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.


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?


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.



Recovery Revelations

After two bad days spent loathing my thighs and debating over every bite of food, I’ve had a beautiful realization that has put me back in the recovery mindset. I feel like every time I run out of enthusiasm for beating ED, it takes a revelation like this to get me back. Each time it’s a different, new idea that just makes me remember “RIGHT! THAT’S why recovery is so important”, and I feel like eventually, they’re all going to add together, and be ever-present in my mind. Eventually, they won’t even be conscious thoughts in my head. It’ll just be fact: Recovery is worth it; Life is so much more than having an eating disorder.

Anyway, today’s “brand new thought” was really something that, when I really think about it, should be an obvious, duh, thing. But that’s what an eating disorder does. It warps your brain, so the normal, rational thoughts don’t seem so normal, and the crazy ones make sense.

Life is too amazing to waste precious moments worrying about food.

Obvious, right? Apparently not. There are so many times in my life where I should have been having an amazing experience, and my most prominent memory of it was how I stressed about the food involved.

Specifically, I think about my trip to Thailand last year. Thai food is delicious (Or what I dared to eat was delicious; there was plenty I wouldn’t go near, because of all the “unnecessary” calories and fat). And it’s incredibly cheap. And a huge part of travelling is getting to try out all the local cuisine. But I missed out on that, because in my crazy lil mind, staying thin is more important than getting the full Thai experience.

Pad thai on the street for lunch? Maybe, but only if I’ve had a really “good” day up until then, and I’d have to have a light dinner later. Group dinner at the Indian restaurant? Nope, that’s pretty risky, I’ll have to find a safer meal somewhere on my own. Clubbing the night away in Bangkok? Whoa, I do NOT need all those liquid calories.


I’m going to Bangkok (along with a few other Asian destinations) again in a few months. I don’t want a repeat of last time; I want to soak in every bit of the experience I can. I don’t want Ed to hold me back from doing the things I want to do, and from joining in on all the group’s fun.

In my mind it’s easy to be like “Of course I won’t let Ed ruin my holiday; I’ll be stronger by then, I can eat whatever I want”. But if I were to be offered a big plate of curry tomorrow, I’d still probably panic and try to avoid it. I still have a lot of work to do towards recovery.

More and more though, I can see that it’s worth it.

Even outside of the big things like travelling the world and tasting its foods, it’s worth it in everyday life. Birthdays, family dinners, Christmas; they all revolve around food, and they’re all supposed to be enjoyable experiences! As long as you keep listening to Ed, however, they’re still going to be stressful! Life shouldn’t be all about the food and the calories and your weight. It should be about enjoying each moment, and appreciating each moment.

Each day, I have to force myself. Some days, I have to force myself with each bite. But little by little, it’ll get easier. And eventually I’ll have that final realization that links all the little ones together, and sticks. Recovery is a struggle, but it means a full, amazing life, and I have to keep reminding myself how very much I want it, and it’s worth all that struggle.

Just think of all that pad thai…mmmmmm.


Mental Health Secrets

Despite all the hate that Cosmo magazine receives for its trashy articles and ridiculous sex tips, I have to admit that it’s always been a favorite guilty pleasure of mine. Sure, some things they suggest are a bit out there, but in recent years Cosmo has started publishing more articles on things like health, careers, and world issues. After reading through the September issue, however, I’m a little dismayed at a a piece of “advice” they printed.

In a career-focused article about how to “Stay Cool When Life’s a Mess”, one issue discussed was what to do if you have an eating disorder or addiction and need to get treatment for it:

Don’t tell your boss. If your workplace offers an anonymous wellness program, use it. If you need to go into treatment, say that you’re going on vacation.”

As someone who has recently had to come clean to her boss about having an eating disorder and needing some time off to get professional help, my first thought was how ridiculous this suggestion was. How much time does the average workplace allow as vacation time? As a relatively new employee, I’m guessing two weeks would be the longest period of time I’d be given in one chunk. And that’s not gonna cut it for “fixing” the issue.

I’ve been dealing with an eating disorder for over ten years, and I’m about three months into the recovery journey. Psychologists, dietitians, and group therapy are all part of the process, but so is time. I still have a long way to go before I’ll consider myself all better. Two weeks is definitely not enough to take care of an eating disorder, and to suggest that you could pass off entering treatment as a vacation is laughable.

After rolling my eyes at the impracticality of Cosmo’s advice, I gave it more thought, and actually became really annoyed. In past Cosmo articles, and in today’s society in general, it’s been a goal to raise awareness and stop the stereotypes about mental illness. But by saying that an eating disorder is something to keep hidden, they’re really just perpetuating the stigma attached to it. Mental illness is real, and it’s definitely not a thing to be ashamed, or secretive, of.

I’ll get criticized for using the cancer comparison, but the facts of the matter are there: both cancers and eating disorders can kill. But how people perceive them, and treat the two issues, are totally different and unfair. A person diagnosed with cancer and having to undergo chemo would never be told to lie to their boss about needing to go get help. In just about all situations, it would be completely understood that they needed medical help, so they’d be off work in order to receive it. So why is it okay to tell an anorexic to cover up their health concerns with the ruse of “going on vacation”? In both cases, medical treatment is necessary, and there really shouldn’t be a reason to keep secrets or disguise the issue.

In my experience, I’ve been open and honest with everyone I know about having an eating disorder and finally seeking treatment for it. And so far I’ve been met with nothing but compassion and encouragement to get better. Even at my job, it’s been no issue to get time off in order to attend appointments and therapy, and everyone knows what’s going on. So I’m very disappointed in Cosmo’s advice to do the opposite and keep quiet.

What do you think; should it be the norm to keep mental illness under wraps in the workplace?


Strength in Numbers

Misery loves company”.

There’s strength in numbers”.

I’ve heard lots of variations of the same basic message: having people around you who understand makes a world of difference. Only recently, since beginning to attend a recovery therapy group, am I realizing how very true that is.

Growing up with an eating disorder, I honestly thought I was the only one who had ever had these feelings. Of course, I realized thousands of other girls struggled with body image, diets, and eating disorders. But no one understood my demons; I was a special kind of fucked up, beyond understanding, and without a chance of recovery. On the surface I denied I had a problem, but inside I knew I was far from having normal, healthy thoughts about food and about my body. I just assumed (because of my special, one-of-a-kind, eating disordered brain) that I’d stay this way forever, so acknowledging that I needed help, and getting it, would be a waste of time. So, for ten years, I obsessed, stressed, counted, and restricted; the whole time trying to convince myself I was living a normal life.

Stumbling upon the book “Life Without Ed” by Jenni Shaefer was a harsh eye opener for me. She writes about her journey with her eating disorder; all the way from her first negative thoughts about her body as a small child, to the depths of her struggle, to her eventual recovery to health. As I read, over and over I found myself thinking “Holy crap, WHY would you do that, that’s crazy!”, only to realize a half a second later that I’d done the same thing; I was every bit as crazy as her. For the first time, I realized just how messed up my thinking had gotten, and I couldn’t deny it anymore. But instead of scaring me, it gave me comfort and hope. This girl, Jenni, had gone on to be happy and healthy, so maybe there was a bit of hope for me, too.

A few months later, and I’m accepted into an intensive recovery program, part of which is a weekly group therapy. Going into my first session, I was pessimistic; none of these girls seemed like likely allies in the pursuit of recovery. At first glance, it was a broad range of women; young, old, skinny, overweight. Honestly, if I had met this group in a normal, everyday context, there was no way we’d somehow emerge as friends.

Before the end of the first meeting, though, I wanted to hug each and every one of them. As each girl talked about her own issues and struggles, it became clear we were all much more similar than I’d thought. In every story, there were feelings and thoughts and confessions that I was all too familiar with, that I had thought I was alone in feeling. Just knowing I wasn’t the only one feeling like this was a huge relief. Knowing I wasn’t alone in all this made it just a little bit less scary.

Being able to talk to people who are fighting the same demons as I am is incredibly comforting. My friends and family try to be understanding, but they’ll never truly get it, and a small part of me is always worried they’re judging me, just a little bit. The girls at support group though, they’ve been there. They’ve had the same crazy thoughts; they’ve gone to the same crazy measures in order to obey their eating disorders.

I’m less than a month into the group sessions, but already I feel such a sense of solidarity with everyone there. Each weekly session feels like entering a safe zone, where I’m not the odd man out. I’m surprised by how comfortable I am, sharing things I’ve never talked about, and crying in front of near strangers. I’m even more surprised by how much I care for these girls; I want each of them to be healthy and happy, and I find myself wondering about how they’re doing in between meetings.

Maybe in time I’ll get to know these girls more personally, and we can bond over things other than our eating disorders. Ideally, eating disorders won’t even be an issue, and we could just be “normal” friends. For now though, I’m just incredibly grateful to have learned that I’m not alone, and I’m not incurable, and that there are amazing, beautiful people right by my side in this battle against ED.


Intro to Recovery

I really, really hate myself for it, but my first thought was along the lines of “Good. I’m one of the skinniest girls here.”

I had my first orientation meeting with the recovery group today.  Just like after my solo meeting last week, I left feeling discouraged.  I go to the Centre feeling so motivated and so ready to change my life, and I leave feeling defeated, or like I’ve come to the wrong place.

I’m not like those other sick girls though, I eat all the time.  I just need someone to talk to; I don’t need to see a dietitian; I can just talk through some stuff with a psychologist and then I’ll probably just be all recovered!  Even while I’m thinking these things I know they’re not fully true, but these are the “facts” my brain chooses to cling to.

I want to get better, and then I don’t.  Mostly, I’m terrified.  I was diagnosed with an eating disorder at age twelve, and had unhealthy food/body issues for god knows how long before that.  At age twenty-one, I really can’t remember ever having a life that wasn’t governed by Ed’s rules.  Recovery would mean a whole new standard of “normal”, and I really don’t know if I’m ready for that, or ever will be.  I don’t know if I want to give up that feeling of control.

In theory, recovery sounds great.  I’d love to be able to not worry about what I eat or how I look or how much I weigh.  I’d love to relax and not be so uptight and worried all the time.  I’d love to be able to mindlessly eat a bag of chips, and then not feel sickened with guilt afterwards.  But right now, all of those things equate to the same thing in my head: fat.

I keep hearing about these girls who manage to beat their eating disorders, and live normal, healthy lives, and they still look amazing.  And I know their stories are meant to inspire me and convince me that recovery is possible, yet I keep writing myself off as a lost cause.  Mighta worked for them, but this is just the way I am.  This is how my life is, and it’s probably not going to change.  And I hate these thoughts, I hate myself for having these thoughts.  I want to believe that I can do this, that life after recovery will be so much better.

But right now it’s a huge struggle.