Monday, May 31, 2010

when the world is one giant trigger. (as it usually is).

i just went to my brothers high school graduation and saw a lot people that i hadn't seen since my own graduation. and my own graduation, if you get what i'm saying, wasn't exactly the healthiest time of my life. in fact, of my many relapses, it was probably the worst.

so every other person i saw gave me that knowing smile, as if it's because of them i'm in recovery, and said, "honey- you look so great". if you have an eating disorder you understand where i'm coming from when i say that words like "healthy", "great", "glowing" and "beautiful", when used to describe your post-eating disorder appearance, can be interchanged with words like, "FAT".

i've really gotten better about letting those words shoot into my heart like flaming arrows, but i suppose it was something about the people and high school reminiscing that stripped me of the tougher skin i've spent the past few months growing. so needless to say, i was feeling not so great about myself, and part of me wondered if the people giving the knowing smiles actually felt sorry for me- like- oh. that kind of stinks for her that she can't be skinny anymore.

in addition, i'd come across not one, but two alumni from my high school in current struggles with eating in active eating disorders...not recovery. neither of them had struggled in high school and it was the strangest feeling being the worried one rather than the one being worried about. I felt, once again, like a failure.

so here i am, in a pretty ironic position, with these thoughts in my head, but horrible hunger pangs in my stomach (if you're a fellow struggler and have yet to experience your first hunger pang of recovery, i promise it's coming. don't give up). It was nearly ten o'clock and i'd not yet had any dinner. I never wait that long to eat, and i honestly can't remember a time i've ever been so ravenous.

i had two choices before me: one that wasn't enough to cover my meal plan, and one that was. obviously, the one that wasn't what i needed would've felt so much better. i could've gone to sleep and woken up having numbed out the feelings the graduation had evoked by engaging in an eating disorder behavior.

But unfortunately/fortunately (depending on how you choose to look at it), i'd reached a point of hunger that had taken over my ability to reason with my eating disorder. All I knew was that it'd been a far busier than usual day and i'd missed a couple of starches, and we were at a drive through, and so i ordered fries with my grilled chicken sandwich.

although i rarely struggle with urges to restrict, i'm a bit of an elitist as far as health goes. i don't do carbs that aren't whole grain (aside from the instance above and one other a couple of weeks ago in which i ordered fries late at night after an isolated day of restricting), and the only dessert i've really seemed to conquer is frozen yogurt.

in the back of my mind, i knew i would have a mental price to pay the next day. That maybe it would be better to just leave off the starch and say "oops", but like I said, i'd honestly reached a point that my hunger was thinking for me. (this is still a constant debate in my mind: if i know a challenge food will cause a day of painful guilt is a challenge that much of an accomplishment? feel free to comment on this one).

I ate what i needed and fell asleep soon after.

Sometimes my mom wakes up and shuffles downstairs, slightly hunched over and completely stiff (she’s had three back surgeries: it’s to be expected). She appears as if her back muscles are mummy-wrapped, thick and tight around her spine and her movements are only short and straight.

I mention my mom’s occasional misfortune because it’s the only way I can think to describe my mood the next morning. I felt puffy, gross, guilty. My mind was paralyzed- bound like my mom’s back- but with heavy, oppressive thoughts instead of muscle.

I fought unsuccessfully to break free from my tangled up thoughts. I followed my mom out to the garage, throwing out random questions about my body and other people’s bodies and French fries to which I hoped she would provide some answers that would at least loosen the tension in my head.

The thoughts and questions and words I exchanged with my mom started to spin, and the confusion stirred up anxious emotion. I was disorganized and agitated.

Somewhere in the midst of the emerging chaos, my mind and emotions thirsted for some organization.

And so I looked at my mom and asked her to stand there and listen while I talked things out.

“okay,” I said…

“These are the three broad categories of thoughts and feelings that are making me upset:

1. That I feel like people (my family included) feel sorry for me because I’ve gained weight

2. I feel like a failure after encountering active eating disorders last night

3. I hate the fact that I ate fries. I’m above fries.”

Once I’d divided it was time to conquer. With mom’s help, I went through each of the three aspects of my distress and talked them out until we’d more or less disproved them.

Mom took on number 1, letting me in on a conversation my grandparents had had with her after spending an afternoon with me. “She’s back,” they’d concluded, “she’s finally back! It’s the real EA- we never thought we’d see her again” this was nothing close to reminiscent of pity, and, quite frankly, enough to motivate the rest of my recovery forever, so I let number 1 go.

Number 2 was a little more difficult. I conceded to the fact that it’s impossible for me not to believe, although I know it isn’t true. My final conclusion regarding number 2 was that for now, the most I can do is cling to the positive aspects of recovery and ignore the negative. I know that one day I’ll be able to be unaffected around active eating disorders (I want to be a therapist so I’m going to have to), but for now, the best I can do is ignore number 2, and stay in recovery. (after all that, however, mom and I agreed that the story that broke number 1 at least weakened number 2 as well)

Number 3 was the hardest and easiest at the same time. i took my mom through the day, accounting for each exchange of my meal plan, and I’d not gone a bit over. It’s still hard to stifle the guilt, but at least I can confidently remind myself that I DID NOT go over my meal plan with the frenchies, and therefore WILL NOT gain weight (but it wouldn’t matter if I did…eh…right).

so there you have it: my triggering weekend and my treating myself like a desk drawer to fix it. I fully intend to use my emotional categorization method…what I hope will one day be referred to as the “Wade Method” when I’m a therapist. Look for it in a textbook one day J

not to say that the day was instantly rid of hard moments and thoughts. The days my mom wakes up stiff, she’s keenly aware of it for the rest of the day, sometimes the next two. What she’s aiming for in getting in the floor and doing her stretches (she’s going to kill me for that) and taking medicine, is to loosen her back to the point of being able to function and accomplish for the rest of the day: to be able to live.

My mental/emotional state was much the same. My goal was not to transform my mind into a free, happy place. sure- it’s free and happy sometimes, a lot of the time, but not all the time. Rather, what I wanted and needed was to loosen things up- to get myself to a livable state. And the livable state led to living, which led to life, which yesterday entailed a celebration of my brother’s graduation/my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary with family I’d not seen in too long. At the end of the day, the fight seemed worth it.




  1. I found your blog on facebook. I am looking forward to reading. Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. EA, I wanted to tell you that I love reading your blog.(found it on fb) Your vulnerability and ability to detail your walk through recovery is beautiful. Everytime I read, I'm more encouraged and inspired to continue the walk myself. Thanks for sharing.