Well, first, Happy New Year. As I sit here typing, I sincerely hope the 2013 brings me a new strength, the ability to endure, the ability to remain strong and ultimately move closer to my full recovery. I reflected on 2012 briefly yesterday and realized that it really did kick me in the ass, as this year was pretty much the shit storm of my illness. There were good times, great experiences, new adventures and places, love lost, love and friendship found, and a really good chance to start over and begin a journey to finally finding myself. This journey, of which I’ve barely scraped the surface, has been complex, exciting (in some of the worst ways possible), extremely confusing, heartbreaking, frustrating, and a plethora of other emotions I am just recently beginning to uncover within myself again. My illness has robbed me of many things, including participating fully in my final year of my undergraduate degree, relationships (with myself and others), my social life, my former confidence and self-assurance, my ability to love (myself and others to the fullest extent), my patience, and my sanity. As time moves on, I’m beginning to uncover new realizations about ED and where these emotions and experiences in my past fit together to lead up to what brought me here in the first place, though I’m not sure I will ever really know. I have been (sort of) maintaining an 1800 calorie a day diet of wholegrain, organic, protein rich foods and since then a lot has been happening to my body. A lot of the signs that come with the recovery process have been poking their heads about. It’s another thing to deal with, but I guess it’s just another part of the road to beating this thing.
Speaking of the recovery process, I know I’ve mentioned a few things that came along with the refeeding and such – the pain, the crankiness and moodiness, the hopelessness and apathy – that good old stuff. These “side effects” aren’t the be all end all, and now that my body has been experiencing more and more in the way of “recovery side effects”, I figured it’s about time I mention a few more seeing as I have a bit of input where I’ve been experiencing a lot of this bullshit. I’ve been keeping a list of changes I’ve noticed within myself these past few months, and with a quick google search and some skimmage of blog posts, forum discussions, information from eating disorder awareness/support websites, I’ve been able to confirm the “normality” of what I’ve been going through as well as take a peek into what others are going through in comparison to myself. It makes you feel a little less alone.
The first thing to remember here is that recovery is both physical and psychological. They go hand in hand pretty well. Often something psychological will bring on some sort of physical change or cause you as a person to do something different (e.g.: introduce a new food), and that in turn will turn back upon itself and become some sort of psychological function again (e.g.: feel emotions such as fear, disgust, or joy). One of the big problems with this is that the psychological blocks that can be put up by ED often get in the way of feeling accomplished or proud of something I’ve done. A recurring example of this would be every time I see some sort of weight fluctuation on my scale. I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I rise and drop weight like it’s no one’s business. This is more than likely attributed to water weight, which is something my body so desperately needs to repair my organs. Permanent weight gain, especially enough to cause significant physical changes are likely farther off than I think. Anyway, when I see that my weight has one up in the morning (sometimes fluctuating several pounds just overnight) my first thought is usually “water and repair, we’re on our way”. This positive psychological message, however, is always at risk of being twisted by ED into “it’s fat. Remember, you tried eating potatoes last night. The potatoes did that to you”. This in turn can lead to restrictive responses like cutting out food, or in my case wanting to exercise until I drop/purge in some other way. So, as you can see, recovery is a real catch 22. It’s constant head games and it’s proving to take a lot more determination than I had originally thought.
In the way of the Physical
After almost three months, I am beginning to see and feel more and more the physical side effects of the recovery process. For those of you who need a refresher some of this stuff includes
- Stomach pain as a result of eating
- Bloating (I feel so full constantly. It makes eating more and more difficult because I feel as if I am literally stuffing myself to the brim. This wreaks havoc on my brain, triggering even more “you’re fat” thoughts)
- Crazy weight fluctuations (I explained those to you in the above paragraph)
- Bursts/changes in energy (Now that I’m eating a diet on the low end of ‘normal’ I am finding myself with a lot of pent up energy. Not really being able to do much in the way of cardiovascular exercise (which would burn far too many calories… Calories I need to get better) has left me shack whacky, especially where I was on the Christmas break. One day on the break I felt really great and got really ambitious. I did a bunch of Christmas shopping, gift wrapping, cleaning and decorating. Needless to say by the time 3 PM came along I was passed out on the living room couch absolutely exhausted, clearly not ready for the hustle and bustle just yet. There was also another morning where I felt an extreme amount of anger. I decided that I would run. I would put on my sneaks and get away from all of my problems. Mama didn’t try to stop me (which I later found out was because she knew exactly what was going to happen to me), so I triumphantly left my house and began to run as fast as I could. I made it a block before I realized that this run was NOT going to happen. I walked the rest of the way. At least I got a laugh out of it)
- Issues with hair/skin/nails (I’m currently debating shaving my head my hair has gotten that bad from being sick. My nails are still quite flaky but are strong enough to play my guitar and my skin has definitely improved, but my hair? Man…)
- Digestive issues that I will not be getting into for the sole reason that the human body is capable of disgusting feats
- Feeling heavy, fat (Especially with the constant weight fluctuations and the introductions of “fear foods”).
- Hunger and fullness (These are becoming more and more common. I still get really scared when I get hungry, and I hope rewarding the hunger feeling with nourishment rather than punishing myself with starvation will get easier. This whole feeling full thing as I eat is new though. I guess it means something in my brain is smartening the fuck up. Maybe someday soon I won’t have to be setting those phone alarms).
- Sleeping patterns (My sleeping in 20 minute intervals has been gradually started to change to one solid 2-4 (if I'm lucky) hour block of sleeping. I rather it this way, it means I’m getting some REM sleep in).
- Reproductive issues (and I’ll just leave it at that)
So as you can see, a lot has been going on. The times they are a changin’ – and it’s scary as fucking hell. I don’t have a choice but to work through it, even though the psychological developments and emotional issues that come with this whole recovery thing are making coping extremely difficult. I’m holding my own… But barely. Family and friends may tell you otherwise, but I feel as if I could be handling things so much better…
Anyway, from what I’ve experienced on that list, I’ve come to expect (though the absence of a plan as to how to deal with this makes me nervous) include weight gain (I’m not even thinking about that one yet), regular sleep (bring it on!), more energy (yes please), getting hungry and being able to stop eating when I want to, not when my caloric goals have been reached, and having nicer hair (something that would make me really happy and would probably make me feel a hell of a lot better about myself).
In the way of the Psychological
So, all of this stuff those of us in recovery (of many illnesses) are going through come with lots of emotional baggage and a crazy amount of change within those lovely brain parts. Satiety centers are rebalancing and trying to function again, feeling centers are all out of whack, rationalization and planning canters are active and working round the clock, not to mention ED kicks himself into overdrive… It’s all very tiring, can be exhausting both physically and mentally, and is sometimes unbearable. However, without going through this bullshit, the fight that is recovery would be more useless than tits on a bull. If life is going to make this battle difficult, we might as well be ready for the storm, as ready as one can be at least. When it comes to feeling and emotions, much of this is being newly uncovered to me as I keep fighting with ED day in and day out. New feelings arising, old feelings returning, feeling the need to deal with these feelings, feelings about feelings that you feel feeling isn’t even worth your trouble… See? Confusing. Everything is a jumble in there. The mind can be a dangerous place, but I’m hoping now that my vision is clearing up that I will now be able to tackle some of the psychological issues that come with ED, not just stabilizing my physical condition.
Psychological/Emotional side effects
- Mood Swings to the extreme
- Rising and falling of OCD/ritualistic behavior
- Nasty/Tempting ED moments (Skip your snack, it won’t hurt. Only put half a tbsp. of oil in there, lie, no one will ever know!)
That last one is important. I can’t get over the amount of guilt I feel on a daily basis. I feel guilty because I feel selfish. I feel undeserving and unworthy of the love and support I receive. I know that this is ludicrous, but hey, these emotions, these irrational thoughts planted in my mind… I know that it’s ED trying to hold me back, deep down I know this is true. The brain, however, is a powerful organ and emotion holds a lot of weight in our lives. Sometimes these feelings are so overwhelming I am unable to figure out exactly what to do with myself. I feel the need to separate myself to spare those around me from being “subject” to me and my illness. I know, I know, they wouldn’t stick around if they didn’t want to… I just can’t seem to help but apologize sometimes. ED is my demon, but he affects everyone around me.
I’ve had trouble staying on track, I will admit. It’s been harder and harder to get all of my eating done successfully (without sobbing through the preparation or actual eating of the meal), and there have been many times where relapsing has been extremely tempting. That’s another can of worms. Not one I’m comfortable discussing just yet, but I look at it this way: I am barely 3 months into recovery. For where I am, I think I’m doing pretty fuckin’ good… So I’ll hold on to that, and take it as it comes.
As for the holidays – I survived them. I’m not saying a lot of it wasn’t absolutely miserable and extremely difficult, but I got through it ok. I chose to distance myself from a lot this holiday season which in hindsight I don’t regret simply for the fact that I now know that it would have caused me a lot more stress to… I dunno… try to pretend I’m enjoying a turkey dinner with all the trimmings in front of a group of 12 family members rather than have a quiet dinner at home with one close friend. There’s always next year. There were many tears this holiday season, especially where I was both increasing my caloric intake and introducing new foods. One day I am proud of, however, was December 27th. I ate a full piece of lasagna that evening with my family, along with a salad. I did not cry, I did not slouch while I ate. I was very brave and I actually enjoyed the meal. Take that ED! Tonight I’m having ham for the first time in over a year, actually, so I guess it’s another milestone. Maybe by the time my birthday rolls around I may be able to manage a forkful of birthday cake (haha). There were several really difficult days this season that I will not discuss here, but for those readers who know the situations I am referring to, they know that I’m pulling through as well as I can, and that those around me are staying strong as well.
See!? I can do the normal thing!
So, on to the New Year! What’s in store for A Love Affair in 2013? Well, I hope to stay as active as possible with blog posts and updates. Being in school and no longer doing this blog for credit makes writing something on the side. I don’t often find time for “on the side” activities, but seeing as this blog is probably one of the more important and useful things I’ve done with my life as of late, I fully plan on giving it some well needed attention. I want to continue to give you posts that analyze and explore issues surrounding the body as it pertains to eating disorders as well as continue to provide you with the sociological analysis and information that can hopefully expand your knowledge surrounding eating disorders and our society. As soon as Maggie Goes on a Diet is delivered to me, I’ll be getting around to my little post about the importance of recognizing how impressionable our kids are, mainly highlighting some past topics I’ve covered, especially regarding the culture industry and the dangers that come with the fact that advertising and negative self-image is the product of the day, and is more often than not being sold to our children before anyone else.
So there you have it. An update, some info regarding recovery in general and how it is affecting me and a plan for the future. I hope the New Year treats you all well. I thank you again, for taking the time to read my writing, my story. It truly does mean a lot to me.
Keep on keepin’ on.
Did I mention that I cleaned my plate?