble, and when Cardio dug its grave in air conditioned therapeutic walls, while mending us like child asphalt-polished kneecaps in the summer
And when we learned of that mandala magic coiling into cortex, the mindfulness that bloomed in tips of felt, and melted acid clinging to our smiles
Or remember when each morn we rose before the fade of dew, princesses enrobed in gowns, the open backs were vitals—pulse and vessels humming, yawning limbs draped in finest stethoscopic silver
In the summer, while the rest sprawled on cicada rays, elated lemon recklessness, and charring mallows in those lunar embers, and we, the noble captives handed goblets overflowing meant to mask the wailing hollows, internal caverns too familiar
But do you remember we got better in the summer, and although we were not born with silver spoons inside our mouths, we can pile them high
On our own now, lift to lips, Bite, Chew, Swallow,
Okay, so I try to keep my blog raw and real with you all. Well, even though my journey has just begun..a girls gotta start somewhere, right? I find myself longing to share more and more about myself and who I truly wholeheartedly am. To begin, I’m honestly not sure where the openness came from because it is sure not the girl I used to be. I was always the one to squeeze all my feelings, thoughts, ideas, emotions into a tiny little box. Words cannot describe how doing this hurt me…not just hurt me but also hurt those who love me even more. If you’re reading this and you too deal with the same struggle you know where I’m coming from. So here I go opening up the box and sharing one of the deepest most shameful struggles I face daily…depression.
Depression is so much more than an overwhelming unbearable sadness. I really cannot describe how it makes you feel. Depression causes us as human beings to feel hopeless, sad, upset, alone, abandoned, betrayed, unsure, angry at nothing, confused, unhappy, distressed, heavyhearted (and these are only a few.) It can leave you feeling isolated in your room for hours and shutting out the love of those who really truly care about your well being. Only you only you can truly know what it feels like.
Never in a million years would I have thought depression would be apart of my crazy journey, well come to find out it has played a HUGE part in my story. This is not at all something I am proud Of, TRUST ME! I am not sharing this to make anyone of ya feel bad for me because I know for a fact millions of others deal with this exact same feeling!
Where do I even begin!? Well, let me give ya a little background. Growing up in a Christian home doesn’t mean life is perfect, that should be an obvious one. We still had our family disputes and arguments. I still fought with my brother and sister all the time…(just ask my mom) Some Sundays we’re too lazy to wake up for church and just end up catching extra zzzzzz’s . We still experienced plenty of sadness…maybe it was just the way my parents handled it which was different. One thing I can tell you all for a fact is, my childhood encompasses some of my most cherishable memories. I was always known as the little girl with a smile on her face, but sooner than later the young girl with a big ole smile across her face changed. I’d always experienced anxiety and been very self-conscious about myself. I guess you could say I’ve always been a more serious character and there’s nothing bad with that, but when it comes to a point in life when you can’t even enjoy a single thing you do…there’s an issue. If you’ve read my earlier post I talked all about my story (and if you haven’t you should definitely go check it out ) For me, depression had never really been a problem until my eating disorder made an appearance. I remember being so completely consumed in my own head, my thoughts, my worries, my everything basically. I’d lock myself up in my room every day for hours. Alone. I’d try to distract myself but I couldn’t my thoughts were completely utterly encompassing my very being. I got in this cycle of life it’d go something like this: wake up, go to school, study, come home, workout (not for the right reasons), hide up in my room and study more till I could barely keep my eyes open, and fall asleep crying. I kid you not, this was every.single.night. My depression soon became very apparent to my parents, friends, and family. I had no choice but to take medication. I’m not going to lie, friends, man this stuff really helped! While I spent my months away from home, I never really felt depressed in a way I had previous to being there. Maybe it was because I was felt So loved by friends and family encouraging me or the crazy amount of people showing me love and support. When I returned home from treatment, this is when my overwhelming sadness truly emerged. I had come home after being away for months, not seeing a single friend or family member and I was embarrassed. I didn’t look like the “old me” the sick, bony, whisp in the wind. I looked different and maybe that’s what triggered this entire fiasco.
Time passed and each day I looked in the mirror in udder disguisement of the reflection who looked back at me. My friends didn’t know how to react so they all kinda just left. Here I was again, but this time I was actually alone. No matter what I was doing I was scared and lonely 24/7. I was a gaping hole of emptiness searching to find joy. I was breathing but wasn’t alive. No longer did I find enjoyment or comfort in anything anymore. Every day I’d plaster a smile across my face and act as if everything was fine, but it wasn’t. I’d lie when someone asked if I was “ok?.” It hurt to smile, hurt to laugh, hurt to breathe. I was ashamed of who I had become, who this “new me” looked. Every second of the day was spent with me myself and I in my head. Every single bone in my body ached I was the definition of exhaustion. I felt so alone, so forgotten, so guilty shameful. Life was the furthest from enjoyable. Daily I faced voices screaming and yelling my my ears, whispering lies, awful ideas, and ways I could just end all the pain I was feeling. And to be 100% honest some days I really considered just ending it. Ending the pain. Ending the hurt. Ending the shame. Ending the whispers. Ending my life.I’d pray every night when I closed my eyes I’d just fall asleep, and never wake up. I’m not going to go into details but to get my point across, I dwindled in the house of near death as other have for the very same reasons. We aren’t alone.
Never in my life would I have thought I would come to such a low point. I truly felt as if I had hit rock bottom. I guess it’s because I did. Time passed and eventually I learned how to overcome my sadness, well maybe not overcome but deal with it on s daily basis. I found ways to distract myself, not box up the feeling but keep my mind off things. I’m not sharing all this to make you feel bad for me or anything, no really not at all! I’m trying to share with you all the struggle I face every single darn day of my life. Yes, I mean depression. Some days are better than others and I’ve just learned how to accommodate my feelings. I wanted to share this because I know for a fact millions of teenagers and adults worldwide deal with depression. No matter the “intensity” of it, depression is depression and it makes us all feel the same exact way: alone. Isolated. an unexplainable dark pit we can’t seem to escape. There is not one case worse than another but there is a root of it all, the thief of joy, the master of lies, the king of sin, the devil. He knows just how to weasel his way into every nook of our lives, friendships, relationships, and definitely our very own happiness. It’s taken plenty of time (and still is taking me time) to learn how to conquer the lies and voices I face daily. Every darn day is a battle, every day I have a choice to stay in bed and feel sorry for myself, or get up get the day started and get things done! And YOU have the same choice! Ask yourself “Will I lie here and complain about my life OR will I get up, drink some coffee, slap on some makeup, nourish my body, improve myself and make today an amazing day?!” It’s all about mindset. It’s all a choice. It’s a daily decision to fight the good fight and prove you ARE more than a conqueror. You know why? Because you ARE a masterpiece!!!
I promise it’ll get better. I promise the sun will shine again one day. One day the storm will let up. I promise you’ll feel the warm rays illuminate your face as you’re lifted up to an all knowing all loving Jesus. I’m not promising this sunrise will happen overnight. I am promising it all will happen one day, everything will fall into place and the one spark of joy you grew immune to will make an unexpected appearance. Never forget, you are valued. You are beyond loved. You are capable of anything you set your mind to. Your life is a precious priceless gift. I know it can be exhausting and you feel as you’re nothing but a dried up sponge. BUT, You are a warrior, you are a fighter. My friend, look back at everything you’ve overcome. Don’t give up now.
It’s time for us to part now. I think that you should leave. Through my life you’ve been there; now please let me go free. I’ve shut out all my family, all my close friends too. My life has come right to a halt, and that’s because of you. You’ve convinced me I’m a failure, everything I do is wrong, Everybody hates me, and that I don’t belong. I’ve followed all your orders, lived by all your rules, Restricted, walked and ran for miles; been loyal to the cause. I know you thought you helped me, and that I need you, I thought the same, I felt this too, but that’s just not the truth. You wanted to protect me, you wanted me to see, What a cruel world I have lived in, I was sure that you were me.
Because of this I did bad things, and did these to extremes, I lied to hide your secrets, was willing to deceive. I hurt all those around me, you brought me to my knees. My body has been struggling, with scars you cannot see, But because of all your punishments, outward scars expose my pleas. I wanted to escape you, and the prison from within, But as I kept on fighting, my hope was wearing thin. So now it’s time, I’ve reached the point; far beyond insanity, I can’t imagine life with no E.D. but now I must believe. I know that this is hard on you; you’ll be watching from afar, To find new ways to trap me, and ways to block my path. Just know this now, I’m finding strength, And this I’m sure will grow, The harder I keep fighting, the more of me will show. So now it’s time, to say goodbye, This nightmare it must end. I see you now for what you are; an enemy, not friend.
I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at the age of 10. I am now 28. As is said with eating disorders-you don’t just develop an eating disorder overnight. On the flip side- the earlier you catch it, the easier it is to treat. We’ve all heard or read all the facts, statistics, what makes you prone, environmental factors, genetics, personality traits, etc. There’s so much that goes in to the development and maintenance of an eating disorder that often not even the sufferer can explain the cause of their own. I for one-cannot. I’ve been told it could be the trauma I experienced at the age of 3, my type A personality, co-dependence and passive aggression in the family, witnessing relationship issues at a young age, early puberty, blah blah blah blah blah. I’ve spent hundreds of hours in therapy, groups, and doing my own research in trying to find the answer to this. WHY AM I LIKE THIS. This answer cannot be solved. Where would finding the answer get me anyway? Okay so THIS IS WHY I have anorexia, now what? Look at my medical records and you’ll find me in multiple organ failure on several occasions, given the night to live more than one should be allowed, and in and out of inpatient treatment along with every service that is offered within that dozens of times. “So why aren’t you better yet?”
Don’t ask me. I’m asking myself the same question. I’m frustrated, ashamed, embarrassed, and feeling hopeless. I’ve literally tried everything, given it my best effort many times and then some. I’ve been on The Doctors. I’ve been and still am committed by the state of Minnesota. Yet here I am, still not better and still trying to recover. I don’t want to live like this, so why can’t I just stop?
For those who do not understand, or who are quick to place judgement and “shoulds”, “justs”, “try harders”, or [insert thing said to you that was in no way helpful] on not only me but those just like me; I offer you the following analogy. My mom is overweight, technically labeled obese. Over the course of the 18 years of me suffering from this disease, the best way she has found to even begin to understand- is to compare me trying to recover from my eating disorder to her (or your typical person/dieter) trying to go on a diet. JUST go on a diet, JUST lose the weight.
With an eating disorder, we have all the health scares and realities, notice our bodies health declining, are threatened with the ramifications if we do not make changes now, swear we’ll get better, the “I’ll start tomorrow/tomorrow will be betters”, “I’m serious this time”, “I’ve had enough”, new years resolutions to recover year after year. So what if you flip that to one going on a diet, or someone trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle per recommendation of their doctor. You’ll find them unhappy with their current body, with health scares such as high blood pressure or cholesterol, noticing their bodies not being able to do what they once were, cautioned by their doctors of future consequences if they do not make changes now. You’ll find them saying they’re serious, pledging money, attempting this or that diet or lifestyle for a while. While one gains weight to regain their health the other loses weight to become healthier. As both are unable to sustain these changes the weight falls back off or back on.
After some time, we find ourselves back in the same situation again. An eating disorder sufferer back in a relapse, a dieter with another diet failed. “I’ll start again” becomes a pattern. The feelings of failure in ever achieving each goal begins to decline as the feelings of hopelessness build. There are moments of hope, days that go by with some semblance of normalcy, new methods of achieving the goals arising within the cultures.
But these things take time. They took time to develop and they take time to un-develop. In our brains we have walked this path for 18 or however many years we have been living this way. Being pushed onto a new path isn’t natural, it feels wrong. We may be able to stay on this path for a while, but with time our brains often revert back to what they know-to what they’ve been doing for over half or however much of their life span.
So why can’t I just GET BETTER? Because though I was diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 10 years old, my anorexia wasn’t properly treated at this age. My anorexia was left to grow and mold deep neural pathways in my brain, form connections with my life experiences and intertwine itself with my own deep seeded beliefs. When finally over a decade later a proper treatment was begun, it was no match for the basic functioning of my brain. A few months of treatment here and there cannot undo almost two decades worth of a brains pattern of daily neural functioning.
It took a heck of a lot of time to develop into what it has become. A lot of miraculous recovery stories come from those who have had short experiences with an eating disorder. I am not here to say it can’t be done for us chronic sufferers. It-recovery- most definitely can and will be done, but it doesn’t JUST happen. When one hears that recovery is a long and painful process, they may not understand exactly how long that actually is. I sure didn’t.
I am here to ask for compassion and grace as we go about the recovery journey. Because just as you can’t JUST go on a diet/start and stick to a new lifestyle/lose weight, we cannot JUST get better.
Note: This piece originally appeared on Latter Day Mum and has been cross-posted with permission.
I think it’s clicked you know. Something has finally happened inside my brain and allowed me to fully step outside the diet culture box. And now I’m standing here able to see everything around me so clearly and untainted. Ive been taking baby steps in and out of it for a couple of months, and although I had my eyes slightly opened to this whole new world, I kept one leg safely within that box ready for me to jump back in to the security of food obsession. Because thats what diet culture is isn’t it? Security. When everything’s going to pot around you and you’re losing control in all other aspects of your life, the ability to fall back into the arms of your current plan is what gets you through. Diets are safety blankets.
Whether you’re attending a weight loss club, (here’s looking at you slimming world ), substituting the deliciousness that is breakfast for some kind of crappy low calorie shake, keeping your calories under an already too low amount or maybe just intermittent fasting? (More on that later though! (So much hate toward intermittent fasting for weight loss) All these things are there for you to go running back to when something goes wrong in your life. Why? Because we’re told to! Tv, newspapers, magazines, books, movies, anecdotes, all tell us that we need to shrink ourselves to be truly happy. Maybe some times not quite that directly but this is still the message that we are taking in. Chandler didn’t want Monica until she slimmed down, and we built this schmidtty on sausage rolls, I mean even daddy pig shouldn’t jump in the pool because his tummy is too big! Who’s watching this!? My information-absorbing toddlers that’s who! There was an episode of Ben and Holly where they met a caterpillar who was about to transform into a butterfly, and as they do, before cocooning up she ate so, so much food. She got so big that when Holly saw her the next day and tried to describe the caterpillar, she whispered the word fat and went red in the face. I. MEAN. THE. SHAME! How dare someone, even an insect, allow themselves to get fat! And another time, during an episode of Garfield, this quirky ginger cat decided he must stop eating such big quantities of food otherwise he’s going to end up fat and alone like some villain-person who was in that episode. Whaaaaat.
So In thirty minutes of Tv my kids have learnt that to be fat is shameful, if you are fat you have to be actively trying to not be fat, and while you remain fat you cannot experience the glorious Things in life like cannon balling into the deep end. WE DO NOT STAND A CHANCE.
Okay so I feel as though I have actually digressed from the point I was originally trying to make but it turns out I made a pretty good one anyway. How are we supposed to love or even accept our bodies when there are so many things in this world that tell us they are not good enough just as they are? We aren’t. That’s the whole point. There’s people all over the world telling you that you need to be insecure about your stretch Marks, your ‘mummy tummy’, your cellulite, and your double bloody chin, just so that they can sell you the magical product that’s going to to ‘fix’ these things. But guess what? You’re not actually broken. And therefore you have n.o.t.h.i.n.g to fix. Nothing. And when you realise this you instantly take back the power. That control that you sought after when tracking your macros. The ability to be happy in your own body comes back to you. We will never be truly happy if we keep buying into the lies that diet culture gives us.
I may be the last person that you would believe, what with nearly 17 years of dieting under my belt, a solid 8 years of bulimia, extreme body dissatisfaction and crippling anxiety but take a step back for a second and see that maybe this is what qualifies me to say these things. I’ve gone from not been able to look at myself, trying to cut through my fat and hiding underneath layers and layers of clothing to some how being able to accept my body as it is right now. Some days I am in complete awe of what it has survived and some days, like today actually, I genuinely love it. Today I love my body. Like how am I able to say that and mean it? It’s something I never thought I could do, but it feels so freeing. Maybe there will be days that I don’t feel this way but now I can embrace those days with the knowledge that my body is beautiful, strong, capable and worthy of love no matter what shape or size it is. I know that I don’t have to always love my body to respect it and that the negative thoughts I have toward it are simply a product of 27 years of being blind to diet culture. If I’ve come to know all these things and break free from the clasp of the dieting world then I know you can too, you can love your body. I know because I do.
Note: This piece originally appeared on My Truth About EDs and has been cross-posted with permission.
Disclaimer: This piece may be triggering to some readers.
My Eating Disorder first started when I was about 18 years old, I am now 26. From then to now I have been on one huge journey. One I almost didn’t make it through. But I didn’t see that then, I was fine, even when I was admitted to a general hospital for a few weeks for stabilisation before being shipped off to a specialists Eating Disorder unit. I was there for a whole year, and since being discharged I had relapses and ended up back in hospital. But now, I am 26 years old, have a 3 year old daughter and I am married! Now, if I was to go through my battle of how I managed to fight Anorexia (I’m not sure I even could) but anyway I would spend hours and hours typing and you would spend hours and hours reading. So, I just want to say fighting an Eating Disorder IS possible, there is life after an Eating Disorder, whoever you are, wherever you are, how ever old you are! I’m not saying its easy. Far from it. Fucking hell, it’s the hardest most difficult and enduring thing I’ve ever done and probably will ever do….I hope! I still fight mentally everyday, most days I still have to remind myself reasons not to go back to Anorexia. I still struggle massively with the ‘recovered me’. But however much I struggle and sometimes fight just to get through a day, my life is now my life, it doesn’t belong and isn’t controlled by an Eating Disorder, so that is one massive reason to stay in recovery, continue with life and keep up the fight. Having my own little family helps me massively towards my motivation.
I deserved nothing, I was worth nothing. Or so my Eating Disorder told me. I pretty much gave my life to Anorexia, I believed everything it told me, I let it lure me in. The more I listened the worse it got, the iller I became. But I couldn’t stop, I NEEDED it in my life, it was my friend, it helped me feel in CONTROL, it helped me EARN ‘rest’ ‘nourishment’, and life itself. These little things in life I had to EARN, I had to WORK for. Working out became an obsession, excessively cleaning became a normal everyday thing, I had to do these things, they were rules I had to follow. Nourishment and rest is something everyone needs, I knew that, but when I was in the depths of Anorexia these things I didn’t deserve and Anorexia also convinced me I didn’t need or want them either because I was ‘happy’ and ‘fine’ living in this little bubble of just me & my Eating Disorder. I didn’t deserve, need or want love, care, affection, fun or socialization. These things were a massive no no in my life when I was very ill, besides I didn’t have the time for them not with all my routines, rules and rituals. My whole life was literally taken over by Anorexia, everything I did, planned or thought revolved around it.
It REALLY frustrates me when people think Eating Disorders are all about food & body image. There is so much more to them than that. I and anybody else who has recovered from an Eating Disorder has to change their whole mindset and way of life. Lots of people assume that when an Anorexia sufferer has restored their weight they are ‘well’ again. Now in my case and probably many others I’m not going to deny weight restoration is a very important part of recovery although not EVERYBODY who suffers from an Eating Disorder or even Anorexia is a very low weight (BMI). And to raise awareness those who suffer from Bulima may not be a very low weight (BMI). Awareness needs to be raised around this because so many people hear the word Eating Disorder and automatically assume ‘thin, fragile, skeletal’ or ‘they don’t eat, they don’t like food, they don’t enjoy food’. This is NOT the truth. For everybody reasons for developing an Eating Disorder are different, there rarely is ever just one or two specific reasons. Its rarely a plan, a choice or even something YOU want to do. For me personally, having Anorexia in my life helped me feel worth a life, made me feel like I was achieving something, helped (or so I thought) gain control over my life, weight and eating pattern/diet. I’m not going to lie and say my Eating Disorder didn’t start from poor body image, wanting to loose weight and wanting to be healthy. For me, yes that is how it started. But it got to a point where I became obsessed, I felt like loosing weight, abiding by these ‘rules’ and listening to that voice in my head were the only good things I was achieving. So I had to carry on doing it, if I stopped I was nobody, I was nothing. For a long, long time little did a realise I was slowly stripping myself, my personality and my life of everything. I thought it was making me into a better person, a person who was worth something. My Eating Disorder kept telling me just keep doing what you’re doing, one day it will be enough and you can stop. But not yet, not now. So I listened, believing this voice/being was my friend. The people who loved and cared for me could see me slipping away, like I was being dragged into a deep black hole but nothing they said or did made a difference. It got to the point where I was scared those who loved and cared for me were against me at times.
My Eating Disorder was very contradictive, it told me I was a ‘better’ person, I was ‘making big achievements’ and if I went against it I was a ‘failure’. But then on the other hand I was a ‘bad person’ and had so much to be sorry for. In someways Anorexia made me feel like I was ‘making up for’ and ‘punishing’ myself because I was such a ‘bad person’ I’ll admit I’ve done some pretty shitty things in my life, especially when I was growing up but did I really do anything that bad that I needed to punish myself to this extent? Yes I did, or so my Anorexia made me believe. I remember being in hospital before going to an Eating Disorders specialist unit, this is when the voice got really, really bad. There were times I literally had this ‘figure’ stood in front of me, it was a black figure with a batton in its hand yelling at me not to take NG feeds and that I was a bad person for trying to fight Anorexia. I would then start chanting, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m a bad, bad person”. This carried on happening to me for a few weeks and carried on when I was admitted to the Eating Disorder unit too. It was honestly the most horrible, terrifying experience, I hated it. When I started talking to the nurses about it and after I’d gained some weight the figure slowly started to fade away. To this day I’m not sure who or what that figure was but at the time it was very, very real to me. The reason I have spoken about this isn’t to make you feel sorry for me but to put across the point that having an Eating Disorder is not simple, its not glamorous and it most certainly isn’t as simple as ‘they won’t eat, or they want to loose weight’. I got the point where loosing weight was just a symptom of something much deeper, I didn’t even want to loose more weight and I knew my weight was dangerously low, but I COULDN’T stop.
When I was in the depths of Anorexia I never, ever thought or even imagined a life without it, the thought of not having it scared me beyond belief for many different reasons. I felt like it was my identity, my reason to live and in someways my comfort blanket, my friend. It has taken me years to realise, even after ‘recovery’ that an Eating Disorder is no friend, its a demon which sucks the life out of you, destroys you mentally, emotionally and physically. And something/someone who does that to me ain’t no friend of mine!! So as much as I still struggle with ‘myself’ and my identity, my life is much better without an Eating Disorder. One day I will be truly proud for kicking the absolute shit out of the illness which almost took my life.