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my choice, not ed’s

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, and I can’t help wondering what my life would be like if I’d never developed an eating disorder.  Considering this all started before I was even in junior high school, I never had much of a chance to get to know myself and figure out who I was before Ed took over.  All my choices and changes and life events since age twelve (at least) have been influenced by that eating disordered voice in my head.  Without Ed telling me what to do, who knows what I would have done in my life up until now; I could have turned out a completely different human had I never listened.

Not to say, necessarily, that I regret all my life choices.  Who knows, maybe without a fear of frivolous calories I would have started drinking excessively and become an alcoholic.  Bad things happen in everyone’s lives – my big bad thing just happened to be an eating disorder.  I just find it interesting (and kind of scary) to wonder what could have been.

So what’s brought this bunch of wonderings into my mind?  While trying to figure out school and career and future plans recently, I think I saved myself from letting Ed make a huge life choice for me.

My plan (up until now, I guess) was to go back to university this fall and study Nutrition.  I know, with such a history of eating disorders, definitely a great idea, right?  Maaaybe not.  But I justified it by saying that nutrition has been something I wanted to do since high school, and that I wanted to help others recover from eating disorders someday.  Both true, but even in high school when I first considered studying dietetics, Ed was influencing me.  I’m starting to think it wasn’t a genuine Emily interest as much as it was an Ed interest.

Talking about body systems and calories and micro/macronutrients all day?  Yeah, sounds like something Ed would love.  My eating disorder has always loved to overanalyze food, so of course a career doing so sounded perfect.  Me, though?  I really don’t think that is, or ever will be, a positive thing to have in my daily life.  Not to mention that hospitals and doctors appointments stress me out.

I feel bad, “giving up on my dream”.  Everyone I talked to about my plans for the fall was encouraging and so pleased to hear I was headed back to study nutrition.  They were excited for me, glad I was going back to school and doing something I really wanted and cared about.  A part of me is worried that everyone will be disappointed in me, or think I’m a lazy quitter who doesn’t want to put in the effort at school.

There’s another part of me, though, that’s relieved.  And a little proud of myself.  I’m glad I realized this now, before I’ve committed to anything, before I’m years into my studies, and before I get myself stuck in a potentially triggering career for life.  This might be the beginning of making my own life choices, and taking those decisions away from Ed.

I still don’t know what I want to do with my life.  But I’m only twenty-three, I have time to figure it out.  Maybe I’ll stay at my current job for a while, maybe this will lead to bigger things in the same field, maybe I’ll have a brainwave and start on a completely different path.  Whatever I decide, I’d like to think it will be me making that choice, because Ed’s had control for far too long.

Gaining just another little bit of freedom from the eating disorder, I think. 🙂

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dating, vulnerability, and ed

Dating is always kind of messy and confusing.  Dating while you’re trying to recover from an eating disorder is a whole other pile of anxieties.

Sure, I’ve had boyfriends before, that’s not a new thing.  And since Ed’s been an issue since age twelve, that’s not new either.  But being honest about things sure is.  In the past, it’d always be part of my past – I used to have an eating disorder, I’m over it now, I’m just a picky eater, etc etc.  I denied having a problem all those years, so hiding it from teenage boys wasn’t too hard either.  Now that Ed’s been called out, and I’m fighting him, it’s not such an easy thing to hide.  Recovery is a daily struggle for me, and it’s something I really need to be honest, with myself and others, about.

And that’s where all the new anxieties come in.  On top of all the other things to worry about, now there’s the worry of whether my “issues” are too much for someone else to deal with, or if I’ll be written off as a crazy girl.

Not to complain; the guy I’m currently dating is wonderful.  He treats me better than anyone I’ve dated before, I’m really starting to like him, and I feel pretty comfortable around him.  He knows the basics of my ED situation, and I’m sure if I told him more he’d be supportive and understanding.

But still.

How understanding can I really expect someone to be?  Even for starters, how can I explain that I call my eating disorder Ed in order to distinguish myself from it?  To me, or anyone else recovering, or someone who knows this stuff, it makes sense.  But to someone on the outside, doesn’t that seem a little crazy?

And the silly things Ed makes me upset over, how do I explain that?  I still have days where food worries override all legitimate life issues.  I still have foods that make my heart rate speed up with anxiety.  There are still a lot of things that, depending on the day, could set me (Ed) off and cause a little freakout.  Should I let him know when I’m struggling and having a bad day, or hide my problems and only show him the happy, normal part of me? I’m left with the option of trying to explain, and potentially looking like a crazy person, or making excuses and avoiding the issue.

I don’t want to be avoid-y and run away from this when it gets tricky; that’d be letting Ed win.  But opening up to someone and letting myself be that vulnerable is terrifying.  I’m really afraid I’ll scare away a really lovely boy by letting him into my crazy mind, but I’m also afraid that if I close myself off he’ll get frustrated and still run off.

When I’m honest with myself, I know that being open and honest about this is the best choice.  If it’s too much for someone, it’s just not meant to be.  Recovery is a much bigger priority in my life than any boy right now.

So, I guess, here’s to honesty, vulnerability, and – hopefully – happy times.

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it gotta get bad before it gets good (right?)

Whoooops, it’s been a while.  A combination of doing well, being stressed, and lacking inspiration is to blame for my neglecting this blog; I should really get back into the writing mode.

How can I say I’m doing well, but also stressed?  I feel like eating-disorder-wise, I’ve been pretty good lately.  There’s still anxiety about certain foods/situations, but I’m pushing myself daily, and a whole lot of foods have lost the “fear food” title.  In terms of life though, it’s been rough.

I’ve read a lot about how when people start to recover, they feel overwhelmed with the emotions that flood in after being numb for so long.  I can only assume that’s what I’m going through, because there’s no legitimate reason I should be so sad and stressed all the time.  Maybe without the focus on food taking up 96% of my brain, all the other things going on finally feel real to me.

Whether there’s that “logic” behind it or not, this depression/anxiety thing is incredibly frustrating.  Most days, just getting to the end of the day without tears, and presenting myself as a reasonably happy person, is exhausting.  Trying to ignore all the bad feelings is hard.  The voices in my head that tell me I’m awful, I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve to be happy are just so persistent.

And then, out of the blue, I’ll have a happy, carefree day, and criticize myself for ever getting into such a bad funk.  *Sigh.*

I’m hoping this is a temporary thing.  I’m hoping it’ll all get easier soon – eating, thinking, life.  I’m just so tired of always feeling a bit mentally unstable.  Am I ever going to be just normal and happy and healthy?  What’s it like to not have constant negativity and overanalyzing and anxiety going on in your head?

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face your fears

16877957240_c37e2c0888_o I feel like I’ve been latching on to positive, encouraging, “don’t give up” quotes lately, and today’s Quote of the Day felt like a very important reminder.  “Find what you’re afraid of most and go live there.”  You know what I’m afraid of, despite wanting it so badly?  Recovery. Recovery is scary.  Recovery is uncomfortable.  Recovery is challenging every rule and belief and unhealthy habit that I’ve clung to for the past ten(+) years. But it is also necessary.  And at times, wonderful.  When I can celebrate my dad’s birthday with him with cake, when I have a relaxed night out with my “famjam ladies”, when I go to my doctor and she tells me she’s proud of me – that’s when recovery feels amazing. Maybe I make too big of a deal out of those tiny recovery wins.  Or maybe I need to keep making those “tiny” things stand out in my mind, just to remind myself it is all worth it.  Without those bright spots, this recovery struggle would be pretty bleak. Things are getting less scary though, as time goes on and I keep making the choices that make me Ed uncomfortable.  Comparing now to a year ago, or even a few months ago, I’m proud of how far I’ve come.  And it’s only because of the hard, scary, uncomfortable stuff that I’ve made this progress.  A fully-recovered life is out there, but there’s a whole lot more of that scary struggle between here and there. So?  Find what you’re most afraid of and go live there.  Keep making the scary food choices, keep going outside your comfort zone.  It’s only by doing those things that this eating disorder is ever going to go away. I got this. Ed’s the one who should be really scared, not me.

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that different, weird, wonderful feel~

It’s a different, weird, but wonderful feeling to leave a doctor’s appointment and feel really, really good about yourself.

Usually I leave the doctor/dietitian/therapist’s office feeling kind of dodgy, kind of guilty, kind of like I know I could have done better.  Even after a good appointment, I usually have a vague sense that I’m frustrating my doctors.  But today, my doctor was all smiles, and told me she was proud of me, and that was an altogether much lovelier experience.

After a month (or two months, really, including my time away in Asia) away from therapy, some stressful events at home, and a week traipsing all over New York City, I was incredibly nervous for my checkup this morning.  I thought I was doing well, but still, these appointments make me anxious.  Not knowing whether my weight had gone up, down, or stayed the same makes me even more anxious, because I know that’s one of my doctor’s main concerns right now.

So it was a huge relief when my doctor checked my weight, looked at my chart, and with a big grin and a thumbs-up, said “Good. Good!!”.  (It was also a prompt for more anxiety, because good = weight gain = panic, but I’m trying to ignore that side of my brain right now.)  We talked a bit more about how things have been going, and overall she seems very pleased with me.

This is new, and I like it.  There’s a tiny bit of me that is terrified right now, because gaining weight and beating out Ed just feels like I’m doing something wrong.  But I know this is good, and I know it’s getting me closer to true recovery.  Bit by bit, I’m getting there!

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learning to trust my body

It’s time I had a lil faith in my own body.

Ed’s done everything to destroy that faith for me, for as long as I can remember.  He told me I was different, I couldn’t eat like other people.  Sure, their bodies could have all the treats and desserts that they wanted, but mine couldn’t handle it.  Obviously any trace of fat I ate would cling to my body; any extra calories meant inevitable weight gain.  It didn’t matter that I saw everyone around me eating as they pleased without consequence, I was convinced that it didn’t work like that for me.  That theory took root in my mind, and stayed there, making me obsess over everything I ate and its impact on my body.  I could never trust my body to do its own thing; I had to control everything.

As a rational person, especially with everything I’ve learned in therapy, I know that’s not true.  In fact, since changing some of my eating habits and trying to add to my diet, my dietitian has told me multiple times that my metabolism is crazy-high.  My body currently needs even more than the average person, just to maintain the weight I’m at.  So there’s really no reason to worry that eating a cupcake will make me gain five pounds overnight.  But Ed’s still in the back of my mind, telling me that’s the truth, and it’s hard to ignore him and think rationally sometimes.

Yesterday, I decided to challenge that whole theory, and challenge myself, with a cupcake.

I know, it sounds silly to consider a cupcake a “challenge”, but that’s just how ridiculous eating disorders are.  Not too long ago I wouldn’t dare treat myself and eat a cupcake; a year ago I wouldn’t even have a lick of icing.  So while the idea of going out for coffee and cupcakes with my dad sounded like a lovely way to spend the afternoon, it also had the potential to cause a whole lot of anxiety.

The chosen cupcake?  Yummy chocolate, with marshmallowy goo in the centre, and a perfect pink flower made of icing on top.  And completely unknown calories/fat/blah blah blah – I didn’t even let myself start the pointless guessing and estimating I normally would have done.

I surprised myself – no stressing, before, during, or after!  I enjoyed a delicious cupcake, spent some quality time with my dad, and had an overall lovely afternoon.

And today, my body surprised me!  I woke up, and *surprise!*, I hadn’t become a human blob overnight.  I looked the same, felt the same, fit into my jeans the same as I did yesterday morning.  I resisted the urge to weigh myself, but I’m willing to bet that wouldn’t have shown any cupcake evidence either.

Proof: it’s definitely not as risky as I believed to treat myself once in a while.

I think this was an important lesson to teach myself.  I don’t have to be afraid of food.  My body knows exactly what to do with it, just like anyone else’s.  I’m allowed to have all the yummies I’ve denied myself, and nothing bad is going to happen because of it.  Yes, I know I still have weight to gain, and I’ve accepted and embraced that, but it won’t happen all at once like Ed threatens it will.  Pushing that belief aside, even if it’s a little bit at a time, is hugely important in my recovery.  This was one more recovery challenge I’ve succeeded in, one more point for me in the war against Ed.

Every day of fighting for recovery isn’t great, but some days sure are sweet (as a cupcake)!

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choices and changes

So, I’ve been incredibly slack on the blogging front lately, oops.  I have a fairly reasonable excuse though – I was backpacking around Southeast Asia, and absolutely loving life.

I predicted before leaving that this trip was coming at a good time, and I think I was right.  That month away from normal life – therapy, appointments, work, stress – and (mostly) away from my thoughts was an all-too-welcome break.  At home, being in my head, and being the uptight, worrying, control freak that I am is exhausting.  In Asia, there’s not a whole lot that I can control; nothing is going to go perfectly according to plan, so I’m forced to give up the idea of having everything my way, and just go with it.  And I think that was a really good thing to have to adjust to.  If only I could bring that kind of go-with-the-flow attitude to normal life, I’d have it all figured out.

Food-wise and anxiety-wise, I’m pleased with how I handled the trip.  As I know from experience, it’s easy to let Ed take control and ruin a holiday.  This time around, I didn’t let him rule the roost.  He still yelled at me occasionally for a “bad” choice, but I made the food choices, not Ed.

At some point, the wonderful shift from “this has a lot of fat in it” to “this is just lunch – eat it” happened in my brain.  I guess it’s a darn good thing it did, or I’d have spent my entire vacation beating myself up over my last meal.  With everything fried or in sauce or unrecognizable, and in huge portions, there really weren’t many (or any?) menu options that Ed would deem okay.  Since not eating obviously wasn’t an option, I just had to suck it up, and eat what was available, regardless of how Ed felt about that.  And it got easier!  For the first time in a long time, food was just food, and there wasn’t an ongoing tally of fat grams and calories consumed!  Definitely a nice change, and a welcome vacation from the crazy part of my mind.

It’s harder at home, with nutrition labels on everything, but I’m trying to maintain the “food is just food” mindset.  Seriously – what I eat at one meal is not going to shift the entire universe, so why stress myself out about it?  I’m really starting to see the irrationality in my eating disorder.

With this change comes even more changes.  I’ve been considering it for a while, but I’ve decided to hold off on my therapy and treatment at Hope.  By no means does that mean taking a break from recovery – I’m feeling more than ever that recovery and a “normal” life is possible.  On holiday I felt like I was doing a pretty good job of being a normal person, and I want to try and continue that.  When I returned to Hope for the first time after coming home, I didn’t feel right being there.  Everyone there seemed so wrapped up in eating disorder/recovery world, and I want to step away from that.  I don’t want my world to revolve around being the girl in therapy.

So, on a trial basis, I’m taking a step away from the program for a bit, and seeing how well I can manage life on my own.  I still want to challenge myself with fear foods, and gaining weight, and squashing the Ed thoughts.  I just don’t want to spend my entire Wednesday every week talking about eating disorders anymore.

I feel good about my decision.  Even if it’s out of stubbornness (I can’t mess up and let Ed take over as soon as I stop going to therapy), I’m going to fight this, and no matter how long it takes, I’m going to beat this stupid illness.  I got this.

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