*Trigger Warning: I talk candidly about eating disorder thoughts and behaviors in this post.

 

I like this writing exercise because I get to focus on the positive progress I have made over the last eight months :-). Although, it is so important to do writing assignments like the one I posted yesterday. Opening up and sharing my story helps me take the power away from shame.  In, Daring Greatly , Brené Brown describes shame as the fear of disconnection. Daring Greatly, pg. 68. This resonates deeply with me because for so long I hid how sick I was and how much I hated myself because I thought people would think I wasn’t worthy of their friendship. I am not hiding anymore and I can’t even begin to describe how liberating it is!

When I started this journey eight months ago I was at Phase 5. “[P]hase 5. I tried to change but I couldn’t. I told myself that I would not (fill in the blank) but I found myself doing it again. I don’t feel like I can really ever (change) get well, so why keep trying?” 8 Keys, pg. 15. At the time, I had binged and purged and felt hopeless that I would never be able to stop. At 39, I had tried, and tried, and tried to stop the binge/purge cycle, but it always came back.  I figured there must be something inherently wrong with me. I wasn’t binging and purging as often as I had in the past so I justified that at least I was a lot better. But the fact was that I wanted to get rid of it!  I wanted to be Recovered.

So I started working. First, I started reading 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder by Carolyn Costin and Gwen Schubert Grabb, then I found an individual therapist to work with every week and then I joined a weekly support group that focused on the 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder. During the course of the group I got to Phase 6. “[P]hase 6. I can stop some of the behaviors but not all of them.” Id. For me this meant that I could stop purging but I couldn’t stop emotional eating (i.e. binging) and obsessing about trying to lose weightAt this phase it dawned on me that I wasn’t just dealing with eating disorder behaviors, I was also dealing with eating disorder thoughts (ie constantly trying to lose weight). And boy, oh boy, those thoughts were powerful.

That took me to Phase 7. “[P]hase 7. I can stop the behaviors, but not my thoughts… I keep counting calories over and over in my head and still want to lose weight.” Id.  Thoughts are so powerful. This was the phase where I realized that I had to let go of “weight-loss as a lifestyle.” I had been in a constant state of trying to lose weight for years (over thirty if we’re counting). It was time to let it go.

As a visual person, I pictured myself adrift in an ocean holding tightly to a lifesaver that read “WEIGHT LOSS AS A GOAL.”  For whatever reason, I had been clinging to that lifesaver my whole life. Holding on for dear life. So I started letting go. It was scary, no terrifying, but little by little I began to realize that I didn’t need that lifesaver anymore. It turned out it wasn’t a lifesaver at all, it was an anchor.

Now I am at Phase 8. “[P]hase 8. I am often free from behaviors and thoughts, but not all the time. I feel fine all day, but under stress I revert back to my unhealthy behaviors.” For me, this means that most days I am free from behaviors and thoughts but when anxiety starts to build or I get stressed, my default is still to revert back to ED behaviors.  Specifically, my instinct is to turn to food when I feel stressed or anxious.  Especially during the witching hours between 2pm and 4 pm.

Recovery is exhausting because there are SO MANY FEELINGS!! Sometimes I just want to escape the intensity of my feelings for a few minutes. Which is okay and can be done in healthy ways, like watching tv, calling or emailing a friend, working out, etc. But sometimes it can get a little hairy and feel like teetering on a balance beam. Especially if I’m hungry.  So I’m hungry and I know it is okay to eat but, whether I admit it or not, I am also looking for a brief respite from feeling the feelings.  So one side leans towards hunger and the other pulls me down towards comfort.

During the witching hours a couple weeks ago, I was on that balance beam and I gave into the comfort. In the moment, I knew something might be up but I was able to just eat the food I wanted and move on. The next day didn’t go as smoothly. I did the same thing, but this time I kept eating. Not a lot, not binge worthy, but I knew I was still eating even though I wasn’t hungry anymore. I felt anxious because of some unresolved feelings and I was trying to use food to give myself a break from feeling them.

I stopped eating (that wasn’t easy) and sat down and wrote an email to my friend Abbie about what was happening and what I was feeling.  It was a watershed moment for me.  The anxiety dissipated the moment I pressed “send.” Since that day I have focused on what I can do to make the witching hours (2pm – 4pm) more manageable. Writing is a wonderful resource. It grounds me and doing the writing assignments in the book (8 Keys) gives me the structure I need to feel comfortable (ie. I’m not stressing about what to write). I also try to make sure that I am not hungry during the witching hours (no more balance beam).

My hope is to continue on this path to Phase 9 and then to Phase 10, Recovered.  I am proud of how I have handled the ED thoughts and behaviors that have crept in over the last several months.  I feel like each time I address the negative thoughts and behaviors my healthy self gets stronger and my eating disorder self gets smaller. Since I made my first commitment to recovery in my early twenties, this is the furthest I have ever gotten in recovery and I am very proud. For me, hope, commitment and purpose have been instrumental in getting me to where I am now.  I have hope that I will be Recovered, I am committed to doing what it takes to get to Recovered, and my purpose is that I love myself, my children and my Steve.