allllll the birthdays, and alllll the cake

I survived it: the weekend of allllll the birthdays, and all of the challenges that came with.

Like many of the things I say, to someone who’s never suffered an eating disorder, that sounds ridiculous.  Challenges?  What are you talking about, birthdays are great!?

This year I would agree – yes, birthdays are great.  For the years and years when my eating disorder ruled my life, however, birthdays were nothing but stress and avoidance.  Toooooo much food and socialization for Ed, that’s for sure.  Family dinners were never fun, and birthday cake was not even up for consideration.  When mom insisted that I choose a birthday dessert, it was always angel food cake – the only thing Ed considered safe.  (I had angel food cake somewhat recently, after being re-introduced to actual desserts, and oh my god – it’s the most boring cake in the world.)

Last year, soon after starting my recovery journey, I had my first piece of birthday cake in over ten years.  It was a huge accomplishment for me at the time, and a pretty exciting “new” thing.   Looking back on it, I’m still proud of that baby step, but I’m even more proud of how far I’ve come since then.

I spent my twenty-second birthday in Montreal with a friend, at a weekend-long music festival.  Eating that weekend was pretty unstructured and messy, but birthday cake was a priority.   It ended up being a slice of chocolatey mousse cake, at breakfast time, followed by a day of eating definitely-less-than-I-should-have.  Like I said, baby steps, I guess.  Any cake was a pretty big deal after ten+ years of none.

This year, birthday number twenty-three, involved a whole lot more cake.  A whole lot more everything.

My mom’s, my cousin’s, and my birthday are all within a four-day period, and this year that resulted in a full weekend of birthday festivities.  Between Friday and Monday, our fridge calendar was blocked solid with celebrations, and leading up to it, I have to admit I was pretty nervous and anxious about all the food that would be involved.  A single piece of cake is one thing – a weekend full of food-related events is just slightly more stressful.  If I didn’t explode from either all the calories or all the anxiety, it’d be a miracle.

Well, it’s Tuesday, and here I am.  And let me tell you – I had a fabulous weekend.  I fully enjoyed it, because I didn’t listen to Ed’s BS.  This year, I didn’t miss out on anything.

The past few days were wonderful.  I shared a drink (or two..) with my baby cousin to celebrate her turning nineteen.  I enjoyed a backyard barbecue with all my friends and family (and maybe more drinks).  I went out for a lovely birthday dinner with my also lovely boyfriend.  I ate homemade ice cream cake, and good old-fashioned vanilla birthday cake, and fancy gourmet (birthday) cupcakes, and it was all DELICIOUS.   And best of all, I talked and joked and laughed and enjoyed a relaxed, carefree, pretty-much-normal weekend with my favorite humans in the world.

This was not a weekend I could have enjoyed a year ago, and most definitely not before that.  I’m so glad I’ve come far enough in recovery to be able to celebrate with my loved ones, and not have food be such a stressful thing, or something that prevents me from having a good time.  I can’t lie – I did have a few moments when Ed tried to take over, and tell me “you don’t need to eat that, you don’t need those extra calories”.  But I had to remind myself – one weekend of more-than-usual consumption is not going to matter in the long term.  Turning down the birthday treats, and being awkward at the various events, and spending my time obsessing would have had a much more negative impact on my weekend, and memories of it.

I have such amazing people in my life, and I am so thankful I got to spend my birthday (and Mom’s and Sammie’s) with them this year.  Birthdays are pretty cool, when you let them be.


Treat Yo’self

“Huh. It’s gonna be kinda weird at my wedding when I don’t eat any of my wedding cake, isn’t it? Oh well, just the way it’s gonna be – I don’t eat cake.”

I’ve honestly had that thought before in my head, and accepted it as fact that I wouldn’t be eating cake on my wedding day, or ever, really.  Not that I’m planning my wedding, or even close to being engaged, or that a wedding is a possibility anytime soon.  I just kind of assumed that whenever in my future it did happen, cake would not be a part of that day for me, because as a rule, I DON’T eat cake.

Or cookies. Or chips. Or an infinite list of all the delicious foods that ED tells me are bad and definitely not acceptable for me to eat.

I guess I should change that “don’t” to a “didn’t”.  Or I should soon, as I learn to be okay with eating these foods.

Now when I think through the wedding day cake situation, the thought of not enjoying a piece of my own wedding cake is really, really depressing.  Because a) what kind of bride doesn’t take part in all the traditional, lovely, fun parts of her own wedding day? and b) WHY would I miss out on such a delicious treat?!

As I move forward in recovery, I’m pushing myself to try more of the foods that ED ruled out.  Since before I can remember, I always just claimed to be “not a dessert person”, and I’ve never indulged in the yummy treats that go along with holidays, birthdays, or even just after-dinner desserts.  I honestly had myself convinced that I didn’t like chocolate.  PROOF of the insanity that starvation-mode causes.

Turns out, I really, REALLY like chocolate. And donuts.  And brownies. Holy moly, brownies.  Right now though, each time I treat myself, it’s an event, with a lot of anxiety surrounding it.  While I’m eating, it’s delicious and everything is excellent, but before and after, I’m consumed with worry.  Letting myself enjoy yummy food just seems like a huge taboo after all these years of denying myself.  Surely, I’ll wake up the next day with the evidence of that brownie grown onto my thighs.  Or even if it’s not immediate, what if I stop worrying about food, and that brownie becomes a habit, and then I pile on the pounds?? That lil brownie brings on a spiral of worries.  I know those thoughts are irrational, but they continue to pop up.

Mostly I’m trying to ignore that crazy worrisome voice.  I KNOW I’m not going to instantly gain weight from an occasional treat, and I KNOW I’m not going to suddenly start eating terribly.  I’m allowed to eat cake at a birthday party.  I’m allowed to have ice cream after dinner.

Bit by bit, it’ll get easier, I know.  For now, each time I decide to be brave and have a yummy treat, it’s a win over ED. And the payoff of deliciousness is just about always worth the anxiety. And the more I practice challenging it, the less the anxiety will come into play.  Without the anxiety, desserts will just be a happy thing in my life.

I know there are so many reasons to be excited about recovery, and a lot of them are a lot more legitimate, but I think the thing I am most excited for is dessert freedom. Time to face the facts – I AM a dessert person, after all.