I have suffered with an eating disorder for 25 years. This is my path through recovery.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Silence is GoldenHoly epiphanies, Batman! Some days you learn incredible amounts of information about yourself. I have always LOATHED the silent treatment and will talk to the silently angry person until I'm blue in the face in an attempt to get them to talk to me. Whenever I've done this, I've ended up feeling weak, angry, hurt, and desperate, and the other person is allowed to feel smug. They are relishing their victory over me.
No wonder I can't handle this - it's point-blank manipulation: withholding affection - even basic acknowledgement! - from someone until she is broken to your will. It is psychological warfare - torture. Don't respond to the person until she addresses you in some way that you deem worthy of a response. It's a guaranteed way to make her feel like she has no worth apart from you - that she has no right to any opinion different from yours.
This was my dad's big, bad trick. Of course, he really didn't understand that he was manipulating me and he DARNED sure wouldn't have agreed that's what he was doing, but that was the effect of this behavior.
I will say again as I have said elsewhere that I love my father, and I have a comfort in knowing that he is home with God. Now I believe that in his perfected state, he is truly remorseful for the wrongs he did while here, and that makes it easier to forgive him. I know in my heart that what he did was not intended to harm me. It was just the easy way out.
But it was what he learned at his own father's knee. At one point during my father's first marriage (to my sister's mom), his father refused to speak to him for one entire year. (I do not know the circumstances well.) When I realize that, my heart goes out to my dad - the man who didn't know how to break the chain.
Having friends write you off is just as painful when it's your family. Sometimes more so because you don't always have the benefit of knowing what makes them tick. It just kills my spirit when people will not permit me to be nice to them. It may sound crazy, but it's true. I don't want to be nasty to people. I think it makes me the better person to be able to speak to those who have done or meant harm to me.
NOT that I mean that in a superior manner. I am just the same as everyone else, but I will not allow myself to be diminished or demeaned by someone else's actions or attitudes about me, even when it means they react badly to pleasant comments from me. They do not have the right to make me feel unworthy or less than unless I provide them that right. I choose not to do that any longer. I do not like taking the silent road myself. I know that comes as a great shock to you. (Oh, REALLY?! We'd never have guessed!)
What I am, I am. I am kind. I have more love in my heart than I know what to do with. I am selfish in that I want things for myself. I feel young. I am not perfect. I spend more money than I have and I trust people from the start. I fall in love hard. I am generous with giving. I am protective of myself but still let myself be hurt because a life that has no pain has no love. I love my family and my friends. I am a person with hopes and dreams, just like you. I do not live up to my potential. I overreach my goals. I am a paradox, but that is part of human nature.
Mother Teresa said it best:
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway.
Creator CelebratedO Lord, my Father Brother Beloved Bridegroom When I am stilled in awe-struck wonder, bereft of speech and conscious thought able only to feel to retain impressions; when I gaze and reflect upon each exquisitely crafted detail of the creation of a single grain of sand and cower at the terrible knowledge of an incomprehensible visible dimension, I see gases in planetary conflagration reduced to a single glittering point in a black velvet heaven and hear the collision of clouds echoing across the continent. Your incomparable might celebrated outside time and space then - ah, only then! will my spirit rise within me and give voice to the overflow of my heart exulting with all the bowed heavenly chorus: proclaiming "My God - my Father - my Beloved, Great is Your holy name and greater is the Creator than all His creation. Amen. and amen.
Spilled MilkSome days it’s laugh or cry, and I gotta laugh. I do need to say something somewhere about this whole mess I've been in because I realized last night that keeping the absolute rage bottled up within me is taking its toll in several ways. My eating has been demolished and my rage issues (gee? didn't I conquer those once?) have come screaming back, just to name two.
I got a chocolate frosty all over some books and papers last night and had a complete screaming meltdown that ended in childish, frustrated tears. Think about it – I was literally crying over spilled milk! Sooooo cliché! The news about my cousin losing her baby at the end of the first trimester came about 10 minutes later. Talk about perspective. It made me feel like an ass, but I have always been the one to hold anger and rage inside and let it fester because I’m afraid to let it out. That meltdown, however puerile in the moment, was a great catharsis for me. (I love the word "cathartic" this week!
It makes me think of the movie Hocus Pocus where Sarah Jessica Parker starts chanting in a sing-song voice, "A-MOK, a-MOK, a-MOK, a-MOK, a-MOK!" before getting socked in the gut by Winifred, her witch of a sister. Such innocent fun. ;-P
Well, I had outstanding therapy tonight in the form of the world's most adorablest widdle chubby baby boy wif da CUUUUUUTEST teeny toes....nom nom nom. Man. Babies are therapy like nothing else in the world.
Living Recovery I went to my group therapy yesterday, where I had a kind of weird time. I am suddenly in a new place.
Our first assignment right out of the gate last night was to come up with a title for whatever chapter of our lives we're in. Not surprisingly, perhaps, I titled mine, "Living Recovery." Once we came up with a title or a picture to describe it, we were to write for a time about where we are right now. Here's what I shared.
Standing strong. Facing the headwinds. I feel the force of the gale blowing in my face. It's refreshing, but I could so easily be knocked of balance if I'm not vigilant - if I don't keep taking steps forward.
I have so recently climbed to my feet after being keeled over by the buffeting winds. I do not want - will not allow myself - to be pushed back to that filthy and unforgiving ground.
I resolve to stand firm - my belt of Truth buckled around my waist, the shield of faith deflecting the blows of my enemies. The helmet of salvation covering my vulnerable head and mind. My feet don't want to move forward, yet, but I'm doing it anyway. They cannot remain rooted.
I have tools - blog, friends, therapy, medicine, and I have my God, my gracious and loving Savior Who watches over me and protects me from all evil.I know where I am blessed.This is my last stand.
I realized as I wrote it what that last sentence means. God has clearly told me that I will be free of this disease by the end of the year. It's very frightening to say this in print because of the fact that it makes it real. It makes me have to do something about it.
But I have to say it because it's real already. God is ready to move me. Oy.....
I have been undergoing a spiritual siege from satan. He has done so much evil against me lately that it makes me rejoice because it means that somewhere, somehow, I'm doing something right. You don't fight an enemy who isn't threatening you - you reserve your strength for the ones who will do the most damage to you.
Let me just disclaim here - I am in no way suggesting that I can conquer satan in my life. By no means! I am the weakest of the weak - but God, my protector is invincible. Actually, He's already defeated satan, so I can live victoriously in Him.
I have seen Eddie desperate to come out kickin' on my behalf. Bless my girl. She's in a deathly rage on my behalf for the injustice she sees, but her instincts are not so good anymore. I've been working to handle everything that's been thrown at me in the most Godly manner. I have fallen short of that, which just proves to me again that I need a Savior.
But, since I have restrained Eddie's sarcasm and rage, she's taking it out on me. I haven't eaten properly or right amounts in days. Those boots HURT when they come in contact with my gluteus. I'm suspicious that she's attached a pair of sharp cleats just to heighten the impact.
She's fighting mad, and frustrated and wounded. This poor, aching girl is so much my heart, and I grieve for what we have both endured. But I refer you to my Gloria Gaynor post. I - we - will survive. We must. Not to survive this is death, and I'm not ready to die.
Fed Up! What is wrong with me?! Last night I was fuller than I have been in over two years. I am really unhappy with myself, but all I could think about at the time was MORE food. This is reminding me all over that this is a sickness. My body was stuffed, but I wanted POPCORNThis is so not normal! I'm sick and tired of having abnormal eating habits - of obsessing over a steak or compulsively eating whatever's in front of me just because it's in front of me!
I had a late lunch from Taco Smell yesterday. It was too much food, but I couldn't stop myself because it sounded so good. Plus two drinks (TWO!) from Sonic: one large cherry limeade (extra lime) and one strawberry cream slush (ice cream included, of course). I ate these around 2-3 in the afternoon, knowing that at 6:00 I was going to dinner and a movie with a bunch of girlfriends.
Dinner rolls around and there we are at the Longhorn Steak House. I ordered their basic fillet with a small lobster tail, baked potato and asparagus - no salad and only one piece of bread. OK. Not a problem, right? It clearly fit into my eating plan. So - what's the problem, you ask? I WAS STILL FULL FROM LUNCH! I couldn't believe that I was eating a meal when I was full. When we were done I felt like I was absolutely overbalanced because of my overfull stomach. It disgusts me that I have no control over this part of my life. I feel like the world looks at me and KNOWS that I have just given in to this damned and bloody disease.
Of course, none of my friends knew I was feeling like this. Like all ED victims, I'm good at hiding what's going on. I comforted myself with the thought that I wasn't going to even want to have popcorn at the theater. I would simply have something to drink - maybe even just water. I was proud of making that decision in advance and felt so confident about it.
We get to the theater. (By the way, if you have the opportunity to see "Mad Money," I highly recommend it!) I pick up the preordered tickets from the kiosk, and lo and behold, what do I find? A coupon for a free small popcorn. Well, CRAP. Suddenly, stuffed to the proverbial gills, all I can think of is, "YAY!! Free popcorn!!" My next thought is, "What the hell is WRONG with me?!" Here I am in actual physical pain and discomfort from rampant overeating and all I can do is be excited at the prospect of free popcorn. Suddenly I am so disgusted with myself I want to sit down and sob right there. At that moment I called upon every reserve of strength that God had in store for me and walked past the rear concession stand (of course we had to pass it to get to our theater) without even stopping for my drink.
I detoured into the bathroom where I stood in the stall for a moment, just catching up with myself. I couldn't believe - couldn't believe - that I had been contemplating that stupid popcorn simply because it was free. For the first time in a very long time I began to come to grips with the "sickness" part of this disorder.
I always felt it was weak of me to say that I am sick - that I was somehow absolving myself of responsibility for my physical state, making excuses for myself, playing perpetual victim. After several years of therapy, I am beginning to understand the very basic tenet that this is not true. I am not absolving myself of any wrongdoing. I am not using this disease to make excuses for continuing these behaviors. I am NOT playing the victim.
What I am doing is seeking a way to break a cycle of destruction and pain. It cannot happen overnight, but it will happen. I believe this because I believe in a God Who stands behind me and lifts me up.
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."--1 Cor 10:13
Well. It's been some 20 months since I first wrote and I'm still fighting with this bastard Ed. Only, surprise! It's really not some "bastard Ed," but a leftover remnant of my rebellious teenaged self who's still asserting her existence and belligerently stepping in to protect me from the controlling world around me. She's got this sassy, "Hey! I'll show YOU!" attitude which I love, but which just comes out in the worst way. I call her, "Eddie."
I'm finding support in a wonderful group of women at Renew, where we laugh, cry, get pissed off, love each other and work our collective way through all the sludge and bilgewater that builds up in our lives and threatens to choke the breath out of each of us. I also have an amazing nutritionist with whom I work regularly, and a therapist I adore.
So - what's been going on since that first post? I can't honestly say. It's been up and down and up and down; compression, release, relax; reduce, reuse, recycle. Some days I feel like Typhoid Mary; others like Little Mary Sunshine; then, of course, there's Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, but my garden is overgrown and overwhelming. The very vagaries of day-to-day living are sometimes just beyond my ability to cope.
There's been a lot of upheaval and turmoil in my life in the last year - some good, some bad, as most things are. Some of it brought me new and wonderful friends, though (you know who you are!), and a few of them are wonderful helpers to me in my ongoing struggle for supremacy in my own life with Eddie.
Eddie is not all bad, you know. No, Eddie came along at a vulnerable time in my life and stood up for me in ways no one else ever had. She's feisty, yet passive-aggressive, angry, and boldly protective of me. And she's smart. This girl has a Mensa-level IQ. She figured out that control didn't have to be what others expected it to be. I could be in control of what I ate no matter what dictums others tried to place upon me - and believe me, plenty of others tried to control my choices.
My parents, naturally, tried to make sure my life was lived according to their standards and by their rules. Their standards weren't always mine, though. In fact, if my mother saw the complete dishevelment of my living room, she'd plotz. They tried to control everything in my life - my friends, my likes and dislikes of clothes, the layout of my bedroom. I think that my current laissez-faire cleaning style is still in direct rebellion to that, but it's still a choice I want to make differently. I would eat in secret from them as a passive-aggressive rebellion.
My friends also control(led) my life. I would do anything to be liked and accepted, for the most part. I let my so-called friends walk all over me for a long time. They dictated what was cool and what was not. I had so many nerves around them that I just ate lots when they were around. Some of the folks I counted as friends once upon a time weren't ever really friends to me. I know that now. They used me because I was needy enough to allow it. I probably knew that deep down, but again - there was no feeling of being able to stop it. I needed control somewhere in my life, and food was the only place I could find it for myself.
Enter Eddie. Feeling unloved? Eat! You'll be full, and you won't have to think about that. Feeling angry? Stuff it down with food so you can feel stronger. Sad? Eat! It'll comfort you.
Geez. Smart, smart girl, but not smart enough to see more than one solution for every problem.
The time is long past to help Eddie move on and mature. That is the only way she and I can continue to coexist. I am so grateful for all the help she has given me for so long, but we need to find other coping mechanisms now that fit both of us. It will be so difficult to tell her that she has to change, but she needs to know that her "help" is really not help anymore, but hurt. That she is damaging the very person she is intent upon saving.
So. I think I'll write her a little letter. I'll let you know when I get an answer.
Fathers and Other Hit Men A friend watched a movie on Lifetime last night that made her think of me: Queen Sized. "It was about an overweight high school girl and they portrayed her negative thoughts as her mother. When her mother would say something that sounded innocent enough, the thought-mother would reword it to be hurtful and when the girl was alone, the thought mother would come and express all these negative opinions and then the girl would go on a binge. Despite the depressing sound of it, it was a really cute teen movie and of course, in the end, she is elected Homecoming Queen and all the nobody kids look up to her while all the mean girls still hate her and she gets a boyfriend too. I think."
DANGIT!! I'd meant to tape that one. I'd seen it advertised. Well, shoot.
Anywho, BOY is that me. Only difference is that the things come from both my parents. My dad was more image-conscious than he was comfortable being. He was saddled with two daughters with weight issues twenty years apart. Kay* and I rarely talk about it, and she's FAR less heavy than I am, but I know from my mother that one time he introduced her to a colleague as, "This is my fat daughter Kay." W T F ? ! ? ! ? ! WHO DOES something like that?! I could really never reconcile that person with the father who was normally such an extremely sensitive, kind and tremendously well-reasoned and compassionate man.
He had one on me, too, once. Probably the single most painful moment of my life. Christmas - I'm in my 20s somewhere. We're opening presents and I get a really nice new pants and blouse set from my folks. My dad has a "haha" look on his face, and asks mischievously - "Does it come with a pole?" I am mystified. I really, really, really don't get it - and neither does my mom. My sister and BIL are not forthcoming, although I think Kay gets it.
Finally, at dinner, I tell them I give up - I have NO idea what it means. My father doesn't answer (I think, perhaps he's ashamed of himself by this time). Kay finally responds sheepishly - and I know she's sorry about it. She says, "A tent pole."
I have never so much in my life wished that the ground would open and swallow me whole as at that moment. I have also never wanted to physically harm or humiliate my father as I did then. I wanted to pick up my dinner plate and smash it straight in his face - just grind it in. I actually had to mentally restrain myself from it.
What do I do instead? I laugh. God help me, I laughed so no one would know the damage I felt inside. At that moment, and for the only time I can recall, I hated my father.
And I can't say that "It's all good," or anything because when I finally confronted him years later, the bastard didn't remember it at all. He had the NERVE to forget it.
Can O' Worms WHOOO! Can o' worms time!! LOL. Beware, my buddy Dan says I write exactly like I talk with all these parenthetical phrases. :-D Forewarned is forearmed! ;o)
I am NEVER offended when people ask honestly about my eating disorder. I am willing to explain to anyone who really wants to know. That was part of my issue with a former friend. I received an email in which she decided to tell me that I use my eating disorder as "a crutch." She has never had an eating disorder, has no clue about what it does and how it wreaks havoc in your head, and I know that, but nevertheless it has preyed on my mind ever since she said it many months ago.
Part of that problem stems from the fact that I was trained by my parents that I was about the last person who knew what was right for me, so my knee-jerk reaction is to take whatever someone outside of me says about me as fact. Sort of "they said it, therefore it must be true." This makes me doubt myself SO much. I have worked VERY hard to overcome that part of things, but occasionally something either particularly vitriolic or something that comes from someone I've trusted still makes it through that wall.
I really kind of am two people inside - the confident woman who can speak out like I am doing here, and the timid, frightened girl who can't handle change or growth, make decisions for myself and take action on things I really want. That's the one who doubts everything about herself, including whether she has the right to exist and be loved in this world.
I'm fighting to reconcile these two sides of my character and my weight is a physical manifestation of an emotional wall. The person I am now is not the person I was a few years back. I have grown immensely through therapy with an amazing woman. A few years ago I was almost belligerent at times. I still have moments where that creeps back in, but usually when I feel like I'm being dissed for politics or something that doesn't strike at the core of ME.
The kind of abuse I suffered growing up wasn't the same kind of abuse as many others have suffered. I had parents who I know without a doubt loved me and wanted the best for me. The biggest problem was really more along the lines that I was denied many types of freedom as a child/teen/young adult. My father always tried to control my actions - often through shaming me. I wasn't allowed to be angry ("Listen, Kid. What've YOU got to be angry about?") or have emotions ("Stop that crying right now or I'll give you something to really cry about!") or express myself ("Don't you backtalk me, young lady!"). The worst thing about all of this was really that I wasn't allowed to be OK just being me. Whatever I did, my parents tried to change me, and somehow when faced with "teaching" me or "controlling" me, they always took the fucking easy way out. They simply felt they knew better.
Why did you like that awful rock music? We raised you on GOOD music! (40s-era tunes)
Don't think you're leaving the house with those long earrings on! (which, of course, was the rage)
Why don't you wear your hair the way your dad likes it? It looks so nice that way. (FORTUNATELY that one was pretty much OK because it was 80s big-hair days, but WHY was the way I wanted to wear it "wrong?!" The well-intentioned comments are really the most insidious.)
Hey - when I pay the mortgage, it's my house and you're just living in it. You keep your room NEAT! (I had the CLEANEST room of all my friends, not because I liked it that way, but because my mother forbade me from arranging it to my own satisfaction, even down to the placement of knickknacks on my dresser. Seriously!)
When are you gonna learn to save your money? (Yet...why did I need to? When I finally did have a monthly allowance instead of weekly, I overspent it, and they covered whatever I wanted while they bitched and moaned about it. THEN my mother decided that, instead of teaching me by making me deal with the consequences of not getting what I want and learning HOW and WHY one saves, she was simply going to go back to the weekly allowance because clearly I couldn't handle it myself. THEN TEACH ME, MOTHER!!!!! GRRRRR. Don't just take the control away from me. Oh, that's right, then you'd have to WORK at raising me and it wouldn't be the easy out you wanted. To this day, money is incredibly difficult for me to control. Even at 37 years old, my mother still bails me out, to my shame - and then mentions it IN FRONT OF MY FAMILY!!! It's not any of their FGD business!)
Anyway - those are just a few things that they tried to control. THEN THERE WAS THE FOOD. I was so cowed by authority (my parents, teachers, etc.) and the consequences that I might face that the only outlet I had for control in my own life was what I chose to eat.
Both my parents did everything they could think of to keep me from eating. In high school I was not allowed to eat too much of anything. I would sneak snacks in the kitchen, only to hear my mother holler, "What are you doing in there? Don't you think I know?!" BITCH. I wasn't allowed to have regular soda, butter, salad dressing, etc. They were so friggin' paranoid about my eating that they tamped down ever harder, not realizing that they were making a bad situation unfuckingbearable.
And, perversely, they kept the deep freeze on the lower level, just feet from my bedroom and living room! (I had my own space down there, which was cool.) They could MUCH more easily have kept it in the garage just feet from the kitchen, instead of where my mother had to make trips up and down the stairs. So many people I know have said that this was a kind of subtle challenge/sabotage to me. And they were right. It was a blatant attempt to show me who was boss.
It got so bad at some point, that I was getting in and eating the frozen Christmas cookies and fudge by the pound. She had a TON of it stored there. When they finally found out, they locked the freezer (MOVE THE DAMNED THING TO THE GARAGE, YOU POWER-HUNGRY IDIOTS!!). Well, I broke the lock. I ate whatever was at hand. At its worst (and yes, you may laugh! :-) ) I actually was desperate enough to pull out frozen hot dog buns and thaw them by sitting on them. IANMTU. Yes, it's damned funny when I tell it now. It was the nadir of my ED, in some respects, and what finally motivated my folks to get me some help.
They took me to a hypnotherapist and a psychologist, who I couldn't stand, in my senior year. The hypnotherapist psychiatrist is the only one who saw what was going on for what it was, but I freaked out when he wanted to medicate me. The hypnosis part never worked.
They also tried to convince me to do a hospital program then, but I was TERRIFIEDto do that kind of thing at that age. If you only knew how sorry I am that I didn't go............. *grief* WHY is that the one place where they DIDN'T control me?!? :'(
So - that's why I see "Eddie," the rebellious teen, as my ED alter-ego. She's still the teenage version of me who eats when things are uncontrollable, or when I don't know how to cope with any given situation. Eating, in my case (or, depending on the disorder, restricting, purging, overexercising, etc.), is how she controls her environment - how I controlled my environment back then.
The sad part is that it most often takes YEARS of various therapies to train oneself on how to recognize what you're doing, when it comes up, how to rethink the process of coping with difficult or stressful situations.
Additionally, I am the adult child of alcoholics. Both of my parents drank to excess. It wasn't too bad until I was in high school, but we moved to a clannish area and my parents had a very difficult time making friends - for the one and only time in their lives, by the way. I was reduced to being their best friend and they became very selfish in some ways.
I was extremely isolated even without all this control. I lived 6 miles from my high school in a rural area, had no car, wasn't allowed to ride to school with the one girl in my area who I liked (most of them were cliquish and snobby if you didn't have the right clothes, etc.), was actually less than a MILE from the long-distance line, making ALL of my high school friends long distance for me. And my father was very tight with money. I wasn't allowed to make those long distance calls. My church was 20 minutes away, but I wasn't allowed to drive to events, so I had to rely on rides from my church friends. Yet, at the same time, my mother didn't like me being "beholden" to them - as if one is "beholden" to friends!!! The message I've always had from her is that you have to pay everyone back immediately for anything they do for you - which said to me very clearly that I was not worth enough for people to do things just because they liked me.
So. That's a pretty nutshelled version of my life and what led to my eating disorder. Yes, it's a large nutshell, but then - it's gotta be big enough to fit this nut! ;-)
Enough for now. We'll talk more about some of these things as we wish, and I'll talk about how we can make changes, because part of it is just that I need to be strong enough to put into practice the tools that I have. I just don't have confidence in that strength.
But, this is one of the tools - reaching out to people. And this counts as journaling, too. I have written letters to Eddie. You'd be amazed at how your emotions change if you write longhand with your non-dominant hand. It's kinda freaky. I need to go back through all my materials from my rehab and redo some of the exercises as a recharge. But I am determined that I will not have my eating disorder past the end of this year. That is my promise to myself. It's a TERRIFYING goal, but I believe that God will see me through this.
Well. I've said a HELL of a lot more than I intended when I started, but the ball just kept rolling.