Thursday, February 25, 2010

Emptiness: Physical or Emotional?

What is the comfort in emptiness? What is behind the desperation felt by being 'full', and what does 'full' apply to?
Why did I feel so 'successful' when I could feel my bones, and I knew my stomach and bowels were empty? Why did I feel more 'safe' when I was emaciated, despite knowing that I could die?
There is a common desire among people suffering from an eating disorder to be 'empty'. Hence the extreme restriction of food intake, the purging of food after eating, laxative abuse to rid one's body of ANY food, or obsessive exercise in an attempt to 'use up' or compensate for what one has eaten.
I can only speculate on this, even now, being recovered, and I do not completely understand the psychology surrounding this. I do believe however, that this 'need' for emptiness has more of an emotional basis than a physical one. This correlates to how an eating disorder is not about food or weight, but about any combination of emotional stresses.
Speaking for myself, as I am now able to look back at my ED behaviors with a more 'clinical' perspective, I can identify some of the truths about how anorexia presented in my life, and what (pseudo) purpose it served.
My need to be empty had everything to do with my emotional overload, and very little, if anything to do with physical emptiness. The 'fuller' I was of intense, and what I perceived to be 'bad' feelings, the more I felt the need to be empty in a physical way. I had no knowledge or practice of releasing or expressing my feelings, but even more, the belief that those feelings were 'bad' or unacceptable held me captive.
My fear of criticism and rejection was probably one of the most painful, constant emotion that I lived with.
For some reason, being physically empty felt safe to me. Feeling my bones was comforting, as if I was protected by that fragility. I suspect that my desire for this reassurance had to do with the numbing affect of my symptoms, and of course, the sense of control it gave to me.
As with many fears that an eating disorder may hold, figuring it all out was not the way to change it. It was much about tolerating the discomfort of eating, feeling food in my body, and not using any compensatory measures, that eventually led me to trust my body.
I began to develop new ways to cope with the emotions that were no longer stuffed down inside my soul.
As strange as it may seem to some, I now welcome being 'full'. 'Full' is much more about being complete as a person, than having a full stomach. I am full of life, love and passions that were never within my reach before.

Without apology ♥

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Comparisons: Searching for Identity?

This was written in 2006, before I completed my recovery process.

The comparison component of anorexia is common to the disease. It is a style of thinking that anorexics may apply to many, or sometimes all aspects of their lives. A large part of this stems from fear, and also, as for me, it was tied into my lack of having any other identity.
These fears involve thinking that they aren’t “good” enough, or worry how others may perceive them. It also happens where there is already self-doubt or loathing, to show more evidence for this irrational thinking pattern. As a personality trait, 'comparison' may be in place even before anorexia is an issue.
When weight loss occurs, and their bodies begin to change, the drive for perfection may take control. The comparison focus may narrow to weight, body, sizes, food rituals, rules and amounts, but I haven’t experienced much concentration on this in treatment. I know that for some there is a sense of shame associated with this.
The comparisons may also relate to those who have little or no sense of self outside of their disease, so there is a constant search for how they “should” be, or who they 'should' become.
This is an area in which I believe that comparison thoughts aren’t affected so much by weight gain alone, but with the eventual growth, understanding and acceptance of who they are as a person. When an anorexic is in the throes of their disease, there is often little insight about the future, about who they are, and who they can be. It isn’t possible for them to attain the necessary self-confidence to present themselves as who they really are, without needing to compare with others to determine self.
In recovery, I have seen the need to compare lessen dramatically. As I’ve discovered who I am, and accepted myself as the person that I am, I’ve been able to let go of the comparisons with others. I do find that at times I still notice others’ eating habits, in comparison to what my needs are for recovery, but the obsession I use to have with what others weigh, or what size they wear, in nearly extinct in my mind.
The difference is that now I don’t feel guilt or shame for the person that I am, especially in terms of my weight, or what my accomplishments are. I measure my worth in an entirely different way. I accept criticism from others much differently than I use to. I would like to be accepted and above reproach, but my life is not determined by the views that others have. If someone has a problem with what I look like, how I do things, or what my opinions are, that is their issue, not mine.

My thoughts on this aspect of recovery haven't changed much. I know that my personal strength and belief in who I am is even stronger now, almost four years later. I also know that I am light years ahead in terms of feeling secure in who I am, and no longer searching for the 'pattern' I must abide by.

Without apology....

Monday, February 22, 2010

Big Changes

Some of you may know that my dear Mother-in-Law has been living with us since my Father-in-Law passed away last May. Her physical condition is fairly 'normal' for a 78yo, but her mind has become more similar to that of a 3yo over the past year or so.Today we have been forced to make the decision to place her in a residential home where she can be safe and they can care for her. I had hoped that we could hold off until she was completely unable to feel 'hurt' by this action, but I am not convinced that is the case.
Nevertheless, due to another episode today that left me with wall to wall human waste in her bedroom and our bathroom (sorry, but I COULD get more graphic), AND with her adamantly declaring that she didn't do it (?), plus, me straining my back trying to clean it all up, we have decided it's time.
The entire time she has lived with us I have questioned whether I have done my best to make her life as good as possible. I don't know that, but I do know I tried. I have fought internally with my emotions, especially in the last 5 months or so, as it's become more and more emotionally draining to deal with an adult 3yo, feeling guilt for the resentment, yet also knowing my emotions are 'normal'.
Fact: Dave's and my life has become more and more narrow as the days go by, not being able to go anywhere without her. More resentment..more guilt. Thankfully, we have had some brief moments (yesterday) to go and see a movie-just the two of us...thanks to Dave's daughter.
Today, since the morning disaster, I have barely been able to think about anything else. I know it's time, yet this brings up so many emotions. I love her dearly, but I have started to not 'like' her so much, you know? I hate to admit that.....
We have a place ready for her..they know her, and she knows them (or use to-when she and my FIL both lived there), and I will be visiting her many times a week. I know she will be cared why am I crying?
Without apology....

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Owning My Own Power

I cannot control what others want, what they expect, or what they want me to do and be. I CAN control how I respond to other people's expectations.
Much of my life was spent trying to figure out what people wanted from me, who they wanted me to be, and by all means, how to make everyone aroumd me happy. MY feelings didn't come into play, but unconsciously, I fought against the expectations of others, and it appeared as an eating disorder.
Every day, people make demands on my time, energy, and emotions. I do not have to say yes to every request. I do not have to feel guilty if I say no. I still have to remind myself of these things.
I have finally learned that I don't have to sacrifice or punish myself in an attempt to meet the expectations and desires of others. I can set boundaries with others, and learn to trust and listen to myself. What a novel idea! I can set goals and direction for MY life. I can own my power with people!!
Consider how responding to another's needs will affect the course of your life. You can let them have their demands and expectations and you can allow them to have their feelings. But, you have your own power to choose the path that is right for YOU!!
Without apology....♥

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Stupid Excuses For Insurance Denials

Insurance coverage for the treatment of eating disorders is known to be one of the most difficult to obtain. There are many reasons for this, but it seems that lack of education, and a lack of willingness to acquire factual information about eating disorders is the predominant one.
I will be attending a workshop during the International Eating Disorders Association for Professionals Conference in March, which will focus specifically on the issue of dealing with insurance companies, and how to protect your rights and obtain the coverage you are deserved.
Lisa Kantor, Esq., who will be hosting this workshop, offers the following examples of stupid things that insurance companies have used for excuses to deny coverage for treatment of an eating disorder:
  • The client is compliant or non-compliant (both have been used to deny benefits).
  • The client has 'sufficient support' at home and therefore doesn't need residential treatment.
  • The client is 'chronic' and basically beyond hope.
  • The client hasn't tried outpatient treatment first.
I'm excited to hear more about this issue and to share this information with those who are in need. Stay tuned....

Without apology....

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Very Few Decisions are Forever....

Do YOU like making decisions in your daily life? For most people, I suspect, it's not a big deal. They go through their days, making decisions about everything from what color of shirt to wear, to which project at work to start on first, and life goes on.
I use to spend an unbelievable amount of time laboring over decisions in my daily life that very seldom held much if any importance. The bigger decisions were easier in fact, because the pros and cons were more obvious.
Much of my deliberation and inability to make a decision had to do with thinking that whatever decision I made had to be THE RIGHT one. What if I made the wrong decision? Even worse, what if someone disagreed with my decision?
Several years ago, my therapist helped me with this by pointing out that very few decisions in our lives cannot be reversed, or else they just aren't that important. Even a decision about accepting a job does not mean we have to work at that job for our entire life. We can try things out and then change our mind! What a unique idea!
My husband just told me to pick where I wanted to go for dinner tonight. Even two years ago I would have either refused to make the decision and thrown it back to him, or I would have stewed about it, worrying that I would somehow make the wrong decision, and our lives would be ruined forever. Geeez....
I thought for about 15 seconds, and told him what sounded good to me. I based my decision on what I wanted, not on how I thought someone else would react. Very cool...
Without apology.....

Uncertainty: Challenge or Possibility?

For many many years, even before I became ill with an eating disorder, I liked to know what the 'plan' was. I would become very anxious about the things in my life that were uncertain. I 'needed' to know ahead of time what to expect, or at least I thought that I did.
While I struggled with anorexia, this 'need' for certainty became stronger and encompassed more and more areas of my life. I can understand now how my insecurities and the lack of control in so many areas of my life played into that, but of course, I didn't understand it at all then.
I often am told the same thing by others who are in recovery from an eating disorder. Absolutes seem much 'safer' and if uncertainty looms ahead, it can bring intense fear. This has to do with the lack of control involved, and what I believe to be the fear that the absolute worst will happen. If a situation isn't clearly 'black' or 'white', it's often just avoided or not dealt with. It's too frightening.
I see things much differently now. Much of that is due to my ability to be in the present and enjoy life for it's experiences, and the confidence that I can face whatever is ahead for me without breaking down.
What helped me to face the fear of the unknown, or the uncertainty of the future? After all, none of us knows what tomorrow will bring.
I began to look at things with a more postitive outlook, always knowing that whatever was to come could be handled. I am not alone anymore, by my own choice, or without resources and friends who I can count on. I no longer expect the impossible of myself. I also like to think that the 'unknown' of the future offers possibilities, and not just challenges!
Look at the odds: whatever tomorrow or the next hour brings, there is a 50% chance that the experience will be positive. And the other 50%? I know I can make wise decisions about how to cope and get through the challenge. Nothing stays the same forever.
Without apology....

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Emotional Meanings of Words

It's pretty amazing how much power and influence that certain words and phrases can have in our lives. There is much 'talk' about how current media advertisements can affect our views and perceptions of what is considered 'normal', in terms of body weight, eating habits, exercise, and the definition of 'beauty' in general. Many other factors can influence how we perceive ourselves and how we may apply certain terms to ourselves.
I'm going to consider the overall population of people who suffer from some type of eating disorder when I pose the following questions, simply because I can identify with this group :)
What are the 'assumed' definitions associated with the following words or phrases? If applied to YOU, what do you automatically think of?
  • Body fat
  • Weight
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss
  • Diet
  • Healthy eating
  • "You look good!"

I know what I use to associate with these words or phrases. My immediate response was how this negatively applied to me. Some of the common adjectives that I would apply to myself when I thought of the above words or statements included:

  • Body fat...unclean, lazy, worthless, rejected, ugly, repulsive, alone, hopeless, immoral, bad
  • Weight...'not good enough', too big, 'shows my flaws', 'way to prove myself', perfect, worth
  • Weight gain...failure, unclean, lazy, out of control, ugly, hated, bad, weak, lonely, unaccepted, immoral, worse than others, gluttonous, 'unhealthy?', unworthy, complicated
  • Weight loss...successful, willpower, good, safe, virtuous, strong, 'better', loved, accepted, envied, 'healthy?', worthy, achievement, productive, pure, simple
  • Diet...less, willpower, strong, thin, pretty, limit, success, safe, clean, peace, accepted
  • Healthy eating...less, clean, safe, spiritual, pure, limited, simple, 'better', virtuous

"You look good!": This one is like a double-edged sword. When I first lost weight as a pre-teen, this was exactly what I wanted to hear, and it fueled my desire to continue to lose weight...which led to the development of anorexia. At that point, this phrase told me I was finally acceptable, thin, strong, pretty, loved, successful, 'good', and worthy. Throughout the years, after the eating disorder became more and more entrenched into my mind, my life and my entire soul, hearing this statement took on a completely different meaning. Hearing those words would cause me to feel intense fear. I heard 'fat' immediately, then failure, weak, ugly, hopeless, 'bad', dirty, unacceptable, gross, gluttonous, and disgusting.

One of the reasons I chose to write about this is because I can now see that when a person equates who they are to what they weigh, it can be a strong component in the development of an eating disorder. I realize more and more just how much the messages that we apply to ourselves can affect us, either for good or for harm. During recovery, I have learned to dismantle and challenge those old meanings and messages so that I am no longer affected by those irrational, emotional meanings of words.

Without apology.....

Thankful for NO weight loss!!

So, some of you are probably thinking, "yeah, right".
First, I'd like to thank you all for just 'being' last week during those few days while I was sick, then my Mother-in-Law, then Dave...etc. I hate being sick like nothing else...such a waste of good time! :)I have never picked up viruses or such very easily, so perhaps that's part of why I hate being 'down' with anything (or just my hyper nature :)
It's probably been about three years since I've actually been sick and had to be in bed and not engaged in my daily activities.But, this time was different in another way. Even while I was ill with anorexia, being sick with a stomach virus always frightened me. I think because I knew I was weak, and that any weight loss due to such a virus would add to the intensity of my illness. It frightened me in the same odd way that thinking I may not have access to food always did...weird I know, when I was simultaneously choosing to starve myself. Sigh....
This time, I totally listened to my body, and acted in accordance. I rested and I ate as I felt able, but I didn't feel that terror of the past about not being able to eat my normal amount. I felt a peace and trust with my body and my mind. I didn't worry that being out of a routine with my eating would cause me to spiral. I felt safe, despite the nausea and well, other 'problems' :)
I took the same approach as I began to feel better....eating what I knew I needed, yet also staying aware that forcing things would not serve me well :) It's been less than a week since I began to feel better, and I feel like myself again...thank God!!
I stopped in today at my 'favorite weighing spot'..hehe....and was told that after a small 'dip' right after I had been sick last week, my body had bounced right back to where it needs to be!!
For me, that is further affirmation that I am continuing to heal....that my body is where it needs to be, and that it is protecting it's healthy weight!! I feel safe. I feel a bit giddy, to know that I am alive and I don't have to 'work' to stay that way. I hope that makes some small amount of sense.So, tonight...I am peaceful knowing that I did not lose weight.
Thank you all for 'listening'...Namaste.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Raw Emotion....

The following is part of a message that I wrote in reply to a very special friend's email to me. The beginning refers to her own fears about the harmfulness of certain foods. Here is my reply:

OK...I eat a LOT of processed foods. I didn't use to, but I do now b/c I know the calorie counts, I know I am getting adequate fat grams, and because ANY food is now LEGAL. I am NOT unhealthy. If I were not eating these foods...if I had not begun to allow these foods, I would now be dead. Period.
When it comes down to life or death, eating processed foods is the favored choice. ALL of my food is not processed to death. But I am not afraid to cook a frozen Stouffer's meal when I want it...or if it's easier. I have learned that it's OK to do things the easy way sometimes. I never would allow that in my sick existence. I had to be in pain in order for my days to be worthwhile. Familiar? Historically, my 'safe' foods changed a lot. Usually that meant 'plain', no added fat, ALWAYS DIFFERENT from what others were eating. The only 'safe' foods were 'my' foods. During recovery, a motto for many of us was 'a calorie is a calorie is a calorie'. In other words, you eat x number of calories a day to survive. In the long run, what they consist of doesn't matter. Now, I realize that 'balance' has it's importance, especially for growing children and those with special health needs.
BUT, recovering from an eating disorder IS A FUCKING HEALTH NEED!! can take that mantra and argue it to death, or you can simply smile and realize what's at stake here. Please remember, I am NOW coming from a very different perspective...I know how far-fetched all of that may sound. However, it is true.

This next 'free writing' ramble answers her inquiry as to whether I thought my eating disorder had a component of 'punishment', and what that may have been based on.

What did I punish myself for, or think I needed to punish myself for? Hmmm....I punished myself for being alive...for being fat...for thinking 'bad' things...for never making my parents smile (they never did anyway)...for being fat....for saying stupid things...for being in the way...for causing my parents to spend money....for not being 'good' enough-although I was told often how 'good' of a baby I was.....for being fat.....for causing trouble...for asking for things...THEN....for being 'bad' when I sneaked around, had sex in the alley, lost too much weight....caused them to worry....THEN...couldn't have babies...cost too much money on therapy....COULD NEVER DO ANYTHING RIGHT....wasn't a good enough housekeeper....not a good enough Mom.....had to go to the hospital....killed my baby b/c I didn't take care of myself....he died over and over as I bled for three solid months....THEN...for losing weight again, despite all that I had to live for...b/c my Mom had to take care of both boys when I went back to the psych ward....for being an embarrassment.....for costing too much money...for not getting well...for hurting my boys...for not being there for them....for hating my husband.....for hating sex.....for wanting things......for killing myself over and over....THEN..for going to nursing school b/c I WANTED to......for not making good enough grades.....for wrecking 5 cars in two years traveling back and forth to Nursing school....for not being there for my boys.....for making my family sad and embarrassed.....for never being good enough....THEN....for costing so much money to go to treatment in AZ....for failing once again..for not really wanting to come home.....for always being confused.....for never being the 'best' nurse (in my mind)...for not being happy.....out of fear that I would hurt a patient.....THEN...for having to go back to Remuda.....for not doing better....for being depressed.....THEN...for Timmy's death....for not being there for him.....I can't go on right now.....
At that point I was FEELING deeply. I didn't stop writing to stop feeling, but rather to fully devote my energy to feeling. When those moments come, whenever, or for whatever reason, I must stop and allow myself to fully experience whatever is happening. I owe that to myself and to the memories of my son, or whatever the issue pertains to.
Without apology....

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I can remember being told many times throughout the years of being ill with anorexia that I was "just being selfish". Whew! Didn't I care about my family, my children, etc.? Talk about shame and guilt!!
I KNEW I was not a selfish person, in fact, looking back, I sacrificed myself in many ways in an attempt to please others or meet their expectations, however convoluted it may have appeared. To those on the outside looking in on a person who is suffering with an eating disorder, I can see how it can appear to be a very 'selfish' condition.
YES, an eating disorder does in fact develop into a very 'self-focused' way of existence. But that's different from BEING selfish. I think it's important for any of us who have been told this, to realize the deeper meaning, and to not allow this to be another factor that decreases the worth we see in ourselves. During recovery, I think many steps along the way are devoted to switching that focus from ourselves, in terms of the obsessive rituals and rules that have kept us sick, to focusing on how to truly CARE for ourselves. Even this focus is NOT selfish, but an important factor that will truly increase our belief in ourselves and the strength we have to embrace others into our lives.
Some things that may be helpful include: daily gratitudes (which may translate to prayer, meditation, yoga, etc.), relaxation techniques, daily emotional check-ins with those close to you who understand, journaling, SUPPORT GROUPS, or any other methods that help you to change your mindset from your external identity, to who you are internally, heart and soul. How can you change YOUR self-focus to a more recovery type of focus?