It's been an interesting few weeks filled with a lot of challenging moments. When I get tired mentally, I find it hard to blog. Seeing as the Holidays (Christmas for myself) are creeping closer, I figured it's high time I addressed this. I've been keeping busy as of late, constantly pushing myself and staying out of my comfort zone. I still haven't touched the bathroom scale, have introduced all sorts of new foods and meals, have made some serious gains in the gym, have gone out for dinner, had some treats, done some Christmas shopping, wrapped presents, gone skating... Loads of things! The idea here is to be social, to get back in the game, to make some friends again and take the upcoming year into my own hands. A year for Heather, and Not ED.
All of this aside, there is no ignoring that this is around the time where holiday parties, family gatherings, and lots of events begin to happen. It's no mystery that the holidays can be a tough time of the year, especially for someone with an eating disorder or someone recovering from one. It's a recipe for anxiety, fear, frustration and guilt, all of the things dear old Eddie loves. Let's face it, food is a gigantic part of the holiday season, and while eating disorders are by no means all about the food, food becomes a big part of it. For myself personally I feel as if I am undeserving of participating in the parties, to be surrounded by family, to eat my fill and more, to have drinks, act silly and stuff my face with copious amounts of chocolate. Doing this makes me "lazy", it makes me "bad", it means that I have "no self control".
Ouuu lookie there Heather, all your favorite holiday treats! Gasp! Chocolates! Look! Peanut Brittle! Wine, appetizers, pie! Look at all of that! Doesn't it look good?! Know what will look even better? You. After the holidays when everyone else packs on that holiday weight and you remain the same. None of that garbage will ever taste as good as the feeling of accomplishment you will get knowing you were strong enough to resist temptation. You will not sin today, Heather. You will behave.
This might be some of the dialogue going on in my head in a weak moment at a party. By weak moment I mean a moment where ED sneaks into the forefront of my mind. Note how he labels my consumption of "fun" food as sinful. Making me a bad person for doing so. I've talked about this before, but when we put food on a pedestal, we allow it to control our lives, and taking control into our own hands is what recovery is all about. Here's another example of ED's dialogue:
You've got two parties and a choir concert to go to. Why even bother going to the parties? It's not like people are going to notice whether or not you're there! Don't bother telling anyone about the concert either. No one needs to sit through hearing you sing. You're nothing special, Heather. Why don't you just stay home this weekend? It'll be just as fun. Just me and you.
Now, that doesn't sound like much fun to me, but a lot of the time, ED is around to make us feel as if we are unworthy of others' company, or being noticed and appreciated by others. We simply are not "good enough".
Why am I mentioning all of this? Well, Christmas is a time where there is lots of opportunity for ED's voice to outshine our own. Christmas is about love, family, joy, food, celebration. ED hates all that crap. He wants to keep us in that neat little hidey hole of his. It's a cold dark place. We like the light. ED cannot survive in the light, so it's up to us to make sure that we do everything in our power to stay there. That's where the challenge comes in. You might feel residual guilt, anxiety, fear. The feelings are a part of it. "Feel the fear and do it anyway", very wise words that I repeat over and over to myself.
Now. Last year I had a very different outlook on Christmas. I was just beginning my weight restoration, eating mechanically, forcing my meals. Every hour of the day was spend trying to kill time between meals so I didn't have to fear "having to eat again". I was at my lowest and most unhealthy weight. Walking up the stiars meant I had to take a ten minute break to cach my breath. I couldn't even laugh too much at this point in time! If I got over excited I would get chest pain, become weak, and nearly faint. I did not attend any holiday parties or dinners. I remember two things from last christmas. I don't remember if there was snow, I don't remember who was home, or what my brother got for a present. I remember two things.
I remember being cold.
I remember wanting to die.
I'm happy to say things are much different now, and it's amazing what change a year can make. I hope that it can give those readers who are struggling some hope that it does get better. You have to put the work in, but you will be rewarded. The blood, sweat and tears mean freedom. To me, anything is worth my freedom.
OK, so. Back to business. The holidays can be tough, yes, but there are definitely things one can do to make all of this stress a little more bearable! It's about taking time for you, knowing that this isn't selfish of you, reaching out and utilizing your support systems, and trying to keep a healthy mindset. some of the coping mechanisms I find helped me best last year, and some new ones that I will use this year include the following:
- Reading a book for pleasure (there is nothing better than curling up with your favorite novel and escaping for a while)
- Planning ahead (Do you know of any holiday events coming up? Are there ways in which you can prepare for potential triggers/anxieties that may present themselves?)
- Don't over exert yourself (It's a busy time of year. You might have to pick and choose which challenges you want to take on. That's OK to do, so long as you are not avoiding them all for the sake of ease)
- Just DO IT (Fuck it. Imma own the shit outta this Christmas dinner. Try and stop me mother fuckers)
- Try doing some healthy physical activity (Alone or you can make it a date with friends or family! Go skating, snow shoeing, walking! Encourage yourself to move for joy, not for compensating for what you may or may not have eaten)
- Distraction activities (It's not good to distract ourselves from the important things like challenging ED, or being present and mindful around family, or enjoying the moment... But sometimes it's nice to quell the mental wreckage that can be going on in there. I like to rug hook, watch a movie, paint my nails, chat on the phone with a friend... Just little mundane things to help me get through the moment)
- Feel your feelings (This is important. Bottling things up makes shit shittier. So let it out. Feel it out. Move on. Feelings can become dangerous mechanisms in ED's world. Don't give him the weaponry)
- Know you are loved (reach out to a support system. Have one in place. They are here for you. Use them).
- Treat yo'self! (Screw everyone else for awhile, Christmas is a time for celebrating you as well! Buy yourself a treat, or a little stocking stuffer, a new book! Go out and get your hair done. Pamper yourself. Love yourself in any way you see fit. Practice self-care)
- Take a beather when you need it (Feeling overwhelmed? Take a step back. Running yourself ragged is not going to help any. Take a nap, spend some time alone, cuddle your favorite stuffed animal. Just take some time to be alone and relax. I like to do yoga)
Anyway, here are a few other resources to get you through the holidays. I would encourage you to check them out! A bit of an update on my own progress to come, but I figured this was a little more important.
Catch you all later, take care of yourselves.
National Eating Disorder Association
Joanna-Surviving the Holidays
Something Fishy-Holiday Survival
Mirror Mirror - Eating Disorders and Holidays
PS- I would just love to acknowledge all of the support I have gotten, especially as of late, regarding my blog. This place has become more than I have ever dreamed it to me, and that's all because of you!