Uncategorized

serotonin

If I had known what a difference antidepressants would make in my life, I would have started taking them years ago.

I spent years putting it off, telling myself medication wasn’t necessary.  I’d have day-, week-, sometimes even month-long periods of feeling awful and hopeless, and then a patch of “good days” would come along and convince me that I was making mountains out of molehills.  I couldn’t possibly be truly depressed; I just let myself think negatively too often.

During the bad days, the internal debate of whether or not I should give antidepressants a try seemed like an obvious choice.  I’d keep telling myself “at the next appointment” I’d ask my doctor about it, just to find myself in a better mood when that appointment came, and change my mind once again.  At one point I actually did ask for my doctor’s opinion on  me trying medication, and she was very much in favor of it.  I told her I’d think it over, and of course by the next time I saw her, I’d chickened out.

Looking back, the things holding me back seem incredibly petty.  I was afraid antidepressants would make me gain weight.  I worried that I’d become a kind of pseudo-happy, and be reliant on drugs for the rest of my life.  Even the issue of how much medication might cost went on my list of objections.

The factor that I’m most sheepish about letting stop me, however, is the worry that I’d be judged for needing medication to deal with my seemingly wonderful life.  I’m a privileged white girl, with a lovely family and good friends, a good job, a good life overall.  What right did I have to be depressed?  Even the people around me who “understood” depression told me all I needed was some fresh air and exercise; think positive and you’ll feel better.  All that did was make me feel worse when I tried my best to do those things, and still felt terrible on a daily basis.

All the sunshine and inspiring Eckhart Tolle books in the world won’t pull a person out of depression if the brain chemicals aren’t behaving.

I’m constantly amazed at how much easier life is with the help of my antidepressants.  The facts that daily life doesn’t have to feel struggle-y and grey, and that it’s not normal to be sad and anxious for the majority of your life seemed like brand new information when I started to feel better.  I didn’t even realize how low I had been until I began to feel…normal.

It’s the absence of the bad things that I notice the most.  I don’t have days on end of crying before work, and faking smiles to get me through the day.  I don’t feel like crying and completely on edge when mom starts cooking something oily and stressful for dinner.  I don’t see my future as bleak and hopeless.

Instead, I’m beginning to feel like a real person.  Joking and laughing and being fully present with a person, rather than being stuck in my head worrying about how much they hate me, feels good.  Being able to look forward to things, even the small things, feels good.  Simply being able to enjoy my life, relax a bit, and not have a constant torrent of negative thoughts flooding my brain, feels amazing.

Advertisements
Standard
Uncategorized

When did disordered eating become so…normal?

I may have abandoned the pursuit of a career in nutrition, but I’ve been more than tempted to put on my dietitian hat and start lecturing lately.  Good lord, there are an awful lot of unhealthy habits being encouraged in the name of “health”!

When did such a disordered relationship with food and fitness become so…normal??

I work with nearly all women so, naturally, the topic of dieting comes up pretty frequently. To minimize my nutrition-ignorance-related rage, I try to ignore it as much as I can, but the things I do hear leave me incredulous.  Weight-loss plans that allow you to eat no carbs, no fruit, no sweets, no alcohol…and very little of the few foods that are deemed acceptable.  So little, that exercising is considered risky and off-limits.  To me, all those limitations sound far too familiar, too close to being an eating disorder.  And yet, it’s not some get-thin-fast diet found on a sketchy pro-ana website.  It’s a certified “lifestyle program”, run by (seemingly) professional nutritionists.

WHERE did these people get their education?  How are they getting away with giving people such terrible advice??  It makes me angry, how irresponsible it is for nutrition experts (who should know better )to be promoting such unhealthy ways.  They of all people should know the damage that this kind of diet can do to a person’s health, both mentally and physically!

And then there are the macro-tracking, health-obsessed, superfood-of-the-week people. I can’t log onto Facebook or Instagram without seeing someone’s plate of protein pancakes, complete with the fat/carbs/protein captioned below the picture.  Does everyone really need to know the nutritional info of everything you eat?  Do you??  Your body isn’t obsessing over whether or not it’s “reached it’s ideal macros” for the day, why should you be?

Oh, and the “fitspiration” craze.  Whether it’s the thin, toned, muscled-but-still-feminine girls or the bulking up bro, the gym time involved seems a little obsessive to me.

Between overheard conversations, Facebook statuses, and Instagram progress pics, I could go on and on about the unhealthy mindset everyone seems to be wrapped up in.  I cringe to think about how many of those “healthy” lifestyles could lead to some seriously unhealthy consequences.  How long can you follow that strict diet before anorexic thoughts creep in? At what point does counting macros and eating clean become orthorexia?  Will the need to workout every day turn into a legitimate addiction?  It makes me worry how the best of intentions can go so far astray.

It seems I’m in the minority in this thinking, however.  Everywhere I look, these behaviours are admired, encouraged, and seen as accomplishments.  Of course, diet and exercise changes can be for the better, if it’s done in a healthy way.  In everything, moderation is key.  But these all-or-none approaches take it past the healthy, and edge into the disordered.

I don’t know.  Maybe the general public needs to be better educated about nutrition and wellness.  Maybe, coming from a history of eating disorders, I know too much?  Maybe I’m just more sensitive about such things.

Maybe a little bit of all three (everything in moderation, of course).

Standard
Uncategorized

nothing’s stopping you but yourself

I think I’m at the point where I’m just really disappointed in myself because I’m not better yet.

By saying that I don’t mean to discredit how far I’ve come – I know I have made progress in recovery.  I’m better than I was.  My list of fear foods, if I were to sit down and write one, is a fraction of what it once was.  My anxiety about foods has lessened, I’ve relaxed about food rules, and I’ve had glimpses of how truly wonderful life must be without an eating disorder.  But by no means can I say I’m recovered, and that fact makes me so, so angry at myself.

I really want to do better.  I don’t want to be stuck in this disordered life forever; there’s so much I’m missing out on, still.

I know, I’ve preached on and on about the “compare and despair” thing, and how everyone’s recovery is a unique, individual journey.  But right now, I think it’s the kick in the butt I need.

Two of my friends from Hope therapy have been top of my mind lately.  One, for a terrible reason, and the other for a wonderful one.

I’ll start with the terrible.

I met Jess at Hope, and we just clicked.  I felt we did at least, but I think that’s the way she made everyone feel – her loving, smiling, wonderful personality drew people to her, and made you feel special just to be in her presence.  We helped each other through the shittiest struggles of recovery, and saw each other on some of our best and worst days.  No matter how bad her day was going, Jess always had a smile, hug, or a joke to make someone else feel better.  I watched her transform from a sad, sick, ghost of a girl to the glowing, happy, healthy girl I loved.  The past few months I really think she was doing well – living her life fully and happily.

In the midst of her living her life and doing what she loved, Jess died in what I can only call a freak accident while rock climbing.  It’s still fresh, and not completely real to my brain, so I won’t write a lot about it, but I’m overwhelmed by how unfair life can be.  Jess struggled so hard, and overcame so much, just for this to take away the life she fought for.  My heart is absolutely broken.

At the same time, another one of my recovery friends is making my heart glow with pride.  When I first went to Hope, Brittany had been going for quite a while already, and although I immediately liked her, in the back of my mind she was always somewhat of a lost cause.  It was obvious how very much she was struggling, and I was afraid she was one of the unlucky ones who are stuck, just “surviving” within the disorder for the rest of their lives.

Well, a year and a half later, she’s proving me wrong, and I’ve never been happier about being wrong.  She’s gone away to an inpatient program, and as I watch her progress through Facebook, and get lil updates via text message, I can’t help but grin.  I think she’s really beating this.  She’s becoming healthier, brighter, realer in every picture, and you can see in her smile that recovery agrees with her – mind, body, and soul.  She’s been a bit of an inspiration for me.

If my two friends, both of whom I had labeled “sicker than me”, can recover and leave Ed in the past, what’s stopping me?  I know the answer, and It’s time I acted on it.  Nothing’s stopping me but myself.

It’s time to step my game up.
Recovery is possible, even for me.

Standard
Uncategorized

yoga lessons/body love

I couldn’t begin to count how many headlines and articles I’ve read lately all with the same basic message: “Stop worrying about having a ‘bikini body’, and love your body the way it is”. Finally, bloggers, celebrities, and real-life girls are fighting back against the body-shaming, the diet trends, and the pressure to have the perfect summer body. This negativity is all-too prevalent in our society, and it’s overwhelming for anyone who is less-than-content with their self image. This new trend of body love is a refreshing change, and I’m thrilled to see so many girls embracing it.

That said, learning to love your body is hard. I’ve been at both ends of the scale – overweight to underweight, even at a healthy weight for a while – and I don’t think I could say I loved my body at any point. Tolerated it, sure. Even kind of accepting it in a “it is what it is” type of way. But loving my own body, the way it is? That one’s tricky.

I know I’m not alone in this struggle. I know I’m not even in the minority in feeling this way. Even the girls parading around in underwear for the annual Victoria Secret fashion show have some little flaw they’re not 100% happy with. How the hell can we be expected to love our average, far-from-perfect bodies, when even top models struggle?

I think the key is to worry less about what your body looks like, and more about what it can do. If we stay focused on physical appearance, there will always be something that could be improved. The pursuit of the tiniest waist, the biggest muscles, or the most-toned abs is never ending, so save yourself the stress. Forget about the size or shape of your body, and just take a moment to be amazed by what your body is capable of.

For me, that wonder comes to me at yoga class.

I started my yoga journey at one of the unhealthiest times of my life. Stuck in a state of denial about my decade-long eating disorder, it was a wonder my body could keep up in class without collapsing mid-warrior pose.

Since then, I’ve had the “I need help” realization, met with doctors, seen therapists, and started giving my body the proper nutrition it deserves. I’m far from “perfectly recovered”, but I’m miles from where I was a year and a half ago. In day-to-day life, my body is still something I struggle to embrace, and there are days I cringe and want to cry at what I see in the mirror. But at yoga class, I can definitely say I like, and am proud of, my body.

I can feel how much stronger I am now than at the beginning, and it feels good. I can see how much farther I can bend, and how much deeper I can stretch, and I can’t help but be impressed with how far I’ve come. Each time I chaturanga my way into upward-facing dog, I’m proud of how much arm strength I’ve gained. The little accomplishments add up to a whole lot of body-appreciation.

I feel like yoga came into my life at the perfect time, when I needed it most. It’s an escape, a de-stressor, and a teacher of life lessons. It’s helping me learn to love my body, regardless of how it looks, and that’s a lesson I think we all need to be reminded of once in a while.

april-14-2015---wheel-pose-variation_17120434846_o

Standard
Uncategorized

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!

Standard
Uncategorized

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.

Standard
Uncategorized

compare and despair

I have so many important words and phrases highlighted in my copy of Life Without Ed, the book might as well have bright pink pages.  One of those lil nuggets of wisdom is one I need a reminder of all too often – “compare and despair”.

I know recovery is a personal thing, I know everyone’s recovery looks different, and I know it does absolutely no good to compare your progress to that of others.  But still, some days I find it hard to remember how far I’ve come, when others seem like they’ve gone so much further.

It’s strange, because even while I’m frustrated with myself and jealous of their progress, I am so incredibly happy when I see my recovery friends doing well.  Seeing the difference between the sad, sick, empty girls I met last spring and the vibrant, happy, healthy girls I now call my friends is amazing.  I can feel the difference when we’re together – the room is filled with hope and laughter and love (all rarities just a few months ago).  It fills me with joy to see all the positive changes in my friends, and to see them leaving their eating disorders behind and moving on to better days.

The problem comes when I start the comparisons.  Right now, a bunch of the girls who went through orientation with me and started group therapy at the same time I did are getting close to “graduating” from the Hope program.  They’re all doing the “Stepping Stones” therapy group, which is basically the finishing up, review-what-you’ve-learned, end of your therapy and treatment.  Never mind that I’m not doing any groups right now (so it’s not even a valid comparison), the fact that they’re doing the group and I’m not makes me feel awful.

This just starts a whole slew of worries and self-criticisms.  Am I that far behind?  What’s wrong with me?  How come it’s so easy for them, while I’m still struggling?  Have I even made any progress at this??

Another girl came in to group last week, noticeably happier than she’s been in weeks, saying she was feeling so good about recovery.  She was having a good few weeks, and feeling happy, so she had started eating again!  I’m sorry – what?!  I’ve had happy times, and sad times, and all the while I’ve eaten, and still had an eating disorder.  You cannot tell me that it’s as simple a matter as being happier and deciding to eat.  And yet, looking at some people’s recovery, it seems like it is just that easy.

I know, I have no idea what’s going on inside their heads, and I have no idea what issues are truly present in their lives and recovery.  It’s just so frustrating when I keep seeing other girls making recovery look so easy.  For me, it’s been anything but.

See?  Even just trying to explain those comparisons comes out sad and negative.  Jenni Shaefer knows what she’s talking about when she says compare and despair.  I need her in my head constantly, reminding me to focus on my own recovery.  When it’s not being compared to everyone around me, my progress is pretty impressive, too.  This is my story, and my recovery, and I’m doing the best I can.  Just gotta be good with that!  (Although it doesn’t hurt to celebrate and be happy for my friends’ progress too – we’re all pretty great)

🙂

Standard