Monday, December 28, 2009

The Last Decade

Do any of you remember all the frenzy right before the year 2000 turned over? We thought all the computers in the world would crash, or worse, that our water supply would be tainted, etc., so people were buying up water for reserve, filling up their bathtubs, and the fear was high.
It was all uncertain. No one really knew what to expect, but the unknown held dark demons.
As I'm thinking today about the coming year, 2010, I reflect back upon all that this last decade (wow!) has held for me and my life. Of course, none of the fears of the year 2000 came to pass, and our world has continued to produce, explore, and invent, new and better (?) electronic devices. The turn of the century didn't mark the end of the world as we know it...for the most part.
But for me, in ways that were completely unknown and unexpected, this decade HAS marked the end of the world as I had known it for the first 44 years of my life.
I had just began my career as a RN at the beginning of this decade. I had barely survived Nursing School, not only in terms of passing my classes, but literally by surviving alive. I was spiraling down once again in weight and bargaining in my mind that tomorrow would be different..finally. Each day became more difficult.
In May of 2001, I was working at my third facility, after only 5 months earlier, nearly dying from strep pneumonia and sepsis. I liked my job in the ER, although it was hard work. It is a miracle that I was able to do my job.
I went back into treatment for anorexia in May, only to leave the second week of June to bury my 17 year old son. Tim was accidentally shot and killed at point blank range, by his very best friend.
I still remember after returning to treatment, in an attempt to 'get healthy', standing on a desolate knoll in the Arizona desert, screaming at the top of my lungs, "WHY?"
That word still rings in my head nearly every day. I have no answer.
I believe that I was born with a strong core. I also believe that God must have had a purpose for me to live despite what I put my body through.
I entered the River Centre Clinic on January 21, 2002, knowing that if I didn't recover 'this time', I would die. At the time, I wasn't even sure I wanted to live.
From that moment up until this day, my life has changed in nearly every way possible. Summarily, it's all for the good. Looking back, I know I am who I am today because of the sum of my experiences. Eloquent...NO! Just true.
The past decade has been the decade of LIFE for me. A sort of rebirth. Feeling the grief and loss of my dear son, yet feeling the joys and passions that live in me. I can't have one without the other. I love BIG. I cry often. I laugh even more often :)
I know who I am. I accept who I am. I don't equate my body with who I am..finally!
Amazing people fill my world. I can be ME with them and they love me. I am never lonely even when I am alone. I get angry about injustice, and I cry when I see a baby.
I know what it is to love someone be IN love.....heart, soul and mind. I am amazed by the depths of my love every day.
I very seldom use the phrase, "I'm sorry" because I no longer feel as if I shouldn't 'be'.
I am not afraid anymore. I am not perfect..sigh.
I am alive. Without apology.
Happy 2010!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Self Awareness and Developing Your True Identity

Do you think you would be different in any way, had your life been interrupted by a life-threatening eating disorder? Do you think your view of yourself would be impacted by this experience? I’d like to share with you how your self-awareness and identity can be affected, either temporarily or permanently, if you suffer from an eating disorder.
Self-awareness, especially on an emotional level, takes time and introspection. It’s a dynamic process, lasting throughout a person’s lifetime. Some people may develop a deeper understanding of themselves than others for a variety of reasons. These reasons may include their family dynamics while growing up; experiences with relationships, friendships, and social interactions; religious convictions; or if their personality tends to be more obsessive or perfectionist. These can be important factors in a person’s level of self-awareness. Further, I believe that there are some people who are more naturally “tuned in”, and able to understand themselves more fully on a higher level.
Upon developing an eating disorder, the level of self-awareness becomes compromised when compared to the self-understanding before the onset of the disorder. As the disorder continues and worsens, it becomes more complex; many fears and doubts begin to form causing further confusion about identity. As the eating disorder identity broadens to consume more aspects of life, more and more of the former identity may slip away, or lie dormant.
During the intense phases of the disorder, true self-awareness isn’t possible. The ability to think clear, rational thoughts becomes nearly impossible due to the affects of starvation. When suffering from an eating disorder, self-awareness is usually limited to the most basic needs for survival, and even at that, it becomes clouded in terms of one’s own physical well-being. Awareness of self is restricted to only who you are in the realm of your disease, strictly on the outside, and what is perceived to be obvious to others.
Self-criticism and the belief that one is never “good enough” are often exhibited by fear and isolation. At this point, there is an awareness manifested by thoughts of being bad, wrong, or imperfect; all of these thoughts lead to a lack of awareness of true self. I have found that true self-awareness involves accepting yourself, being confident with whom you are, and having the motivation to keep moving forward. This requires an honest evaluation of yourself, psychologically and emotionally, and being willing and able to reach out for support and input from others. It may be difficult to accept imperfection within oneself, but the reality is that no one is perfect. This mindset is much more complex when suffering from an eating disorder. The thought of possibly being imperfect usually causes great fear. It may equate to a loss of control, being a failure or a “bad” person, and it may bring on a sense of danger or impending doom. To the anorexic, the ability to be “perfect” is a convoluted form of self-protection.
When in recovery from an eating disorder, the hardest part is breaking away from the obsessive mindset, in order to begin to focus on thoughts, feelings and true self-analysis. The first step, weight restoration, can be the key to unlocking the rational and teachable part of your brain. Learning about yourself requires taking risks, and a willingness to reveal parts of yourself which you may have kept hidden for a very long time. It’s a process which requires time to begin to fit the pieces together, and at a certain point, becomes more of an exciting discovery. Acceptance of who you truly are, in the process of recovery, is necessary for continued progress.
How does self-awareness differ from how you evaluate self-worth? The concept of “self” may be based more on:
· Judgment and criticism associated with your accomplishments
· Self-denial
· How well controlled you consider yourself to be
· How well you control the world around you
Most likely, the anorexic wants these “virtues” to be noticed by key people in their life. They may feel stronger because they have the will power not to eat, the ability to lose weight, or because they can somehow survive on less sleep. Fewer needs equates to more strength or control. They may determine their worth solely on inner strength, outward accomplishments and self-control.
My own self-awareness increased drastically as I recovered from a long history of anorexia. A major difference is that I can now accept my imperfections, or my humanness, including my physical characteristics (weight, size, shape, etc.) as well as who I am inside: emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. I don’t consider myself as inadequate or mentally ill anymore. Additionally, my definitions of “perfect” and “imperfect” have completely changed. I don’t believe that perfection exists, so therefore there cannot be imperfection. In the past, my own attempts for perfection only led to feelings of self-hatred, failure, and unhealthy coping methods. As I have become aware of these things, I also realize that I can use my new awareness and acceptance of myself to move forward in my life, to face my future with a positive outlook, and to develop meaningful and lasting relationships with special people in my life on all levels. I feel a new confidence in knowing who I am, and in my ability to contribute to relationships.
“The set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable.”
The desire for the “anorexic identity” can be an enormous factor in the development and maintenance of anorexia and the reconstructive task of recovery. Even before the onset of the anorexic disease process and associated behaviors, there will be doubt and confusion about identity. Several factors often add to the confusion in this matter, especially for women. Parental teaching and expectations, sometimes pertaining to gender roles in society, or religious teachings, can cause conflict with regard to individual beliefs and life goals. The influence of society and the emphasis that is put on the importance of outward beauty and physical perfection can trigger guilt and lowered self-esteem. In an over-controlled environment, the desire to gain control becomes all-important. Developmental instructions that mandate how one “should be” or moral concepts that dictate what one “should believe” lead to the conclusion that all things can be determined to be either good or bad.
Interpretations of good and bad may vary among different people, but being “good” usually means being people-pleasing, conflict avoidant, and maintaining emotional and physical self-control. Emotional self-control commonly involves denying any feelings and emotions. Physical self-control focuses on body perfection, which is displayed in society as the ultimate goal and achievement. When suffering from anorexia, there is a need for control and the search for perfection evolves into restricting food, losing weight, exercising, and other forms of bodily control. The lack of clear identity, along with the obsessive nature of the disorder, often results in isolation in order to protect oneself from scrutiny or judgment.
When your weight loss becomes obvious, the positive reactions from others strengthens personal resolve and fuels the belief that this is good and acceptable, i.e., more “perfect”. This may be viewed as self-control and strength. As an anorexic, this promotes the feeling of pride and accomplishment which will likely encourage thoughts to continue to prove self worth and strength by physical, emotional, and psychological denial. When acceptable and successful in others’ eyes, this is deemed to be “good”. To an anorexic, “bad” is synonymous with weakness, and may be applied to eating, weight gain, cleanliness (germs), impulsiveness, lack of self-control, displaying emotions, and allowing oneself joy and pleasure. A convincing argument could even be formulated that if one’s life isn’t difficult and painful, then you aren’t working hard enough.
Over time, this anorexic identity strengthens as individuality diminishes, and you are unable to have a rational view of yourself. It becomes increasingly more important that others notice your weight loss in order to uphold that anorexic identity, even when it becomes obvious that weight loss has reached a dangerous level. The numerous psychological factors involved in the maintenance of anorexia may each take on their own personal identity. It’s terrifying, as an anorexic, to imagine letting go of that identity; there is perceived emptiness without it, along with loss and loneliness. This often leads to desperation in thinking:
· Who am I without it?
· How do I find out who I am?
· Will I like who I am?
· Will others like who I am?
This is a process of discovery, and it can not be hurried. But it can be encouraged by being willing to take risks in exploring your values, reaching out for support, and by challenging your past beliefs.
In my experience after many years of maintaining the disease and not being successful in numerous attempts at recovery, I felt no pride or accomplishment in that identity. For years, my “anorexic” identity had been seen by everyone around me, but I felt shame and guilt for continuing to be sick. I hid my body and pretended that I was fine. I wanted out of the prison I had built, and I wanted to adopt a new identity, yet fear had me immobilized, and I knew no way out. As I began to recover, giving up that identity wasn’t as hard as I had expected. Because that identity had become a source of shame for me, I desperately wanted something better for my life. I also made the decision not to return to the environment I had come from, so I didn’t have the same issues that others might have of people noticing and commenting on the physical changes they saw in me. I did however, feel great fear about what my identity would be without anorexia. I knew myself no other way.
During recovery, the first and most important issue that I addressed was weight restoration and maintenance; normal brain function had to be restored. On a daily basis, weight stability has been the key to allowing me to discover my true identity. I feared at first that I would have to develop or create an identity, which seemed overwhelming, until I realized that I had an identity before anorexia. I had to do a lot of hard work to recover and understand it. Recovery is a process which requires repeated times of letting go and allowing yourself to become who you really are. I have acquired an understanding and belief that worth is not earned, nor is it something that is developed. Worth is something that is realized along with the development of an identity outside of anorexia, including the social skills to contribute to meaningful relationships, and the acceptance of who you are as a person. This requires taking risks, a commitment to examining who you are as a person, and patience. I now find strength in having true control over my disease, trusting my own decisions, and by refusing to use past coping skills.
Developing and maintaining an identity is a life-long process, as you grow, change, live, and learn. Life’s experiences, and how you deal with them, also influence who you are. At this point in my recovery, I have learned a lot about who I am, and I am able to accept myself, flaws and all! I have become comfortable with my body size, and when I feel discomfort, I am aware that it is not about my body, but that something emotional is going on, and I’m not dealing with it in the healthiest way. Now that I know what maintaining a healthy weight has given me, I’m not willing to sacrifice that. My weight is no longer who I am.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Random Snippets.....

Breaking Benjamin concert...Wednesday night...

I'm preparing to drive four hours today to Indianapolis. My Christmas gift to my son Matt is to attend a concert with him (his idea). Breaking Benjamin and two or three additional bands??? Should be interesting.....:)It's actually pretty amazing that he wants me to go with him, for several reasons. It was only 5-6 years ago that I could not be around him for fear of my own safety. His anger and grief over his brother's death, combined with me leaving and divorcing his Father caused extreme turmoil between us. I won't even try to describe it all. I'd like to forget. But what is so wonderful about this is that he WANTS to be with me, and he knows that I am now truly alive and able to enjoy doing things with him (even this concert ?? :). I missed out on so many of these types of things while he was growing up. One of his worst memories (and mine), he has told me, is me being in a wheelchair while we were at DisneyWorld. I was too weak to walk around the park due to my eating disorder. He was about 7 years old, and he has told me how humiliating it was for him. I have forgiven myself (but it took a long time), and now, I can only hope that by making new and more joyful memories, those more painful ones will fall behind.


First, I have not become a groupie...head banging, hot, sweaty, LOUD, but it was all worth it to be with Matt. I was thinking in the midst of it, that he and I have truly not had times of FUN was like we all just 'got through' each day...makes me tear up. But last night....we were alive..BOTH of us! Not crazy (well, maybe a little :), but I could tell he was happy to be with me, and I think he was proud of me....maybe? He's really become such a sweet and caring man. He is so loveable..truly! I enabled him last night....paid for all the tickets AND a room for the night. I don't care. It's Christmas. Period.

Being alive....truly alive. I never knew it. I didn't think I wanted it. I was terrified of it!
I use to think that the Holidays were only about food. That's because that's all I could think about, and it was what I most feared. I would focus on 'just getting through it'....'survive this one, and it will be over'.....wishing time away.
I wished away over half of my life due to fear.
What have I learned? I WANT TO LIVE! I am experiencing life and I am not afraid!
Recovery has given me a new set of eyes, a new perspective on the world and my life. I look at experiences as just that-experiences-and I don't find myself 'just getting through', but living every moment for what it has to offer. Some moments don't offer much, or what I may experience is pain, grief, or sadness. Those moments have to happen, or else the moments of joy and true peace could never exist. Every other statement is not "I'm sorry", because I have learned to accept who I am, without apology.....HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Challenges/Triggers-Stepping Stones to Recovery?

The title may seem odd, but it fits with my stream of thought at the why not? Among my on line 'sisters', there has been a lot of talk about 'triggers'. Do you try to avoid them or remove them from your life? If you think about it, 'triggers' are simply people, situations, advertisements, or statements that may cause us to feel the urge to act out in an eating disordered way. They are all part of LIFE. Unless you want to avoid living, which for me, is exactly why I LOVE being recovered....I AM living, you have to learn to deal with 'triggers' and decrease the power they may have once had over you.
I see a big similarity between challenges in recovery and triggers in everyday life. In fact, can't you pretty much interchange those two words in my statement?
The challenges in recovery are many. It comes down to NOT hiding from your fears, and facing them, doing whatever is required to take that next step. Each time you don't back down, you take power from your fear and the eating disorder, which you can use to take once again, that next step forward. How is this similar to dealing with 'triggers'?
When faced with what usually triggers you to have a symptom or put yourself down, which then may lead to self-harm or a symptom, the test is to not react, but to act, in the opposite direction. Think about how you can use the knowledge of how this affects you to change how it affects you. I am a firm believer that knowledge is power. Once you have knowledge, if you choose not to use it, you have no excuse. Along with this, once you are aware of what may 'trigger' unhealthy thoughts or behaviors, you can use this awareness as power to resist those past responses. This is much like ammunition against the eating disorder, and for recovery. You get to decide how you will use this a stepping stone to recovery, or as a step back into the prison of the eating disorder.
Knowledge of what my trigger you may be what saves you. Not because you avoid it, but because you learn how to arm yourself and not allow it to control you. Avoiding would be just what was accomplished by the eating disorder. How well does that work?
As with recovery challenges, if you never challenge those rules you had/have about eating, would you ever be free? Would you ever be recovered? Why settle for partial recovery, with a 50% chance of relapse?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Leap of Faith

I love this picture! I took it on our vacation this past September during our tour around the San Diego Zoo. Talk about perfect timing!! This beautiful beast was posed and ready to take a dive just as the tour bus we were riding in was the two seconds following this moment, he took the plunge, diving head first, deep into the water....what a show!! These are the experiences that I cherish as I live my days as a recovered person. While I was sick, being at the Zoo, having this opportunity to witness such a thing would never have interested me. I had no strength or energy to focus or feel.
I found during my treatment and true recovery that there were several moments at which I had to take that 'leap of faith' in order to move forward. I had to trust that what was ahead would be better. It required faith that the outcome would be better, or at least not worse than what I had been, and was experiencing. Bottom line, a change had to occur, and because my own decisions about recovery or staying sick had not worked, I had to do things that were uncertain and very frightening.
As I said, I knew that MY decisions had not gotten me anywhere, so it became a matter of that the professionals knew more than I did about what I needed. That was a hard one for a person who had somehow, in my mind, maintained control for many many years. During that time I thought I was staving off what I perceived to be the worst possible consequences. But truth be told, my 'control' only kept me sick for over 35 years. What I know now I did not know then, obviously.
This brings to mind something not related, but yet, possibly related...
From a young age I was terrified to do a somersault..yeah, a forward roll, as it was referred to in gym class. I would get in position, but I could never get past the fear of taking that 'leap of faith'. I do not know to this day what I was afraid of, but I was 27 years old before my husband then took me by surprise and pushed me on over. I almost hyperventilated. Yet, I felt a certain degree of success, like I had conquered some great obstacle. Yet, I have never done it again. I have no reason to. It's not important.
During recovery, many times I had to 'trust' others and eat enough to gain weight. I had to allow tubes to pump liquid feedings into my body. These were my earlier attempts at recovery. I realize now that I never really trusted, and my many efforts at manipulation are evidence of that. I never really took that 'leap of faith' to continue to pursue the truths for my life.
Coming to River Centre Clinic in January of 2002, on my own, against the 'best' wishes of my husband and family was a huge leap of faith, but more than that, it was a desperate attempt to save my own life. Yet still, I faced many more moments when I had to take that 'leap' once again. Accepting that I had to trust the professionals with decisions about food and weight, etc., took a leap of faith, and there were days when I felt like I had leaped beyond 'safety', but I always survived. Another quite drastic, but life-saving 'leap' was my decision to divorce my husband of over 29 years. This was, what I believe the true beginning of freedom from my eating disorder, not because this man had caused it, but because the only thing holding our marriage together was my eating disorder...and vice verse. and honest...revealing myself, without apology (I so love that phrase!!)....another very frightening, but so rewarding in the end, leap of faith. I was certain that I would never be accepted, that I had nothing to offer to anyone, that I would never 'measure up'. What I found was that with every 'leap' I took, my confidence increased, and I was stronger and ready to face the next 'leap'.
Today, as I strive to face life 'without apology' and with anticipation instead of fear, I often take the 'leap', because I now have a passion for life, and total intent to live my life fully, without fear.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Basic Training

What causes a person to develop an eating disorder? Many factors may be involved in the development of an eating disorder, some being genetic/biological, and some being environmental/cultural. Dieting is the number one factor that may contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Weight loss in general is the dangerous component in this scenario. For every person there is a point where their body will shift into 'starvation mode' due to lack of nutrition. When this happens. the likelihood that an eating disorder will result is very high. The state of 'starvation' causes a person to become more anxious, obsessive in thought and action, fearful and cognition may be greatly impaired. All of these play right into the rigidity and fears of the eating disorder mindset.
There are also certain personality characteristics that may exist before the development of an eating disorder, but that may become more intense with starvation. These include perfectionism, obsessiveness, depression, anxiety, a need for order and/or control, fears of change, and perhaps the most common, low self-esteem.
People who are suffering with an eating disorder often display certain other common characteristics, some of which include, fear of failure, suppression of emotions, or an extreme desire to please.
It's not always clear if these characteristics are present before the onset of an eating disorder, or if they may be the result of the development of the eating disorder. Nevertheless, because of these numerous and complex accompanying 'properties', treatment for an eating disorder must be unique to each individual and complete.
There are certain environmental factors that may also contribute to the onset of an eating disorder. These may include a history of being teased about shape or size, growing up in a controlled environment with little choice allowed, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, trauma (which includes abuse), pressure to perform, little or not emotional expression allowed, or if there is dieting behavior in the family, i.e. mother has an eating disorder or is excessively weight conscious.
Much can be said for the powerful effects that the dieting industry has on society's weight obsession. This in itself is a factor that may contribute to the onset of an eating disorder, but even more, it is likely to play a role in the maintenance of the eating disorder, especially if treatment is not sought.

Monday, November 23, 2009


So, I'm being asked this question more and more often these days. My daily life basically revolves around communication with those who are suffering with an eating disorder, in recovery, and researching articles and situations in society that involve or relate to eating disorders. How do I do it?
The question is not how I DO it, but how am I able to walk, talk, write and read about eating disorders almost 24/7 and not be triggered?
Even a year and a half ago I probably couldn't have. The groundwork started being laid many years ago, maybe before I even realized it.
Being a caretaker at heart, then becoming a nurse, was like water and fertilizer to that invisible seed. I naturally want to help, provide answers, education and support to those who are suffering. But I never could envision that I could be instrumental in the area of eating disorders until I knew I was REALLY going to recover. I knew that even before it happened. I knew I would recover when I was told it was possible. I knew I would recover when a professional looked me in the eye and told me it could happen. Because at that time, at age 45, I knew I had survived to that point for some reason. Had I not been a fighter, a survivor, I would have succumbed to my disorder by that time.
How do I do it?
My body and brain are now well fed. Therefore, my thoughts about eating and food are not irrational or distorted. I don't adhere to my own (or anyone else's) established 'food religion' anymore. My emotional state is not linked to how I feed myself.
I am not triggered because those old thought patterns are no longer deep ruts in my brain matter. They have been filled in with FOOD and a lot of self-respect and acceptance.
The 'things' that use to be triggering for me are no longer because I am no longer looking for validation from external forces or by proving myself. I now have the tools I need to survive. I am not on a search for the unknown any longer.
Does this mean my life is perfect? Not at all. What is perfect?
But it does mean that I know that whatever happens in my life I will survive. I have tools and people in my life who I know will be there for me. I know I am not alone with anything that may happen. I have chosen not to life a solitary lonely life.
I am not perfect. I make mistakes. What a relief to not have to live up to someone else's 'expectations'.....the beauty of not having an eating disorder anymore!!
That's how I do it...........

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tips For The Holidays

For anyone who is dealing with an eating disorder, or who is still in recovery from one, the Holidays can be a very difficult time. Holiday time may mean spending time with family members that you may not see frequently, plus the focus on an endless variety of foods and eating traditions.
Ask yourself, what kind of Holiday do you want to have? What would you like to be different this year from in the past? Who are the people in your family or gathering who will leave you with positive and energetic feelings? Focus on how YOU can positively affect your Holiday experience!!Here are a few basic suggestions to keep in mind during the Holidays:
**Consider times and places that may cause you increased stress. Remember you can make choices about where you will go ahead of time. Stick with your plans.
**Decide on a friend or family member who can be available to you if you are feeling stressed. It's important to have a plan so that you can prevent self-destructive behaviors.
**Be sure to get enough sleep. The Holidays bring extra activities and much hustle and bustle, and if you deprive your mind and body of adequate sleep it can create an unhealthy balance and leave you less prepared to handle the added stress.
**Plan to eat three meals a day to help prevent the urge to binge or added focus on food. Stick to your 'recovery' routine as usual.
**Plan time for self-care. You need time every day, even if only 15 minutes, to regenerate and relax, and refocus on recovery. This could be seeing a movie, calling a friend, meditating, or something that you know works for you.
**Make sure that there is food available that you feel comfortable eating. The best way to do this is to offer to bring a dish that you know you are comfortable eating. The goal is to decrese your anxiety around food as much as possible.
**Allow yourself some 'treats'. Deprivation is not self-care and is more likely to lead to resentment, binges or further restriction. Being judgmental of yourself for allowing yourself to eat some 'different' foods is only detrimental to your feelings about yourself and your recovery.
**Think about any boundaries that you may need to set with others...including food boundaries. If someone makes a comment about your weight or what you are eating, you can kindly reply with thanks for their concern, and assurance to them that you are taking care of yourself. If someone persists, you have every right to remove yourself from the situation or ignore them.
**Use positive self-talk. Remind yourself that you are in control of your choices, that you have the right to say 'no', that you are honoring your recovery by making a certain choice, and that you do NOT have to be perfect!!Follow up each day with a gratitude list for the things you are grateful for, including YOU!!
**Enjoy yourself! Step back and look at the bigger picture. Take time to enjoy your family and the essence of the Holiday season. Try to create memories and special moments instead of wishing things were different.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

It's been a great day. I am not a superstitious person, but I do cringe when I realize that it's 'that day' again. Human reaction, I suppose.
I like to write things here that are informative, educational or helpful in some way. Today I just want to share.
I was more nervous about talking to students today than I was the first time. But it didn't last long. The school was much smaller, so the group of students was also smaller, and more 'intimate'. I want to present as credible, but also as someone who can identify with the students. I believe that I can. My involvement with Challenge Day and my support to the adolescents at River Centre while I was in treatment, combined, has given me some added insight that otherwise I wouldn't have. I really like those teens...especially before they reach 17 or so.
I realized today while driving home that I want more opportunities to speak to those who are in treatment. I would like to be able to show them that recovery is really a possibility, and reality.
The students in the schools are a great audience, but because the majority of them have never dealt with an eating disorder (thankfully!), I don't think they can comprehend the perspective I come from. That's OK. It's still worth my effort to try to touch at least one young person who may be struggling.
As I have said and written before, I believe my illness would have ended sooner had I been given the message that recovery is possible. If even one person had thought to tell me that I COULD recover, or that they believed in ME, it might have made a difference. That is why this is so important to me.
I continue to plant seeds every day. I am not in control of their growth, only to harvest if they produce. I am thankful that my days are full of various responsibilities. God willing, I will be ready when the harvest is ripe.
I need a couple of days to 'be broccoli'......

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Are you DOing or BEing??

For many people who have suffered from an eating disorder, or who are by nature, more anxious, somewhat obsessive, or perhaps have a tendency to be perfectionistic, their success (in their minds) may be directly linked to their daily accomplishments.
I know very well what it means to evaluate my worth by the quality and quantity of what I DO, how much I accomplish, or how well I perform. I have spent most of my life striving to be 'good enough', which translated into constant efforts to please other people through performance, and as a full blown attempt to make my body 'perfect', which nearly killed me. My days were spent always DOing, always searching for acts which would prove that I am acceptable.
Now that I am fully recovered from my pattern of disordered eating and self-deprecation in numerous other ways, I am much more focused on BEing, and actively living my life fully every day. I embrace every opportunity to be present for new experiences, and I look for ways to learn more about who I am. This doesn't frighten me anymore.
Of course, I still take pride in my accomplishments, but my value is not based on how much or how well I perform.
Changing my focus has brought new peace to my life. I am now able to determine if my efforts to achieve are based on what brings me joy, and if I am allowing myself to be fully present in my daily life.
I am choosing to BE today, alive and well, instead of hanging my head in consternation, in an endless and fruitless attempt to DO my way through life.
Are YOU DOing or BEing??

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fund Raising Event

The following information is in regard to a panel discussion on eating disorder recovery and an AED fundraising event that may be of interest to those of you from the Michigan area in the U.S.
Panel discussion: "Surviving an Eating Disorder: From Recognition to Recovery"
Featured speakers: Kirsten Haglund, 2008 Miss America
Kirsten's mother, Iora Haglund
Activist, Donna Friedman
Panel chair: Judith Banker, MA,LLP,FAED
Executive Director, Center for Eating Disorders
Immediate Past President, AED
This panel discussion seeks to raise eating disorders awareness, offer hope for recovery, and provide
useful tools for families and professionals. Kirsten Haglund and Donna Friedman will share their personal stories of recovery. Iora Haglund will discuss her experience as the mother of a teen with anorexia, including her ideas about how families can help. Panel chair, Judith Banker, will provide a brief overview of the etiology and current treatment of eating disorders. Q and A to follow.
Date/Time: Monday, November 9, 7-8:30 p.m.
Meet-the-Speakers Fundraising Reception to follow to raise funds to support the work of
the Academy for Eating Disorders
Location: Ellen Thompson Women's Health Center
St.Joseph Mercy Hospital
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Space limited. To pre-register: 734-668-8585 or

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Magical Thinking?

Is it possible to control your world to the point of avoiding all things frightening and spontaneous? For anyone who has or has ever had an eating disorder, they will know all about the magnanimous effort it takes to attempt to do this. Often, a person who is suffering from an eating disorder, or one who suffers from OCD, obsessiveness, or anxiety, will also develop a certain pattern of thinking, in an attempt to find a solution for their life that feels safe. Because all of these disorders or conditions involve an attempt to avoid discomfort or pain, the aspect of 'magical thinking' may occur with all.
Think about the rules and rituals that often accompany an eating disorder. We feel a desperate need to ALWAYS do certain things, and NEVER do other certain things. I believe it all comes back to a need for certainty and an attempt to control our avoidance of harm or pain. We truly believe that by following a certain routine, using a special spoon or plate, cutting our food into certain sized pieces, chewing each bite a certain number of times, etc., we can prevent pain or harm from coming our way.
If you think about it, it's very dichotomous. On the one hand, we feel unworthy, weak, incapable, bad, or any number of other negative labels.
But...for some reason, we feel almost superior in our ability to control our environment to the point of controlling destiny.
If we do this, that will happen (or won't happen). If we don't do this, that won't happen (or will happen). It's a maddening way to live, and it keeps one totally imprisoned. There is only one way in our minds when this takes over. Our way. But the reality is, our way is slowly killing us.
Magical thinking?
Today, for me, magical thinking is simple. There is no perfect, so I don't have to be perfect. That's pretty magical to me! I can't control what happens in this world, but I can choose to live each day to the fullest, and to take the best possible care of myself along the way. When I look at my husband, the love I feel is magical. Being able to cry is magical, as it also allows me to laugh and sing.
I'm not running away anymore!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Armour

How can I protect my heart and my soul from the pain and grief associated with my memories? My 'former' life? I can't just cut my family out of my life, nor do I want to. I can't pretend those years never passed, or the painful memories never happened. How did I survive as long as I did? And why?
Going back to my small hometown was hard this past weekend. Seeing Matt living out of a motel room breaks my heart, yet I know it's not my fault. No job, no driver's license or car. I can't help him at this point. I bought him groceries.
I saw and talked to Andy's Mom. Andy shot and killed my youngest son eight and a half years ago. It was an accident. Andy is struggling emotionally with his memories and grief. We cried. My instinct to comfort was totally off balance. How can I possibly reach out to this young man? How? Why?
I went to the county High School and picked up a 2002 Yearbook that someone had donated to me. It contains a memorial page with pictures of Tim from age three, up to ten days before his death. I cried. My heart hurt, as it hurts now. I will always be aware of a hole in my heart just as Tim suffered.
The hard fact is there is no 'protection' from my memories. The truth is I don't want them to be erased. I am now able to embrace my 'former' life, as well as the life I live now. I have accepted that THIS is my life. I am who I am because of both my 'former' life and the life I live today.
The pain and grief that accompany my memories parallel the joys and love that I experience every day. They are all a part of ME. I am in love with Dave. I live my life with no apology. I embrace the opportunities that life now hands me, and I accept the responsibilities that sometimes cause me anger or resentment. I would not know what to change if I could. I tried that for years, and it only caused me illness.
How did I survive for all those years? Not for me to figure out. Why? Does it matter?
What matters is that I am alive and I want TODAY to count, for myself and everyone else in my life.
My armour is my awareness, my health and my willingness to continue to learn and grow.
I am thankful.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Many things to share...

I'm about to leave for a drive down to see the family, with a small detour to 'meet' my newest great-nephew on the way. Very excited about that! There are many things I'd like to write about, so for this moment, I will share a 'preview'. For any of you who happen to read my rambling writings, I am quite passionate about sharing facts and information about the dangers and the myths that are believed about eating disorders. Some of the things I want to elaborate more about are: Weight is genetically determined....when we try to 'make it' what we want or what we think is our 'healthy' weight, we are likely to either end up with a deadly eating disorder, or at a much higher set point weight than ever before. You can't mess with biology! We are led to believe that we CAN pick 'our' weight, and we will be happy and healthier forever. It's not true, and that belief has killed many women and men in their attempt to achieve that. Can we change our height? Can we change our genetic make-up in other ways? No.
Also, how did our society become so obsessed with proving our worth by external evaluation? Perfection? Perfection itself is a fallacy. How can be begin to help ourselves, our children, our friends, to change the ways that we determine or base our worth? Society fights any attempts to look internally, but it is possible. It's all about focusing on developing those genetic characteristics, our talents, our values, and our personalities in such a way that we can embrace those things as who we are..not what we weigh, what size we wear, or if we are able to make straight As. What are we sacrificing in our lives in an attempt to achieve some impossible perfection? Freedom from this trap is possible. Recovery from eating disorders is possible. What do YOU value about yourself and about your life? Think about it....more on this later....Namaste

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Why So Ashamed?

Why are so many people ashamed of who they are? Where does the shame originate for a person who is suffering from an eating disorder? What is it about society today that causes so many people to question who they are, and if they are 'good enough'? Everyone has an opinion. But it goes further than that. Society seems to imply that there is a 'stamp of approval' that we all must meet in order to be acceptable members of society.
This pressure is especially damaging for those who are already sensitive to the opinions of others, and is sometimes noted to be a factor in the development of an eating disorder. This sensitivity, along with other factors, is also what causes such an intense fear among those suffering to reach out for help. What is this fear all about? Again, it comes directly back to the judgments of society and the criticisms of those who are different or unique.
When I first developed anorexia about forty years ago, I consider it an advantage in this respect that not much of an opinion had been formed about eating disorders...they were virtually unknown. When I found out that I had an illness, I had no fear of seeking help, there just wasn't good treatment available.
Today, because of common views of much of society about eating disorders, those who are suffering are often seen as defiant, selfish, attention seeking, and just not caring for themselves. This couldn't be further from the truth. Or, for some who are suffering, there is pride, and a sense of accomplishment for being stronger than others because they don't 'need' food, which also appears as 'virtuous', which is not at all factual.
Eating disorders can be fatal. People can and do die from eating disorders. Anyone who is suffering from an eating disorder needs to know that with the proper kind of treatment, recovery is possible. You can't get help if you don't reach out and ask for it.
My recovery truly began in 2002. Until that time, the treatment that I had received was not based on research, facts or scientific models. I found during my recovery that my worst fears did not come to fruition when I challenged them. I expected rejection from others when I opened up to them, but I found support, and openness on their part as well. I was told for the first time in all my years of illness that recovery was possible! The staff at the River Centre Clinic ( ) told me there was hope. I had never been given that.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, the least important thing is that others understand. The most important is that you (or they) get the best help possible, and as quickly as possible. I found from experience that even if the people that you want to understand don't, in time, when they see that you are recovering and starting to reclaim your life, it won't matter any more. You deserve to live, and you deserve to be free!! No shame. Please step forward and seek the help you need! Namaste

Friday, October 2, 2009

Reflective Vacation

A week ago tomorrow morning, we left for the airport to fly to Las Vegas. How can you predetermine what a vacation will be like? You can't, but we both knew FOR SURE that we needed some time away together. Ahh....
I began this vacation tired. Tired of the daily responsibilities of life, and tired of preparing for time away. Why does that happen? Yet, I was excited to be getting away for a change of pace and some time with just Dave. Ahh....
We are sitting in the airport, and I see this young man...he's probably 16 or 17, dark-haired, tall, with those ruddy-looking cheeks I remember so well....just like Tim. My eyes welled up, and I tried to distract myself. He's on our flight.
I was finishing a book about a young girl with a congenital disease. Her Mother fought hard and sacrificed her entire family's happiness to gain support and financial help for her...only to have the girl die a year later by accidentally drowning in a nearby pond. Tragic. I sobbed...for Tim. Why couldn't he be with me, going on vacation, growing up to laugh, fall in love, and continue to be his special silly self? And Matt, sitting in jail, none of us knowing his future.
Is it OK for ME to be happy? To laugh? To fall in love? To be silly? Why did my boys have to miss out because I was sick? No answer. Life isn't fair.
We arrived in Las Vegas, hurry down to claim our luggage, and there he is. Standing with his parents. My eyes are filling with tears. What would he do if I ran up and hugged him? I would probably be arrested. So I cry. Why are my emotions so 'right here' when we are beginning our vacation?
We were in Las Vegas for three nights. We had a wonderful time, laughing, loving and enjoying our time away. We had the lunch buffet at the Mirage. Hundreds of foods to choose from. I loved it, and could never have done it even two years ago. No fear. Ahh...
I continued to think often of my boys and wish I could take them both on vacation. Maybe I can take Matt someplace, I only hope that Tim knows my heart. He does.
Driving to San Diego I am enthralled at the beauty of our Earth, and I am filled with gratitude for the life I have been given, for the love I feel for Dave, for my health, and for the wonderful friends I have.
San Diego. The Zoo. The beauty of the foliage nearly made me high. I took more pictures of flower blossoms than I did of animals. I loved every moment. Why did it take so long for me to come alive?
I see all the little children, and I regret that I missed those moments with my boys. Pregnant women. An impossible dream that is forever past. If I controlled the Universe, I would be pregnant and give birth to a daughter. But I don't, and I won't.
Combing the beaches and climbing the rocks along the shore. Another gift of recovery. True amazement at the beauty of life and this Earth. I have strength. I can climb. I smile a LOT!! Ahh...
Tonight we are going out for some fresh seafood and our last night in San Diego. Matt was released from jail on Thursday. The facility is overcrowded. What a strange world. I want to take him someplace magical for a vacation. Ahh...
We have today. No guarantees beyond this moment. What am I waiting for?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Do I Expect Too Much??

I've been very frustrated lately. While I know that my expectations for myself are still too high sometimes, I'm much nicer to myself than I use to be...:)
My house isn't spotless, and I kind of like that I can (do) still use the excuse that I 'just' had back surgery (two months ago) to put off doing housework....very different for me.
Me...the person who would follow a 'schedule' no matter matter WHO was sick, including myself, no matter how much pain I was in, no matter ANYTHING, if I didn't clean my house, blah blah blah....WHAT?? I guess I had nothing else to cling other way to feel safe..although I wasn't.
So now I have no clue when I plan to 'clean'. My house isn't dirty. I'm still anal about clutter, but a little dust, some pretty cat what?
Now what was I saying....?
I'm very frustrated at the moment with people who say they will do something, then just don't do it. Please don't commit to doing something if you aren't going to do it. And if you do, and something happens that prevents you from doing it, then TELL ME! Especially when there are third parties to know?
Of course I go back to "if you want something done (right), then you have to do it yourself".
For most of my life, I was just too stubborn to ask for help. Or I thought no one could do it 'good enough' (including myself), so of course I just never asked. That section in Nursing School about 'delegating'? Forget it.....
So DO I expect too much? I don't think so. I don't ask much of others. I know when I am thinking critically towards someone, it's usually a criticism of myself....I get that now.
I don't approach very many situations in my life with 'expectations'....huh. I can thank 'the love of my life' for that....what a man....hey, married three years today....WOOHOO!!
I expect to be treated with respect. I expect to be free to speak my voice. I expect that I will treated in like as I treat others....old fashioned? I don't think so.
Yeah...I'm frustrated that my life is narrowed in some ways due to present circumstances. I DO love my Mother-in-Law!! I WILL NOT regret this when I look back years from now...assuming that I am able to do that.
More than that, I know that I allow things to fester more than I should before I release them....THEN I SCREAM!!
So, yeah, I probably take on more than I 'should' sometimes, but who else can I count on...:)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

River Centre Clinic

Hands down...the River Centre Clinic saved my life. When I write that, I include every single staff person, including doctors, therapists, kitchen staff, program directors, office personnel, and every single one of the women I had the pleasure of being in treatment with. RCC is located in Sylvania, OH...which is actually right alongside the great city (a city is only as good as the people who occupy it, right?) of Toledo, OH...:) During my long battle with my eating disorder, I was in and out of many various types of treatment, including hospitals, psych wards, and specific ED treatment facilities. People ask me how I finally did it. Hmmm...I can't say it was ONE thing, but I do believe it was ONE place...RCC. I do believe that my previous treatment experiences were absolutely necessary, for negative and positive reasons, in order for me to end up at the door of RCC on January 21, 2002, desperate to find my path to life. My 'story' exists in other posts on this Blog, so I won't repeat myself. There were many aspects of my treatment at RCC that made it possible for me to fully recover, but the first and most important thing that I was given was HOPE. I had never been told that someone believed I could recover. Many people had given up on me..including myself. There were other aspects of my treatment at RCC that were unique, including....the scientifically-based treatment model that was used, which allowed me to utilize my obsessive mindset to propel me toward recovery....rigid meal planning...personalized therapy and treatment plans....a carefully planned aftercare plan for prevention relapse...their attention to the continuum of care, beyond the PHP program.....the constant focus on the development of MY identity....outside and without an eating disorder...and something that I never considered important-developing a support system by forming healthy and honest relationships. My recovery didn't happen quickly...but it has certainly become COMPLETE!! The most amazing thing for me now is to wake up and not feel fear. I had lived my life in fear before recovery. I have an amazing ability to LOVE, and I love laughing and being totally and completely silly! I now think a lot about TODAY, and what is important RIGHT NOW. After all, do any of us really know that we have tomorrow? I have seen many adolscents, young women and middle age women find hope and health through their treatment at the River Centre Clinic. Check it out at !!!

NEDA Conference

I had an amazing experience last weekend in Minneapolis at the National Eating Disorder Conference! It was truly an honor to be able to meet and share with some of the experts in the field of treatment and research of eating disorders. Not only did I learn a great deal, but this experience has expanded my vision for my own work in this field. I ask myself daily, "how can I make a difference"?
The Conference also allowed me to meet some amazing women who have also recovered from their eating disorders. ALWAYS REMEMBER FULL RECOVERY IS A REAL POSSIBILITY...A REALITY!! I met a very genuine, caring young woman named Jenni Shaefer. She is fully recovered from an eating disorder, and has written two books. I highly recommend that anyone with ANY interest or concerns about eating disorders read her books!! She also speaks all over the country, and works especially with students on college campuses. Way to go Jenni!! I came home with a lot of information, and some additional ideas about my own path as I strive to support others in recovery. I'm trying to figure out how to add more hours to my day! Since it isn't possible in the literal sense, I have to decide how I can manage that in terms of balancing my personal life..which is an important goal for anyone in recovery. More to come soon...:)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

ED-NOS a REAL Eating Disorder?

Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia nervosa are the two most common diagnoses given for someone who is suffering from an eating disorder. If a person is struggling with eating disorder thoughts, feelings or behaviors, but does not have all the symptoms of anorexia or bulimia, that person may be diagnosed with eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS).

Some known examples of EDNOS include:

1. Despite having regular menses, all of the criteria for anorexia nervosa are met.
2. Despite substantial weight loss, the individual's current weight is in the normal range.
3. Binging may occur, but at a frequency of less than twice a week or for a duration of less than 3 months.
4. A normal body weight is maintained, but inappropriate compensatory behavior after eating small amounts of food (such as purging after the consumption of two cookies) is seen.
5. Repeatedly chewing and spitting, but not swallowing, large amounts of food.
6. Recurrent episodes of binge eating in the absence of the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors characteristic of Bulimia Nervosa.
The “not otherwise specified” label often suggests to people that these disorders are not as important, as serious, or as common as anorexia or bulimia nervosa. This is not true. Far more individuals suffer from EDNOS than from bulimia and anorexia combined, and the risks associated with having EDNOS are often just as profound as with anorexia or bulimia because many people with EDNOS engage in the same risky, damaging behaviors seen in other eating disorders.

Often, people categorized as having ED-NOS are basically anorexic or bulimic, but cannot be classified as such because of a technicality. Obviously, ED-NOS can very easily lead to a diagnosis of one of the two other clinical eating disorders. Some sources point to as many as 50% of eating disorder cases being diagnosed as ED-NOS.
In the meantime, if you mention "ED-NOS" to most laypeople, they will not have a clue what you are talking about. While anorexia and bulimia get all the publicity, people diagnosed as NOS are often left in the shadows. They may look at the criteria for anorexia and bulimia and feel puzzled. They know something is "off" about their eating habits, but feel invalidated because nothing out there tells them that what they have is in fact an eating disorder. Invalidation, usually unintentional, may also come from family or friends. (The person who has lost fifty pounds by starving themselves but is still overweight will more likely get praise from loved ones rather than concern, for example.)
Even though ED-NOS may not get quite as much publicity as its more infamous "cousins," it is important to remember that ANY eating disorder has the potential to be lethal. In the long term, it's not the label that matters; it's the PERSON. And a person diagnosed with ED-NOS deserves just as much care, consideration, and support as any other eating disordered patient.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Order-->Chaos-->New Order

This can apply to many different situations in life, but because my experience with this concept was related to my recovery from anorexia, I am posting it here.


This is your 'COMFORT ZONE'. Everyday is more of the same. It's FAMILIAR (safe). But it's NOT WHAT YOU REALLY WANT, and you NEVER feel 'GOOD ENOUGH'...thin enough...etc.


Your FEAR increases as you things begin to CHANGE. In recovery you are changing the way you eat, the way you think about eating, and your body may also be changing dramatically. This is a very UNCOMFORTABLE place to be. You probably feel OUT OF CONTROL. Your life is CHAOTIC. When you look ahead, you only see THE UNKNOWN. All of this combines to create INCREASED ANXIETY.


This is always a BETTER PLACE. You FEEL A LOT BETTER. You are finding that your life contains NEW COMFORT ZONES. You are creating NEW NEUROLOGICAL PATHWAYS as you change the way you are thinking about food, weight, and your life in general. You are realizing an INCREASED SELF-AWARENESS. When you stop...LOOKING BACK..IT IS WORTH GOING THROUGH THE CHAOS.

"Your pain is the breaking point of the shell that encloses your understanding."
-Kahlil Gibran
The Prophet


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Preventive Education or Tips on Becoming Sicker?

It's a tricky issue when it comes to considering a presentation to a certain population, such as Middle/High School students or young adults,
about the signs, symptoms and dangers of eating disorders. This population is a very vulnerable one, where
they are already likely searching for their purpose and personal identity. Some may even already
have, or be at the beginning stages of an eating disorder. While there is a sincere effort being made to
warn and educate these people about the negative affects of an eating disorder, it is very easy
for this to become a "teaching lesson" about how to engage in even more eating disorder behavior, without
realizing or being able to understand the real dangers. The lure of losing weight, having control, and
even just being noticed, can sometimes only be enhanced by the information being presented.
It can be especially harmful when specific numbers, such as low weights, low caloric intake, or
amount of time spent over-exercising are mentioned, because there is a factor of competitiveness in eating
disorders that very often becomes a triggering factor.
While there is a need for awareness among this population for factual information for
preventive purposes, it must be approached with caution and the availability for follow-up
consultation for those who may need support.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


As I've connected with more and more people who are struggling with an eating disorder, and/or working to find their way to recovery, I hear the question above asked over and over, whether literally, or expressed in their words of pain as they try to understand the steps they need to take to be recovered. There is no one answer. I have asked myself the same question time and time again over the past 40 years. I often wondered, as I felt like I was being swallowed up by the prison of anorexia, "can't there just be a pill that I could take that would make it all go away?".
There are countless factors involved in each person's recovery from their particular eating disorder. Because eating disorders are NOT truly about food, it all comes down to what issues in each person's life need to be addressed in order to find the key to recovery.
The one common element that comes into play is first of all to stabilize your eating, and restore your weight to what is normal for your genetic make-up. The time it takes for this varies dramaatically, depending on what condition your body is in when you begin treatment or recovery.
Going back a bit....many times a person, including myself, will go through multiple recovery attempts, which adds up to years of failed attempts. This adds to both the frustration, and also the complexity of the eating disorder.....which means only more time added to recovery.
After the person's physical status is stabilized, then the emotional work begins. Some common emotional factors that may be contributing to the maintenance of an eating disorder are past (or present)abuse/trauma..including incest, obsessional thinking, the need for control and certainty, grief issues, anxiety, suppressed emotional expression, lack of a clear personal identity without an ED, fear of rejection or criticism, society's emphasis on physical perfection, plus many more possibilities.
Working through any of these issues, or sometimes several together, takes time. If these issues are not addressed in treatment, the likelihood of relapse is very high becsuse the sources have not been dealt with. I like the comparison of recovery to the process of peeling an onion...layers and layers that must be uncovered. It's usually a very painful process.
You can't ignore that compliance with treatment is a huge factor in the time it takes to recover. For me, I repeatedly went in and out of the hospital, into treatment, then I would relapse again. An eating disorder has a way of causing a kind of push/pull between patients and professionals. For me, I did want help, but when someone tried to offer it, or tell me what I needed to do, I would automatically begin to lie and hide food, and do everything I could to fight against it. It was because of my extreme fears, confusion, and I know now, inappropriate treatment efforts.
The final and probably most important point that I'd like to make has to do with how important it is to have an iron-clad follow-up plan in place for a significant amount of time, in order to keep a present accountability factor in place to watch for even that small signal that a relapse could occur.
It's safe to say that the longer that a person has had their ED, the longer it will likely take for that person to fully recover. The ED messages and behaviors become so ingrained into a person's life....that when changes begin to be made, it takes a lot of hard work and time to change your lifestyle and habits. You truly do have to transplant a new healthy identity into the empty space left behind by an eating disorder.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Different "Recovery"

This past week has been a bit of a blur, after undergoing spinal fusion surgery exactly one week ago today. Trying to manage pain, adjust to basically not doing anything (for now), and fighting with those perfectionistic/control issues I have about managing my household in a certain way....I'm finally feeling more "normal", whatever that is. I guess you could say I am in recovery..again...but definitely much different from eating disorder recovery!! I had several people ask me before this surgery if I was concerned about how it might affect my ED recovery. I really had none, and still don't.....YAY!! My previous surgery, right about three years ago, directly involved my stomach, so I was NPO (nothing by mouth) for five entire days. I was already struggling a bit with the beginning of a relapse before that surgery, and being unable to eat or drink for five days set me up royally for a total relapse. It was horrible.

But going into this surgery, I knew I would be OK. I know where my mind is, and while I may always be vulnerable, I don't feel fragile at all. So this past week has been painful, but that's expected. I'm now in less pain, moving better, and today I decided to put my contacts in for the first time in a week, and a little make-up. So I know I am feeling better. In terms of eating...the first few days were hard because I had no appetite, and had off/on nausea, perhaps from the pain medication..not sure. But I ate anyway, and I continued to choose foods and drinks that were higher in calories, so I won't fall back. Example...using a Bagel to make a sandwich gives me twice as many calories as using bread or a bun...kind of reverse dieting....:). I always drink whole milk, so I have made sure I am drinking at least two full cups of that per plenty of other juices, etc.

The pain medication that I am taking, as most, causes constipation, so I have had to deal with that. My head (thoughts) are truly fine with it, and I'm surprisingly NOT uncomfortable physically....??? I just keep eating things that I know usually keep me regular, and the recommended stool softener (NEVER laxatives), and I trust that it will all work pun intended!!

So far, this experience has been one more affirmation to me that my dedication is grounded for continued recovery. The "critters" that have so often stayed in the background, waiting to pounce on me during my weaker moments, are no longer there!!

I'm looking forward to many exciting opportunities in the next couple of months, and I'm beginning to believe that I will feel GREAT and be able to participate and enjoy them 100%!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Weekend In Recovery

So, what is it like to be free from and recovered from a chronic eating disorder? My life is far too different to relate everything, but I'd like to share a bit about this past weekend. I drove down to my hometown, 325 miles away, for a GNO (Girl's Night Out) on Friday, and then I stayed until Monday morning to celebrate my Mother's birthday and visit with my family. Would I have been excited to see classmates from 35 years ago if I still had anorexia? No. I would have been embarrassed, too tired to be up after 8:30 pm, and just not interested in trying to talk to people when my brain was fried from starvation.
But I was very excited to be going!! I saw many friends from HS, plus people from my community who I think may have thought I had died. I ordered dinner without a second thought. I walked up to people and talked to them whether I was sure they knew me or not. I danced like a schoolgirl and sweat like a football player, and I had the time of my life!! The ONLY drawback was that my sweetie was back home taking care of his Mom. That's the way we have to do it right now. I wore myself out, but left with some new happy memories.
My relationship with my Mom is better than it's ever been. I'm not afraid to say what I think, even if I know she doesn't agree with me. It's OK for me to be be ME....and I've found that my family actually shows me respect for standing up for I miss my Dad. Memories of him are everywhere. I cry and move on, and focus on what a respectful, loyal man he was. That doesn't mean I always agreed with him.
I visited the cemetary where my son is buried. The Azalea I planted in April is thriving. I talked to him. I cried. I told him I love him, and I left with a picture in my head of he and my Father laughing and riding the tractor (John Deere of course!).
My siblings and I got together and celebrated my Mom's birthday...a bit early. I eat what I want....really eat....and I enjoy my brothers and sister for who they are, not for how I measure up to them. I wasn't waiting for them to leave, as has always been the case in the past. I picked green beans in the garden. I went to my brother's house that night to celebrate his wife's son's 30th birthday. But the real reason I went was to see the 7 month old twins and the 6-week old baby boy of my niece and her husband. Babies are popping out all over down there....:)
Rested more on Sunday....ate fried chicken for the third time in a row...who cares? But by Sunday night, I knew once again that I would never be able to live there again. I would smother to death. Too many memories and reminders of being sick. By the time I loaded up and started back home on Monday, I couldn't wait to get home.
I didn't count calories or meal plan while I was gone. My body is beginning to know how to care for itself. My weight has been stable for many months. I praise God that I can trust my body and mind to allow me to be healthy. But I'm not naive. I will always keep meal planning in my life to keep me stabilized. I've been through Hell, and I don't want to go back there again.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

From Anorexia To Bulimia-Why Does This Happen?

As I've recently been in contact with many people, dealing with many various aspects of an eating disorder, I've come to realize just how common it is for someone with anorexia to eventually evolve into bulimic behaviors. I've known this on a cognitive level, but never so much on a personal basis, such as hearing from many people, especially women, who are experiencing this. What I am hearing is a great amount of shame, especially for those who have been in treatment for anorexia and thought they had defeated their eating disorder. This is irrational, yet very understandable, given the attitude that society has towards eating disorders in general.

Statistically, approximately 50% of anorexics will develop some sort of bulimic behavior during their illness. For someone who has been weight restored, and on the path to recovery, a "relapse" into bulimic behavior can be devastating. They feel an even greater loss of control with their eating, and a desperate fear of weight gain. This can cause depression, hopelessness, and other impulsive behaviors in an attempt to numb out their fears once again. All of these things are what I hear being expressed.

The reasons for this transition from anorexia (restricting) to bulimia can be due to a couple of very logical explanations.
1) If a person is not weight restored to a point where they are no longer biologically challenged, the likelihood is greater that they will not be able to continue to suppress their intake or weight, which will eventually result in impulsive binging (and possibly purging) behaviors. This begins only one more vicious cycle that commonly causes shame and isolation.
2) Sometimes a person who has had chronic anorexia for many years, and has tried several different treatments that have "failed" (in their eyes), their body may simply not be able to continue the extreme starvation. Biology takes over, and because this person hasn't established a healthy, consistent eating routine, binging may be out of control.

A person who is in this situation often expresses hopelessness, apathy, and just simply giving up on ever being free from their disorder. If the disorder is not treated, the medical and psychological consequences of these behaviors will only increase in severity, or in some cases, a person will just give up, believing that there is no hope for them.

There is ALWAYS hope, as long as there is life!! Anyone who has suffered with an eating disorder is very strong in character, whether they realize it or not. The key is to use that strength in a positive way to fight with all they have for the freedom they deserve!!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Caretaking: Common Among People With Eating Disorders

So what's so wrong with wanting to take care of people? Why is it a "bad" thing to try to make everyone around you happy? This is a common pursuit among people who have developed eating disorders, for several different reasons. One, they may have been raised to believe that at all cost, self-sacrifice for the happiness of others is the "good" thing to do. Or it may be a coping mechanism that the person has developed in order to keep the environment around them calm, in an attempt to prevent conflict. The attempt to please everyone and prove your worth fits right in with stuffing your true emotions and trying not to "rock the boat", so to speak.

I am an RN. My profession and nature is to take care of people. But for many years I did this for all the wrong reasons. It was the only way I could feel good about who I was as a person. I felt completely worthless as a person, so I thought I had to prove my worth in the things I DID, not because of who I am. I never stood up for myself, so therefore was dominated in my first marriage, and by the rules about good and bad that I heard all around me. I was actually denying who I was as a person in order to make the other people in my life approve of me. My eating disorder was a direct result of trying to do all the right things, yet resenting it, therefore those feelings came out as self-harm by not eating.

I realize now that I raised my sons in such a way that they never had a chance to learn to take care of themselves, and in adulthood, my son now struggles with taking responsibility for his own life, and his own mistakes. Rescuing him and others, turned out to be more enabling that helpful.

Now as I have recovered, and I have learned to stand up for who I am, and because I now value who I am as a person, I don't think that it's necessary for me to constantly be someone who everyone likes or who takes care of everyone around me. But, ironically, people generally DO like and respect me, and by nature, I am still a person who likes to care for others, but now it is completely from my heart, not in a vain attempt to gain acceptance. I can't even put into words the joy I feel as I reach out and support and help others in ways that I am able. I know it is genuine, and I respect myself for that.

In the last month, my dear Mother-in-Law has now become a member of our immediate household. She has significant dementia, and requires supervision for most everything she does. I have been put back into the role of the caretaker, but my perspective of this is entirely different from other times. I no longer restrict what I am eating. I take care that I keep time for myself as a priority as well as taking care of her needs. The care I provide for her is not based on trying to prove that I am "good" or worthy, it's done purely out of love for her. That's not to say that since she has moved in my life has changed. My "wings" have been clipped a bit, but I am still flying, just not in a straight line every day! I am NOT sacrificing my own needs, nor the needs of my marriage in order to care for her.

Balance is a key point in recovery, and especially when it comes to assessing your wants/needs to take care of the people around you. For me, this is just one of the many areas that I am now able to see how it enriches my life, instead of risking my life, and how much better I am for myself and others when I do take care of myself!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


What I mean by this term is taking the steps that each of us needs in our lives to avoid putting ourselves into situations where we might be triggered into having symptoms. "Triggers" are unique to every individual. They can relate to memories, past abuse or trauma, grief, advertisements in the media (Television, magazines, newspapers, etc.), and one the biggest...just doing your routine grocery shopping!! The diet ads and promotions for "healthy" eating or weight seem to follow us through our day. I advocate each of doing whatever we need to avoid exposure or interaction with situations or even people who may be a triggering factor in our life.

I am quite alarmed also by the vast amount of Pro-eating disorder material on the Internet. I have not researched or looked at any of these sites, but I am seeing the direct results of this propaganda. These sites promote DEATH...simply put. Some people might think that seeing actual photos of starving women or men might be helpful in turning away from an eating disorder, but it doesn't work that way.

When someone is entrenched in an eating disorder, and imprisoned by the obsessive thoughts and behaviors, the graphic pictures and advice on how to stay sick, or become sicker, is very alluring. It also provides them with excuses for why they don't need to seek help...."see, other people are like me and it's OK". This is very dangerous, and I propose that we all avoid and take any steps possible to ban these messages from our lives. Please, think about what YOU need to remain in recovery and safe from these dangerous triggers, and move forward into a life of health!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Food Rules

The mind of an anorexic is fueled by rules and restrictions as a means of control and protection. For the anorexic, life’s uncertainties and perceived fears cause great anxiety and feelings of danger and insecurity. I will relate my own experiences with this, and how it affected my life with this disease.

Losing weight and dieting was my main objective. It became my only goal, every day. From the beginning, I classified foods into two categories, either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I set up rules in my mind about how, when and what I would allow myself to eat. My rules changed over the years, depending on society’s influence, family influence and ideas that I thought might cause more weight loss. Certain foods would suddenly fall into the bad category, if I felt a sense of danger, insecurity or a loss of control. I had certain rules about when I could eat, in what order I could eat certain foods, on certain days, even what plates, silverware and cups I could use. I had a certain order in which I would eat certain foods. Every second my actions were methodical and calculated. Rules, rigidity and absolute control played out in all other areas of my life also. I had rules, rituals, or a routine for every second of my day, and for days in advance. If at any time I broke the rules, this caused fear and extreme anxiety.

One of the rules that I set for myself from the very beginning was that I must eat differently than others. The foods had to be different, the times I ate were different, and the method in which I ate had to be different. For the entire span of my disease, my patent excuse for not eating, or for the differences in my eating was “I don’t like it”. This is a common excuse for most anorexics. Eventually, over time, I even convinced myself of that, and my list of bad foods became longer. The worst of this came the last 10 years or so of my disease, except for an 18 month period after I had been in treatment. During that time, my rules relaxed to some degree, but were never completely controlled. Within a short amount of time, what I allowed myself decreased again and the rules became even more rigid. After that time, my intake steadily decreased, and from that point on I became a virtual recluse. My days were completely planned around my eating schedule, and I allowed nothing to interfere. I missed out on my boys’ school and sporting events, family holidays and birthdays, and I had entirely no social interaction. I had to protect my ‘secret’ lifestyle, which by that time was most evident to everyone who knew me.

I took on a health food approach for some time, which played right into my need to be different. I avoided all sugars and preservatives, and I baked all my family’s bread, even to the point of grinding the raw wheat for flour. But interestingly enough, I never ate it. I can see now that resisting the temptation provided another test of my willpower, and another chance to prove my success. Then I was a vegetarian for several years, avoiding any kind of protein, including meat, dairy products, eggs, fish or chicken.

My rules did change along the course of my disease, but they were always there. It was all about control and a pseudo protection, safety and security. Every treatment that I went into, I formed my own set of rules as a means to maintain control. The lies, manipulation and desperate fear prevented me from accepting treatment or committing to recovery. After I was admitted to my final and successful treatment center, it still took me many months after weight restoration to be able to admit and recognize what my food ruts and rules were, and to begin to challenge them. That is when I began to feel REAL control.

I am now living each day with no rules about what I eat, or labels in my mind about “good” or “bad” foods. The obsessive nature of my life in general has greatly decreased. I will always be a very organized person, with a need for order, but not to the point that it interferes with the joy that I now experience every day in my life. My first priority is to eat enough food each day to remain healthy, and to never again sacrifice myself in any way to meet society’s expectations or to gain acceptance.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Body Image Distortions-Why So Difficult To Resolve?

Body Image...nearly every woman at some point in her life struggles with how she feels about her body. With society's obsession with perfection, and such a huge emphasis on "outer beauty", it's no wonder that so many women AND men get caught up in wanting to change the way they make themselves more "perfect". Although there are many things that can contribute to the development of an eating disorder, this is almost always one of the issues involved.
While an eating disorder has control over a person's life, it also has control over their mind. Distortions of reality are prominent in many areas, but mostly concerning food, weight and body perception. The physiological affects of starvation exacerbate the distortions, and increase the anxiety pertaining to weight gain and changes in the body. While in recovery, starvation must be reversed, whether that be in terms of weight gain, or weight stabilization for those who are bulimic. Once the body has had time to stabilize at a healthy weight, thinking patterns will most likely also stabilize and be more realistic.
If you have been in recovery, are recovered, or know someone who has been through the process of recovery, you are probably aware that body image issues seem to be the longest lasting distortions, and are often the hardest to normalize. Accepting the added weight as "normal" or "healthy" is complex. The "rules" that dominate the person's mind are being broken. Society preaches weight loss and smaller sizes everywhere you look.
I believe that one of the reasons it takes more time to resolve body image issues is because when a person has an eating disorder, they often rate their worth on how successful they have been at losing weight, or controlling their weight. They often have no concept of themselves outside of having an eating disorder. Discovering and accepting one's identity outside of having an eating disorder is very difficult. It takes time to be able to find confidence and pride in yourself in other areas of your life. It even takes time to accept that working to recovery is something to be proud of.
You have to accept and like who you are on the inside, before you can be at peace with who you are, or what you look like on the outside. Anything in reverse of that is false and insincere. You have to embrace your life and your unique talents as who you are, and in truth, when you do that, your joy and confidence will show in the way you present to others. There is peace when this happens. Peace that you are "perfect" the way you are, without giving in to the pressures that this world puts on all of us. This is hard to do. Everyone wants to be accepted, and unfortunately, in many arenas, a person is judged by how they look.
Freedom can only come when you stand up and be proud of who you are, and "just say no" to the outside pressures that are so cheap and fake. Embrace the strength and power you have as a woman or a man of this amazing world we live in!!
Without apology.....♥

Monday, May 4, 2009


It's not uncommon for a person suffering from an eating disorder to also suffer from a lack of maturity in dealing with relationships. This is primarily due to avoidance of many social situations during and because of their disease. One of the most fearful parts of being in an open and honest relationship is dealing with the conflict that is unavoidable if both parties are being true to their beliefs and opinions. If you are stuck inside a self-prison of anorexia or bulimia, you are likely to also be very concerned about always pleasing those around you....DON'T ROCK THE BOAT!! You will avoid speaking your own truth to avoid making others angry or even risking that they might disagree with you. It's very painful to be in a position where someone close to you is angry with you, or doesn't agree with you. And if you are ill with an eating disorder, the fear of criticism is so overwhelming that you will likely go along whether you agree or not, just to avoid a conflict.
But if you are working through recovery, learning how to deal with conflict in relationships is a very important issue. You can't be true to who you are if you don't ever examine your own truth and speak it. We are each individuals, in our physical make-up, our values, and the decisions we make about how we choose to live our lives.
Limiting ourselves, or refraining from allowing ourselves to grow will only keep us sick and lonely. This is an area that takes "exposure", i.e. practice. Gradually, the more you challenge yourself to face up to someone whether or not they think the way you do, the stronger you become in your belief in yourself. And ultimately, the people in your life will respect you more for being who you really are, instead of hiding behind others' expectations.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Is YOUR Deepest Fear?

Our Deepest Fear

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn't serve the world.
There's nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others"

by Marianne Williamson

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


In the search for understanding of the disease of anorexia, a great deal of emphasis is placed on the issue of distorted body perception, and how it can influence the person’s self-image and the resulting behaviors.
The majority of the women in the US, with or without an eating disorder, have a heightened awareness and self criticism of their body shape and size. Society sends the message that thinness equals beauty and perfection, and that a person’s worth is based on physical attributes, which fuels the irrational thinking. Our diet-obsessed society can contribute markedly to the anxiety and obsessive behaviors, with regard to weight issues in the anorexic.
Misperceptions and distortions are sometimes already in place before anorexic symptoms begin. Dieting and weight loss can have a snowball affect, as each lower weight goal is reached, it is still not low enough. Each weight standard that an anorexic sets for herself, is replaced by a lower weight requirement, and a cycle begins. There is never a weight that is low enough. As this continues, the distortion of body image worsens. The drive for perfection perpetuates the cycle, never reaching a point that is good enough.
Anorexics frequently lack the ability to see reality about their own body. The distortions they see in themselves, seldom apply to others around them. Starvation contributes greatly to the distortions, which also increase comparisons, fears, and even paranoia about food, weight, and the desperate need for control. An anorexic becomes acutely aware of her body size, how many bones she can feel, how her clothes fit, if she is getting smaller. There is an odd sense of safety and security in staying emaciated and being able to feel bones without flesh. Smaller is always the goal. There is a visceral discomfort that can not be adequately described. Especially in times of stress and anxiety, there is an actual feeling of body expansion. It may develop into hypersensitivity to being touched by others, or even to having parts of their own bodies touch (legs, arms, etc.). This seems to center more in the mid body. The sensation of clothing touching their body may also set off extreme discomfort, as if proof that their body is growing larger. “Checking” may become an obsession. There is a need to continually feel their abdomen for anything other than flatness. The circumference of their upper arm may have significance to them, whether or not it is small enough to enable the fingers to encircle it.
For some, analyzing their mirror image may become constant, always looking, comparing, and seeking validation of a need to lose weight. The comparison issue also strengthens the misperception. They truly perceive themselves as being bigger than others, who may actually weigh 30-50 lbs. more than they do. There is nothing rational about the physical or psychological view that they have of themselves, while starvation effects are still present. In recovery, when the weight restoration process begins, body discomfort and distortion often worsens. Gaining weight, and the bodily changes that are associated with it signifies many different things to different people. It coincides with the loss of the anorexic identity, and the many fears involved with that. It nearly always indicates a loss of control, which to some also means that their weight is no longer in control. Some may be reliving their years of physical puberty, only then developing physical/sexual female characteristics, which makes the struggle with the image of their changing body even greater. This can stimulate memories and fears with past abuse issues, or fear of maturity and womanhood.
Normalizing body perception and acceptance is, I believe, one of the last issues to resolve in recovery. It requires continuous work on developing a healthy self-concept, including confidence and acceptance of who you are as a person, not solely as a physical body. As I have learned to distinguish my emotional and psychological issues, along with generalized anxiety, from eating, food and weight, I am much more able to prevent body discomfort, and to deal with it when I can’t. For me, the presence of body discomfort, emotional or physical, serves as a red flag that something deeper is going on. I can’t always identify the underlying emotions, but the key is accepting them and moving on.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Circular Thinking Patterns

This area is very hard to organize and express in writing. My personal awareness comes from experiencing it. Scientifically, I’m not educated on how the thinking part of the brain operates, or the specifics about what happens when that process is altered by starvation.
I can only share from my own experience, and attempt to describe the contrast between “then and now” of how my mind works, and how I can now carry my thoughts out to an end, instead of running away in the middle. I think in terms of there being three main phases in the process, simply, before, during and after.
BEFORE the disease itself unfolds, somewhat ‘normal’ personality traits may already be in place for the individual. There can be a predisposition for perfectionism, order, symmetry, and what may be considered as ‘safe’ routines. A person my base their worth (value) as a person, in their mind, on performance. All aspects of their life are considered either “good or bad”. The intense fear of loss of control in their life, along with possible criticism about their actions or capabilities can cause a desperate attempt for safety and security. Thoughts may come rapidly, with disorganization, which further distresses those who have a great need for simplicity and are accustomed to “black and white” thinking. The attempts to organize and file their thoughts into some sort of pattern can cause great anxiety and fear, because in a sense, that’s another area where they are losing control. Anxiety and obsessiveness are often at the root of this pattern of thinking, or perhaps the mindset itself leads to a generalized state of anxiety. These personality traits are common in those who develop eating disorders, particularly anorexia.
There are countless situations which can play a part in a person developing an eating disorder. By the time intensive treatment is necessary, the etiology is not as important as the process of behavioral change, discovering what factors may be maintaining their disorder and developing positive coping methods. Whatever the triggers are that bring the focus to weight, food, body shape and size, direct the thoughts even deeper into those personality traits which will better enable them to control their weight loss, to make their life more “perfect” (above reproach), and very likely gain attention. Attention from others very often may at first be positive, which may then become negative, as the drastic dangerous results of starvation become obvious.
DURING the anorexic disease process, and as it progresses through many different phases, the mindset discussed above strengthens, and the irrational thinking processes become more locked in. This is when the starvation affects begin to greatly impede the ability to think and process reality. There will present a decreased attention span, limited focus, and actual limits on accessing knowledge, which may continue to worsen as the brain itself becomes more starved. Reality itself becomes distorted, particularly in the aspects of weight, body shape and size, the meaning and purpose of food, and often joy and pleasure in life takes on a “bad” connotation. For me, suffering and punishment became a goal. I believed that pain indicated strength in my character, and what better pain but starvation? Obvious starvation impresses a higher self control, which in an anorexic’s mind, may indicate safety and security. Control becomes the supreme goal of every day, until that control reverses and turns on them, becoming a trap towards death. Paranoia grips and threatens their very existence. All thoughts are calculated and weighed. There is always an attempt for balance.
Throughout the disease process, as symptoms continue without interruption, the scope of thoughts narrows, becoming even more focused on food, and less on life itself. You may see behavior where the anorexic tempts and “tests” themself, as if there is a need to demonstrate control and denial, and strength, especially in others’ eyes. Being in the presence of food, cooking it, and seeing others eat, can actually stimulate smell and taste so that the anorexic thinks they can taste the food, their stomach may feel full, and there may even be a pretense of feeling more energy. Somehow, exposure to food strengthens the resolve to not eat it. It’s all part of the denial, and continued reinforcement of their belief that they can do without food, yet as the resistance grows stronger, the need for control increases. In an anorexic’s mind, others’ view and impression of them is of great importance. Questions, assumptions, and a sense of hope revolve around their presentation to others, and in many social situations.
Continuous daily rationalization is common; tomorrow they will change, tomorrow they will be able to eat, the limits they have set for themselves and adhered to, will not apply anymore; it will all be easier. These thoughts somehow allow an anorexic to get through each day, and to justify their current behavior. There is little or no insight to the consequences of their restricting, over-exercising, or other symptomatic behaviors, and one may not believe that these will have any long-lasting effects on their future. Thoughts often run in a circular pattern, reinforcing negative behaviors, which makes it very difficult to interrupt/break the cycle.
AFTER: which will be my own references to the process of recovery that I have personally experienced. I’m not sure if I should phrase this section as AFTER, because actually I consider myself still experiencing many changes that constitute the process of recovery. Considering this, I will attempt to describe the changes that have occurred in my thinking, and in my ability to understand it all. In the early stages of recovery, particularly while weight restoration was the focus, there were two competing forces in my mind. There was the one stream of thought that was completely obsessed with weight, body, shape, food, calories, activity (exercise), and comparisons. This was the dominant mindset, my brain was still very much in a starved state, and unable to break free of anorexic obsessions.
Yet for me, there was also a great desire for recovery, and freedom from it all, although I didn’t yet understand what that meant. In fact, this more passive mindset had survived all the years of my illness to that point, out of desperation and a deep desire and hope that someday I would know what it was like to be alive. I lived with my disease, always believing that there was an end somewhere. In the last days before I came to the facility where I truly found recovery, I felt a heavy hopelessness, and I doubted my strength to survive. But something else was there too, a strong desire to live. By that time, I believed that I was ready for someone else to control this, until I could do it myself.
Even at that, the fight within continued, and my resolve often waned in the presence of fear and the realization that recovery would involve much more than weight gain. Even with all the treatments that I had been through, I had never reached the point where I really understood that, or else refused to fully accept and believe it. As I began to approach my normal body weight, my thoughts began to clear, and I was able to focus on the changes that needed to occur in my life, and within myself, for me to continue through the recovery process. I wanted to change, as frightening as that was.
It has taken me a long time to understand and interrupt my black/white, all/nothing thinking, that had always prevented me from stepping outside myself, which allowed me to see within myself. That may sound odd, but that’s the way I see it. That type of thinking had always caused me great turmoil in decision making. I was constantly trying to determine between good and bad, right and wrong, with input coming from both my anorexic pattern of thinking, and the new understanding that I was developing, expanding my options, and opening up my life, so to speak. Somehow I have found the resolve and strength that I needed (with more than a little push and pull from outside forces), to keep pushing forward, challenging myself and my old patterns of thinking, and taking the necessary risks to grow and change.
The difference now is that I am excited about what recovery has given me and I believe that there are even better things ahead. As I stated, this is my own experience, while others may have different interpretations. While I know that many things have changed for me, I know I have more work ahead of me. It has taken me a long time to reach this point, and my journey has not been a smooth process. Someone very wise once told me that recovery is not linear. Time has made the difference, along with close connections to a network of support, and most important, maintaining symptom control. These are the only ways to keep my thoughts in check. I do still have anorexic thoughts pop into my mind from time to time, but the difference is that now I am able to recognize them, interrupt them, and move past them, without acting on them.