I’ve had a better few days. Amazing how being honest out loud helps to challenge wrong thinking and wrong action.
As I’ve looked back on the last few weeks it has been good to acknowledge and see some of the things that contributed to the little blip:
- I’ve been really busy and so let little things slide
- Dealt with a small confrontation that demanded lots of mental energy, so I reverted to tried and trusted unhelpful methods of coping
- Some of my good friends are having a tough time with dying parents and other stressors, so I’ve been reluctant to ask for extra support, feeling like I should be over all this by now
- Some stress about living and work situation bubbling away in the background.
So what have I learnt?
Recovery is a long and slow process – longer and slower than I’d like! While I’ve got lots more tools for dealing with anxiety, change and uncertainty than I’ve had in the past, I’ve also got years of maladaptive coping strategies in my head too, so it is not surprising that when I am under stress I sometimes resort to those unhelpful behaviours.
The good news is that I am much more aware of what is going on nowadays and much quicker at acting on things to turn it around. So after almost 48 hours of eating better, things are looking a little less wobbly.
* potential trigger warning. I’m about to list here what I ate today. It was not enough. I’m not proud of that, but am listing it to hold myself accountable that this is not acceptable. Please don’t read on if you think it might be unhelpful *
So, it’s been a long time in between posts. On the whole things have been going well. I deferred my studies. I stopped running cold turkey for 6 weeks to prove I could. I’ve been working hard at rest and relaxation, not filling up all my time with doing stuff, but focussing on being.
But in the last few weeks, things have been slipping and I haven’t really wanted to acknowledge it, even to myself. My head wants to go back to restricting to regain control over everything. My body, well adjusted to being fed has been protesting when I don’t feed it enough (stupid body). I’ve had a few too many days of not eating enough in the morning or for lunch followed by out of control eating in the evening. I hesitate to call it a full on binge, because carrot sticks, broccoli and no fat hommus have featured big time in my binges! But the out of control frenzied eating is there bigtime. I hate it … so respond by punishing myself the next day and restricting big time and the vicious cycle continues.
Today was a horrible restricting day, for no good reason (ie no precipitating binge or triggering event):
1 small granny smith apple, 3 strawberries and 1/4 cup of low fat yoghurt = breakfast
Boiled egg = morning tea
Buckwheat pasta and tomato and veggie sauce (1cup in total) = lunch
2 chilli tofu sushi rolls = dinner
And I did 1hr weights and ran for 45mins.
It’s dumb. I know it’s dumb. But the pull is so strong and I’m nit sure I can be bothered to fight anymore.
If you’ve read this far, tell me I’m being an idiot and to stop.
image from talisman apartments
I’m back from a 5 day break in sunny Queensland. And it did largely live up to its reputation. We had sunny days. It was not quite warm enough to swim, but lovely to walk barefoot along the beach and soak up some vitamin D.
I keep learning more about myself. It drives me crazy when the people around me constantly label food ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It’s not just those of us with ED’s who engage in some kind of debting. For one of my friends, the long morning walk entitled her to a guilt free snack in the afternoon. I tried to not buy into the thinking or engage in the conversations and I think I was quite successful at that.
Food was quite good too. My goal for the week was to not skip any meals, even when others did (because of sleeping in etc). I met that challenge on all but one day. I slept in until 10.30am. We had brunch at a little after 11am and I did make sure I ate a decent amount (more than a normal breakfast). So I think I can take that as a win.
I also made sure I didn’t over-exercise. Qld is quite an exercise trigger for me. We stayed right on the beachfront with access to the lovely broadwater, with running paths up and down the beachfront for miles. I’ve regularly run a minimum of 10kms a day when I stay up here, and we tend to do lots of active recreation – walking, swimming etc. So I decided before I went up that there would be no long run and that I would only do a maximum of 3×30 minute runs. And I stuck to it! One day I went out for a 5km run, which takes me less than 30 minutes, and I stopped once I’d hit 5kms. That is almost unheard of, especially when I am allowed to run for 30 minutes! So I’m banking that as a win and getting on with things.
I spent some time doing a jigsaw puzzle and was reminded that I do have a form of relaxation that doesn’t involved physical activity. Since getting home I’ve pulled out my puzzle mat and taken over one of the side tables in the living room to do another puzzle (which can also be rolled away to not get in everyone else’s way – the joys of share houses!).
The break was also good to leave all the thesis work behind. I tried not to think too much, because I am pretty close to applying for a leave of absence next semester. I’m still not sure what to do. My supervisor is away for all of term 3, so I can’t talk it over with him before I make any decisions. I’m not going to just withdraw – I realise that would not be wise, but to stop the clock for 6 months, to get myself in a better place mentally as well as physically might be a really good thing to do. But there is also a niggling voice of doubt that tells me I’m just trying to run away. That instead I need to toughen up and get on with it. Delaying isn’t going to make it any easier.
So I’m back but still a little up in the air. We have a kids school holiday program running at church next week monday – thursday, so I won’t even attempt to look at the masters stuff until Friday. Maybe by then I’ll be in a position to make a wise decision.
There is a new ad on tv in Australia at the moment for snickers. The ad shows 2 guys chatting up 2 girls. One of the guys blows up (he looks like an old man and rants about the girls not thinking he’s good enough) and the other guy takes him aside and feeds him a snickers bar saying: ‘you’re not you when you’re hungry’. He eats and turns into a young man with a smile on his face.
It really struck a chord with me. As much as restriction seems alluring, I know that I’m not pleasant to be around when I’m hungry. I snap, have little patience and want things done MY WAY. I’m still not very good at recognizing hunger signals. Years of restriction plays havoc with satiety cues. Sometimes now it takes me feeling narky to realize that I’ve left it too long between meals. It’s why I need to stick to a meal plan at the moment rather than moving to intuitive eating. The intuitive bit about what I eat now is ‘what do I feel like that meets my meal plan?’. In time I hope that will change.
But for today, I’m going to remember that I’m not myself when I’m hungry and work hard on feeding myself properly so I can be the best me I can be.
The descent is maddeningly quick.
From feeling relatively good to overwhelming waves of panic. I don’t know where to start to untangle what I’m thinking. Looking at the ‘bigger picture’ leaves me with heart palpitation and streams of tears, seemingly from nowhere. It’s almost as if I’ve lost my grip on reality. I feel blindsided, because it’s not as if my eating or exercise is off- my mood has just plummeted.
I feel as if I’ve got myself stuck in a hole and all I keep doing is digging more and more furiously to get out. But all I’m doing is making the hole deeper and wider. I’m in my mid thirties but still have no grasp on what I want to be when I grow up. I’m trying to complete a masters degree but feel constantly confronted by my lack of intelligence. Undergrads talk about the post hegalian world view and the individualism of Kant and I find myself wishing I’d payed attention in philosophy all those tears ago. It’s like I can’t pay attention anymore. Now that restricting is gone as an option, I’ve lost my drive to achieve.
I want to withdraw but my supervisor won’t let me, yet I feel his disappointment whenever I turn up to a meeting underprepared or with no words written. I have no confidence any more. I write, read what i’ve written and delete before I show it to anyone because it is such drivel. I am ashamed and embarrassed that that is the best I can produce. I hate it when people ask how it is going, because right now my life as a research student sucks. I can’t do this. But I don’t know what else to do. Staying here is stripping away my sanity. But there is nothing else left but unemployment. I’m too unstable to get a full time church job ever again. It’s been too many years since I used my other degree. It feels like all I’m capable of is a mindless admin job, but noone will give me one of those because I am over-qualified.
I’d like to just run away or end it all. Noone would even notice or care. Maybe then the pain would stop.
There is a Chinese proverb that says
one step at a time is good walking
I love it, especially when it comes to thinking about recovery, because it helps to keep the expectations realistic. Each step in the right direction is a good one.
The last week has felt a bit uneventful. No major lows or highs really. As I look back though, I can see that there has been some good walking:
- meals eaten
- moderate levels of exercise
- time out to read fun fiction books
- hanging out with people I love
- maintaining that balance of ‘me time’ without isolating
It’s not that all of a sudden everything is perfect. More like there seems to be a bit more balance about everything. Stuff is hard, but I no longer immediately feel like curling up in a ball when confronted with difficulty. I can see when I’m getting anxious about things and have more brain space to stop before becoming completely crippled by it. I’ve knitted more and sorted less, although am constantly amazed at how soothing I find it to put my clothes away properly (sleeveless, short sleeve, 3/4 sleeve then long sleeve, in colour order from light to dark).
Sometimes I think I’m tired of the need to be constantly vigilant, that if I relax too much that I slip back so quickly into really disordered and unhealthy ways of coping. Yet for now, that’s the reality. The alternative is just not worth it. So I keep learning ways of coping. I keep challenging fear foods and making sure I eat regularly, never skipping a meal. I keep exercising less than I want to, for fear that I will not know when to stop.
The steps are slow, faltering and unsteady, but they are there, one foot after another. So I keep going, one step at a time, hopeful for the day when I won’t count the steps, but will walk freely.
Some days things just seem like hard work. Progress is slow or seemingly non-existent. It’s like you are still at the bottom of the mountain where the summit is insurmountable. It’s days like these that we need to remember to remember just how far we have come. To take time to recognise even those little changes that have helped to bring us out of the hole that is living with (or possibly existing with) and ED.
I was reading this post by Emma that really resonated. Sometimes there are no words to say. Nothing that will make things immediately better, but that in the battle there are others that stand with you. What really struck me was the last paragraph, where there is the reminder that in the fight there is reward not just for us, but also for those who stand with us. That they see joy and encouragement when we persevere.
Recovery isn’t all roses and forward progress. I get frustrated by the slowness of it all. I’m ready for it all to be a dim distant memory … yesterday! But remembering that change, even though it is slow, is happening is so very important. Even the slips and lapses help to remind me just how far I have come.
I saw a friend from treatment yesterday who is doing really well. I think that sometimes it is easier to see the progress in someone else, because as we talked together and observed the changes we noticed in each other, I was able to see that while my progress wasn’t linear, it was there. She could see changes that I couldn’t see and was really encouraged. And I could see changes in her, especially in her thinking, that blew me away.
So I’m striving to remember to remember. To not take things for granted but to stop and recognise where progress has been made and be thankful for it. To remember that a slip is just that, a slip, not the end of all the work that I have done so far and rendering all the effort invalid.
Are there things you need to remember to remember?