Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Recovery is easy when life is good

And not so easy when it's not.  Or that's how it seems to be for me recently.  I've finally made my way past the every-meal-is-a-struggle part of my recovery, at least for now.  When life is chugging along I do well.  I feed myself snacks, I don't measure everything, I cook with oil, etc.  But when I'm faced with unexpected challenges I still struggle.  A lot.

I went camping with the boyfriend and some friends this past weekend.  Life was good, even though it rained and our tent got all damp and humid inside and the water went out in the campground.  I ate deliciously burnt marshmallows, snacked on tons of trail mix, and drank beer without trying to get drunk (I still have issues with figuring that if I'm drinking empty calories I should have a goal like getting drunk but that's another post).  I hardly thought about calories all weekend.

Then I got home and my beloved cat that I adopted in college and has been with me through all the moves and ups and downs of the eating disorder slipped out the back door.  She disappeared under the house but we managed to chase her out of there and almost got her.  She managed to dodge though and get through the fence to the front of the house and vanish.  She didn't come back for dinner last night or breakfast this morning despite repeated tapping of her food bowl outside.  It's been almost 24 hours.  She's smart and tagged and microchipped but I live on a busy street and she's only been outside a few times ever.  And never at this house.  To say I'm upset is an understatement.  In fact, I'm tearing up again as I write this.  Everyone keeps assuring me that she'll be back but they don't know for sure.  No one can promise me that nothing bad will happen to her.

I can't help but beat myself up over it.  (Not too surprising considering my last entry.)  "This is all your fault.  You left the door open.  You should have been more careful.  You can't do anything right."  And as sometimes happens when I'm upset or stressed my appetite has vanished.  I know I should be forcing myself to eat, and I did last night, but I'm so sad.  I don't handle strong emotions well.  Not eating numbs things.  I don't have the energy to feel bad.

So yeah.  I'm struggling a lot today.  This makes it pretty clear that I still have a lot of work to do in this recovery thing.  When things get rough restricting needs to not be my go-to response.  In the long run it will just make things worse.  I know this and yet I still haven't managed to eat today.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I was reminded this morning about how rampant my perfectionism is.  At my work you can get into the stairwell without your card key but since there are companies on the other floors besides our two, you need your card key to get out.  Great set-up, right?  As I have done once or twice in the past I went in there and then realized I was locked in.

Instead of doing what any sane person would do, which is when they heard people on the other side pound on the door until someone rescued them, I waited in that stairwell.  I waited until someone came in and I could pretend I was on my way out, just standing there in my gloves and lab coat with my melting samples.  Of course I mentally tortured myself at the same time with things like "Why are you so stupid?" and "How hard is this to remember?"  I mean, I had to pass the time somehow, right?

I can't even simply forget something without deciding that this is an example of my worth as a person.  And then, god forbid, I definitely can't let anyone know that I'm not perfect.  Other people can forget something and I wouldn't think any less of them but I'm convinced that everyone else will hate me and laugh behind my back if they knew I screwed something up.  It's just so ridiculous.  And so much energy goes into this.  I even found myself saying later when my stomach was rumbling for lunch, "You're such an idiot, you don't deserve it."

What if I could use all the brain power and effort that goes into trying to be perfect for something else?  Unfortunately, I've never quite figured out how to turn that switch off in my brain.  There is a never-ending litany of "Don't screw up, don't screw up.  Stupid, stupid, stupid."  And in some ways it has been helpful in my life.  I've done really well academically and professionally because I have this drive to be perfect.  But at the end of the day is that really worth my sanity?  I don't know.

By the way, if anyone's interested I stood in that stairwell for 45 minutes.  Sigh.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I've been doing really well with the snacks.  I haven't missed a day, even when I had something heavy for lunch like pizza.  But I'm trying to listen to my body and eat my snack when I'm hungry, not at a set time.  So today I had it early and felt mostly okay with that.  I'm a bit nervous that now I'll be hungry before dinner but we'll see.  I know, if I'm hungry again have another snack, right?  If only it was that simple in my head!

The annoying thing is that I feel like all I do at work now is eat.  Seriously, I just ate my snack and I felt like I'd barely even finished lunch.  And it seems like I'm cramming an insane amount of food into my bag in the mornings.  I just stare it wondering if I really need to eat all this but the answer is yes.  The nighttime sugar binges have stopped and I feel less destroyed when I get off the train.  Of course I've also had these crazy night sweats but I'm not sure if that's related since it's not like I added in that many calories.  It could also be my cat's newfound love of sleeping draped over me at night.  If it is related I'm sure it'll even back out.

Of course I do like that I'm working on this now, when I only have a couple months left at this job.  And then I'll completely throw off my schedule being unemployed.  But at least I'll have gotten into good eating habits that hopefully will carry over into my next job.

In other news we had a big party on Sunday (20+ people over for most of the day) and I was reminded of how much I hate crowds after a while and value my space.  After about 7 hours I escaped upstairs to my bedroom on the guise of comforting my cats who were cowering under the bed.  I climbed under an afghan and would have stayed there until everyone left but my boyfriend begged for my help to kick everyone out.  I just get overwhelmed eventually.  It's too much noise and too many people doing things like throwing their trash into my recycling bin.  (Seriously?  In California you see a can filled with bottles and cardboard and you throw garbage in there? Really?)  I have to try really hard to not trail behind people straightening the picture frames they move and the more people who are in a conversation the harder it gets for me to chime in.  What can I say?  I'm a little neurotic sometimes.

But it's good for me to have these exposures.  If it wasn't for the boyfriend I would lock myself in the house alone most of the time, after working by myself all day at my job.  But he likes to be social.  Very social.  Last year when I was visiting my best friend in Chicago my boyfriend at home was busier with plans than I was on vacation.  I have made some wonderful friends though through him and every time I see that nothing terrible happens from all these people being in my house I think I relax a little more.  I'll never be someone to seek out plans for the most part but I'd be really bored if I never did anything.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This ends...

I'm not going to screw around with the recovery hell I went through.  Writing here yesterday helped me to put things into perspective.  I've worked too hard to deal with this again.  I went home yesterday and talked to my boyfriend.  I explained that I've been slipping a little and asked him to check in with me in the mornings before work and not let me out the door without a snack.  So this is day 1.

I brought some bread and almond butter and I'm going to eat it.  There was some minor freaking out this morning since it just seemed like a ton of food I was packing.  I broke out the measuring cups and calculator for packing my lunch, which I haven't done in a while, but I think that's probably normal.  Once I get used to having this snack and see that I'm not gaining weight I think I'll chill about lunch again.  Hopefully.  I'll worry about that later.

Now I need to figure out some good snacks that require very little preparation and don't need to be refrigerated.  I think if I have to walk across the building to get my snack and take time to put it together I won't bother.  But if I have something quick and easy that has enough protein and carbs to keep me full and feeling better before dinner I think I'll stick with it.

I'm expecting the anxiety and all but I've been through this before.  It's only temporary.  Wish me luck!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Deciding factors

I'm sorry about being MIA for a while here.  I've been crazy busy with moving stuff and family/friend things.  And if I'm being honest I've been struggling a bit with eating stuff and I'm embarrassed to admit it.  Not just on here, but to my boyfriend or my mom.

I've been skimping on my lunches, which is really bad and so ridiculous because I know better.  I never did add back in that afternoon snack and since I've hated breakfast forever (I do always have some fruit), lunch needs to be enough to get me through the work day.  I've been feeling terrible on my commutes home and I know why.  Weekends are better since it's much less structured and somehow that gives me permission to eat when I want and pick things with a lot more freedom.  And I've been working on some of the food obsessions (like using big forks!) but that doesn't really matter if I'm not actually eating enough.  I just keep thinking, "Well, I'm going to have a big dinner and dessert when I get home.  Why should I eat now?"  The problem is that even if I'm making the calories up it's not necessarily in healthy foods and that every time I let myself get so hungry I feel frantic I'm feeding the ED thoughts and behaviors.

I know eating more will feel bad in the short term and I'm terrified I'll gain weight if I eat more at work.  But by not doing it I'm letting down everyone who cares about me.

I had a timely conversation with my mom this weekend though.  We don't talk much about the past ED stuff.  I know it's hard for her to think about the worst of it.  But somehow it came up and my mom asked if I still felt like she ruined my life by stepping in and making me get treatment.  I just kind of looked at her and asked if I said that.  As I explained to her, my memories of those worst couple years are sketchy at best.  Malnutrition will do that I guess.  She said it was probably a good thing and that she wished she didn't remember it either.

Then she asked if I remembered her telling me I was going to die.  She says we were sitting in the office at their house and I was poking at my hands like they were fat.  I'm sure I was.  I was pretty proud of my bony fingers.  And she says she felt like the worst mother in the world because she told me I was going to die and I started to cry.  I don't remember that either but I'm sure I needed to hear it then and I needed to hear it again now.

This is not how I want to live my life, having friends and family worried about my health and not remembering the good times.  In fact, I refuse to live this way.  I don't know what I'm going to do but something has to change here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Food obsessiveness

This is a post I've been promising and meaning to write for a while.  I've been doing pretty well food-wise recently (minus last week's freak-out that is safely behind me) so I haven't wanted to jinx it by focusing on the negative but I think it's important for me to be realistic about where I am.  While I'm doing great with eating consistently and (more importantly) not having panic attacks about the eating, I still have some issues I need to work on.

The biggest thing is what I've deemed "food obsessiveness".  I'm sure there's a better name out there but this one makes sense to me.  I've always had some obsessive compulsive tendencies and these days I see them mostly connected to food and eating.

Here are some examples:
1.  When I eat a salad that has a lot of things in it I put aside some of each thing so that my last bite will have everything in it.

2.  I also freak out about the amount of dressing left on the bowl or plate.

3.  I will eat 3 month old cottage cheese that got left in the back of the fridge, rather than waste food.  Even when food is clearly bad like the lettuce I forgot about that turned to mush I have to leave it the fridge for ages before I can throw it away.

4.  That's very rare because I almost always know exactly what's in each cupboard and on each shelf of the fridge.  I can tell my boyfriend where things are without looking and rarely have those grocery store moments where you can't remember if you're out of something.

5.  I'm almost never out of anything because as soon as I open something new, I replace it.  I worry a lot about running out.

6.  When I eat at home I never use big forks.  Small forks feel safe.

7.  I stress out when I use a dish or Tupperware container that is too big for the amount of food.

8.  I pick at the boyfriend's food when I'm finished with my own.  Food feels safer when it's on someone else's plate.

9.  When making something where the measurements don't matter much, like soup, I still measure out the exact amount of carrots if I'm using half a bag so that the next batch has the same amount.  I even count out things like tater tots so that each meal is the same.

10.  I look at the calories on everything, even if I'm going to eat it no matter what the calories are and even if I looked at the calories on that exact box yesterday.

Have I convinced you I'm crazy yet?  I have a bunch of other examples but I guess this pretty much covers it.

I think I've always been obsessive about food to some extent.  I remember as a kid asking my mom if we could have a meal I enjoyed again in the future while I was still eating it.  But, unsurprisingly, this ramped up while my anorexia was at it's worst.  Some of it had to do with eating so few calories that I know my brain was obsessed with getting every single one.  Hence things like licking my salad bowl.  And I think the rest came from thinking about food every moment of the day.  It's hard to not get obsessed when you're doing that.

But these days I eat all the time.  And yet I still have these issues.  Maybe our bodies remember the crazy starvation too well?  I don't know what it is but it's frustrating.  I'm working on it.  Some of these things are easier to change physically.  For example I can force myself to pick up a big fork.  It sucks and it's stressful but once I'm eating it's not so bad.  And maybe if I do it enough times it will get easier.  On the other hand how do I not know what's in my fridge?  That kind of thing is harder.

Am I the only one who suffers from these issues?  Please tell me no, I'm feeling just a little bit insane.  And how do I get past them?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bad Morning

I've been fighting off some sort of cold that's not bad enough for me to stay home from work but means my throat is killing me and I'm so thirsty I can't stand to be separated from my water bottle for more than 10 minutes.  Not to mention the tiredness.  Blah.  I'm trying to take care of myself but I've noticed that when I'm not feeling great the ED thoughts tend to creep in more.

This morning I put on a shirt and a cardigan I wear all the time and feel fine in.  Except this morning all I could see was how fat my stomach looked in the top.  I stood in front of the mirror for 5 minutes poking my flesh and getting more and more upset.  When I finally made it downstairs the boyfriend could tell I was unhappy and tried to make me feel better.  I don't know how it's possible for me to believe that he finds me attractive and that he doesn't see fat when he looks at me and also believe that yes, I am fat, but it is.

Anyhow, there's nothing like tears in the morning right?

The bottom line though is that it doesn't matter.  I can't be anorexic and live the life I want.  If that means I'm stuck being fat then it sucks but I'm just going to have to get over it.  If I have to pick between being skinny and having this life (living with my boyfriend, moving to North Carolina, doing science, having kids someday) I pick this life.  I'm still upset but this is more important.  And I packed myself a lunch even though I wanted desperately to skip it.  Go me, I guess.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Interesting question

How do we define recovery from anorexia?

The part that struck me most in this article was "whether a person can be considered "in recovery" from anorexia if she is able to stay at a normal weight and function well ... but is still obsessed with calorie-counting and weighing herself daily. How well do you have to be to be better?"

I sometimes wonder if people think I'm just hanging on to calling myself eating disordered because it's a comfortable label.  After all, I'm a healthy weight, I don't weigh myself daily, and I normally don't obsess over every bite of food.  But I think recovery means something different to every person.  Some people might be where I am and consider themselves recovered.  For me though, I remember a time before the extreme fat phobia and crazy body hatred.  I don't feel like I can call myself recovered while I still struggle with these things regularly.

I'd be really interested to hear anyone else's take on how to define recovery. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Another victory

I went to an Italian place with my brother for dinner last night.  I ordered fettuccine with pesto and tons of veggies and grilled tofu.  It was delicious but huge.  I ate about half of it, looked at what was left, and asked myself if I was still hungry.  My body said one more bite so I ate that and got the rest to go, totally satisfied.  I don't know if I'll ever manage this intuitive eating thing entirely.  I just have so much history with binging and starving and I really can't not eat, even if I'm not hungry.  But every now and then I manage to actually listen to my body and it feels so good.  Now I just have to work on making those moments more frequent.

And as if that wasn't good enough, I was in the lab this morning and my mind was wandering.  I realized that that was the same Italian place I went with the boyfriend on our first date, about 3 years ago.  That night I ordered a side salad, no dressing.  Look how far I've come!  I knew I wanted pasta so I didn't even think to look at the salads.  I want to tell random people on the street, "I eat food now!  And sometimes I don't even feel guilty about it!"  I won't because that'd be a little weird but it feels awesome.

At the risk of sounding completely corny, it's moments like this that makes all the shit I've gone through not seem quite so bad.

Now I have a 3 day weekend to look forward to, filled with Passover with my parents, Easter with the boyfriend's family, and Monday to relax.  (I figured not having had a day off since January I deserved it, plus I have a moving company coming to give us an estimate.  For some strange reason the boyfriend refuses to drive a Uhaul across the country...  At least it means I won't be trapped in a car alone with the cats for 5 days.)

Better get back to work now, sorry for the short entry.  I want to do a longer one soon about some of the food issues I still struggle with so keep an eye out for that.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Moving on up!

Eeep, sorry for the long time no post thing!  I have been swallowed alive first by deciding where we're moving and then by actual moving information.  Yes, it is still 3 and 1/2 months away but what can I say?  After so long with nothing to focus on or plan (and I am a champion planner) it's awesome to have something to direct my energy to.  Does that mean I know where we're going?  Yep, I do...

August 1st I will be moving to North Carolina!

Besides the year I lived in Scotland I have been a California girl my whole life.  I went 10 hours away from home for college but I was still in the state.  So it's scary to think about leaving friends and family and the life we've built here but this will be good I think.  We will be throwing all our belongings in a moving van, loading up the car, and driving ourselves and the cats almost 3,000 miles.  I'm already a little scared thinking about 5 days in a car with drive-through as our only option since it will be the middle of summer and we can't leave the cats but I'm trying not to think about that.  Luckily there are so many other things to think about it's not too hard so far.

I have multiple google documents already with moving company info, lists of when things need to get done, and links to helpful sites.  I'll be job hunting and apartment searching as it gets closer.  So all in all it's exciting.  I'm worried and happy and just overwhelmed all at once.  Guess that describes a lot of life, huh?

Anyhow, food's been okay.  I've actually been having some binge/emotional eating issues, particularly after dinner but hopefully having some more information about this moving thing will help since that was a huge stress for me.  Hair pulling has been meh.  Not so good.  Sigh.  Need to focus on that more.

A couple other random things:

My male coworker, last week.  "If I got fat that would ruin my life.  It would be the worst thing."  Just lovely.

But I did have a nice conversation with a friend yesterday.  She mentioned something about how I was way too skinny in an old picture.  I agreed and said, "That's what happens when you only eat 500 calories a day."  She frowned and asked if that was on purpose, saying "Some days I think my calorie intake doesn't get much higher than that but it's because I just find it annoying to cook and eating is boring."  I explained to her at that point in my life I was convinced and afraid if I ate one bite over 500 calories that I would get fat.  And not only was fat bad but that would also mean I wasn't perfect and I would ruin my life and no none would ever love me and the world would end.  So yes, it was "on purpose", I guess.

Honestly, I don't think she has a very good grasp of calories and I'm pretty sure she never eats that little but some people are just very nonchalant about food and eating.  I used to wish I was that way but not only can I not afford to be for my health but I'm also glad I'm not now.  This works for my friend but I like enjoying food.  (Well, most days at least.)  I like savoring that first delicious bite of a really good dessert.  I like that I like to cook and am slowly getting better at it.  I like enjoying a yummy meal out with friends.  I don't hate food and now, if someone offered me a pill for all my daily nutrition, meaning I'd never have to eat again, I don't think I'd take it.

Now that is progress.