Thursday, March 31, 2011

Moving forward, looking back, and standing still

I woke up this morning feeling more than a little nostalgic.  I think it had something to do with the inside of our house being cool but there being that promise of another hot day (it was 85 degrees yesterday) in the air.  It reminded me of being a kid again during summer vacation, waking up in air conditioning, going downstairs and sitting with my mom on the back deck, getting dressed and going to farmer's market, maybe swimming in the afternoon.  Years before worries about whether that 1 nibble of muffin is going to make me fat, worries about pulling my hair out, worries about going into debt for the boyfriend's grad school.  For the most part I'm pretty happy with my life these days but this morning all I could think about was if there was any way I could recapture that time. 

Sadly, there's really not.  I mean, I could take a few days off work this summer, go home, sleep in my childhood bed.  My mom's a teacher, she'd be there.  But it wouldn't be the same. 

I don't normally look back like this so it's weird for me.  I've always been very focused on moving forward, doing things right.  But this past year things have kind of been at a stand-still.  When I was a teenager there was school and the constant knowledge that I had to do well in X class so I could get into Y class and get into a good college.  Then there was college and every class I took was one step closer to graduating.  Then my Masters program and the research that brought me closer to my thesis every day.  Then I graduated and there was the job hunt.  At the same time I started this job I met my boyfriend and there was the moving forward of the relationship.  The first date, swapping keys, moving in together.  Everything was to get to the next step.  This last year though feels like it has been mainly a waiting game.  I should have been job hunting a year ago, looking to get closer to what I really want to do but I knew I'd be moving so I didn't.  This marriage and kids thing is on hold until after grad school.  I've made very little progress at this recovery thing.  I travelled some but that's about it.  It makes me wonder, what have I been doing with my life?

I don't exactly have an answer.  Cooking more, working out, hanging out with friends and family, watching TV, reading, and playing video games are all nice but I have trouble seeing how any of it is taking me to the next step.  I think it'd be so nice to go back to when I just enjoyed things instead of always worrying about moving forward.

Anyhow, on a different note, I found out that the friends we're hanging out with tomorrow night won't be over until 7pm.  And then we're going to decide on dinner.  I hate late dinners.  And yes, that's late for me.  I found this out yesterday and ever since I've been trying to psych myself up to eat a snack when I get home.  And at the same time I just keep thinking about how ridiculous this is.  I have to give myself a pep talk to eat a snack and decide what it will be three days in advance.  Fantastic.

And my last random thing is this article.  Close to one in three women in this survey would swap a year or more of their life for their ideal body shape.  I know 320 women isn't a huge sample size to make sweeping conclusions and it's easy to say you'd do something that could never actually be accomplished but still.  It should be zero because it shouldn't even be a question.  The sad part is I think I agree with those 30% of the women.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A confession of sorts

I thought today, pretty much out of the blue, I'd try and be really brave.  I wanted to talk about something that's totally embarrassing for me.  As in embarrassing enough that I never even mentioned it to the various therapists I've seen for my eating disorder.  (On a side note, can I just say how ridiculous it is to be embarrassed to talk to someone you're already paying to listen to your craziness.)  And it's silly that it's this hard to write but that it's not hard for me to write about anorexia symptoms.  I guess it's the same as how I have trouble talking about the binge-eating I've suffered.  Anorexia is just more socially acceptable.

Anyhow, here goes.

I suffer from trichotillomania. 

It's a scary name and don't worry if you haven't heard of it.  Most of my brother's psych major friends haven't even heard of it.  Basically, it's a psychological disorder charaterized by repetitive hair pulling.  (Wikipedia is good if you want to know a little more.)  So when I'm stressed or bored or sometimes for no reason at all, I pull my hair out.  It really takes the phrase "tearing your hair out" to a new level!  I'm lucky in that I've always had incredibly thick hair (seriously, I used to have my hair dresser thin my hair), that I only want to pull a strand at a time (some people pull clumps), and that places where I feel the urge to pull from are in the middle of my head so it's never been noticeable to anyone but me.  But I know.  I can look at my hair and tell, based on the number of short strands growing back in, how stressful the past few months have been for me.

I was around 14 or 15 when it started, long before the anorexia, though years after some of the other food issues.  But I definitely think it's all connected.  I find when I'm under stress, even if I manage to keep the eating under control, the hair pulling ramps up.  And I've often compared the two, as in both should feel bad but somehow for me they don't.

I saw a therapist for trichotillomania, before the anorexia.  He talked about how it was impulse control disorder, like pyromania or kleptomania.  I remember nodding along but somehow it never seemed to fit me.  I didn't feel a sense of rising tension before I did it and a release afterwords.  A recent journal article really made it make so much more sense to me though.  Basically, they say that hair pulling in people with eating disorders seems to have more in common with OCD-type compulsions than impulsive urges.  And although I've never been diagnosed with OCD that really clicked.  For me this reduces anxiety, the same way repetitive handwashing does for other people.  The problem is that it's not a real fix for the anxiety, even though it makes me feel better.

So, I guess this isn't completely out of the blue.  It's probably not a surprise that this has been a particularly stressful couple months with the boyfriend's grad school stuff and all the uncertainty.  And I've noticed that while the eating has been okay for the most part, the hair pulling hasn't been great.  I need to be utilizing my healthy techniques for handling anxiety more.  And keep thinking about whether or not more therapy could be useful at this point in my life.

My parents obviously knew about the hair pulling but I think, like the anorexia, they like to assume that it's behind me.  And that's about it.  I've told my boyfriend "I have some obsessive-compulsive issues related to the eating disorder".  But I've never told a friend or other family member.  I still wouldn't.  I'd be way too ashamed.  And yet, I've told more that a few people about the eating disorder.  But I feel good about having talked about it here.  It's good to get some things out in the open I think.  It removes some of their power.

And I'm not even going to reread this because I think if I do I won't post it.  So apologies for the rough draft but I'm hitting publish.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Quick post - from the web

I don't have very long, this being the start of the week from hell at work which is running concurrently with the increased freaking out about this boyfriend grad school thing.  (He got into Duke.  Do I want to move all the way across the country?  Why are the 3 other schools so slow?!)  But I did want to share a couple of interesting things I've seen online.

First off, could the season you were born in increase your chances of developing anorexia? It's an interesting point about very early environmental risk factors if this study is correct.  May birthday here, hmmm.

And secondly.  This one is much more likely to make me want to scream and rip my hair out.  The editor of Italian Vogue is launching a campaign against pro-anorexia.  I've talked about my opinion of pro-anorexia before so it's pretty clear I don't think it's the great evil it's portrayed but let's not even get into that.  Does anyone else see the irony?  Please tell me it's not just me.  I just can't believe that Franca Sozzani (a woman who looks like she has skipped quite a few meals herself) is saying that these sites are bad because they "push young people into competition over their physical shape".  Because her magazine doesn't do that?  Really?  Where the hell does she think the pictures of skinny models on these sites come from?  The whole thing and all the hypocrisy makes me sick. 

Ugh.  Anyhow, back to work.  Hope everyone out there has a great Monday.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I apologize for being so slow posting again and responding to comments.  I've been in a bit of a funk this past week.  I've been having stomachaches that only feel better when I eat.  Unsurprisingly, this is a little scary for me.  I haven't worked out since Sunday because of this so I'm feeling fat and gross and lazy.  Plus we're still waiting to hear from 4 more grad schools who are being so slow at sending their acceptances/rejections so I can't even start looking into all that yet.  Stupid holding patterns.

I went to the doctor about my stomach and, as I always do (especially for something digestive system related), I asked if this could be connected to my history of eating disorders.  What I'm really saying is, "Did I do this to myself?"  Because I blame myself for getting this stupid eating disorder and ruining so many things.  I know, you can't give yourself an eating disorder but I knew when I started cutting out meals that I was doing something bad for me, I just didn't care.  And yes, I would also blame myself if I got cancer or something.  I mean, it'd be clear that meant I didn't eat enough antioxidants or something, right?


The doctor said it probably wasn't connected to my history so that's something.  But I just kept thinking, not yet.  I'm still waiting.  Like I deserve to have some sort of horrible lasting health effects for being such an idiot and not feeding myself. 

See?  Funk.

The highlight of my week has been the amazing mangoes we got in our CSA box.  I chopped them up last night into a salad of black beans, corn, red onion, and avocado, dressed with white balsamic vinegar and EVOO.  It's marinating for dinner tonight so maybe, since I don't have to cook, I'll drag our lawn furniture out of the garage and spend some time after work enjoying the sun and the time change on our deck.  That might be just what I need to snap out of this.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Snacks - the next frontier???

So I logged into here this morning and was kind of surprised by the flurry of page views.  I always seem to get a fair amount but this was a lot for my little fledgling blog.  Then I figured out that Charlotte linked to my last post on her twitter feed so thanks for that!  I'm glad people liked my why recovery is worth it list.  It's so important to me to remind myself why I'm doing this and hopefully the list will help someone else out there too.  Anyhow, if anyone new is reading this because of that welcome and feel free to leave me a comment.  (That goes for anyone who's been reading for a while too!) I'd love to know more about who my readers are. I know I don't really ask open-ended things that are easy to respond to or anything but I worry about doing that and getting no feedback and then being sad!  So just know that I always love to hear other people's input or personal stories.

Now, that all said, I'll get into what I really logged on to write about.

I had a rough evening last night.  I got home from work and the boyfriend wanted to eat dinner out with his best friend who's visiting and some other mutual friends.  Okay, cool.  So he called his friend and the guy (who's notoriously flaky) doesn't pick up.  So the boyfriend talks to his other friends and they decide to wait on the guy for a while, see if he gets in touch.  Less cool but still okay.  I like to eat dinner by 6:30 at the latest but I was fine for a bit longer.  It gets longer and longer and the boyfriend tells me I should eat a snack since it's obviously going to be kind of a late dinner.  Cue freak-out.

I still have a lot of problems with snacks for whatever reason.  If I can call something part of a meal (even if it's dessert after dinner eaten 2 hours later) I'm fine.  But snacks scare me.  I ate them when I needed to gain weight and then once I was at a normal weight I stopped.  I guess my problem with eating snacks even when, like last night, I'm really hungry is that I'm afraid I'll eat the extra calories and then still eat all my meal calories too and get fat.  It's so silly.  First of all, I don't count calories.  Secondly, I'm much more in touch with my hunger cues these days.  It's not like eating when I'm just bored or lonely or something.  Plus I had beautiful tangerines fresh from my CSA box but I couldn't even manage to eat one of those.

Anyways, I snapped at the boyfriend that I didn't want a snack, I wanted dinner, and proceeded to sit there for another half an hour, until I was completely starving.  And I don't know what it is but these days I tend to lose it when I get really hungry.  I just flat-out can't function and completely go crazy.  It's mostly around dinner-time, maybe because that's when I tend to eat heaviest in the day, but I can actually feel myself losing it.  And once I do I can't have a conversation with anyone, I can't focus on anything.  The only thing I can do is snap at everyone around me until I eat something.  And then I'll feel myself coming back down to Earth.  Am I crazy?  Probably.  It's very weird though.  I mean, I used to subsist on such a tiny amount of calories.  I remember being irritable sometimes, but nothing even close to this.  Maybe it's the fact that my body knows I've starved it before and so reacts very strongly to that threat?  I don't know.  It does make me wonder if anyone else in ED recovery has dealt with this or if I'm just a freak.

We ended up eating Thai food for dinner at almost 8pm, without the best friend of course.  And because I was ravenous I probably ate more calories than I would have if I'd just eaten the damn snack.  Grrrrr.  Well, lesson learned.  Next time this happens, and it will- we have a lot of flaky friends, I'm really going to try to eat something small. The temporary anxiety has to be better than the temporary insanity.  (And just saying that gets my heart rate up, sigh.) 

I can feel my boyfriend getting frustrated and I don't blame him.  It's not nice to be snapped at when you haven't done anything wrong.  As much as I'd love to eat at the exact same time every day it sometimes just doesn't work out that way in the real world and I have to be able to handle that.  Last night I told the boyfriend that he just had to live with it since it was the eating disorder and not my fault but, as he pointed out, that's not an excuse.  It's a reason but it means I need to deal with it.  He said I've "come to far to stop now" and he's right.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Why I'll stay in recovery

I didn't realize it had been a whole week since I last posted!  The boyfriend's best friend has been in town visiting, my brother is having surgery tomorrow to fix his fractured wrist, and my parents have been in and out.  But all in all things are better than last time I wrote.  Except for the surgery bit of course but even that is routine and my brother should be back in school the next day.  Mostly he's bummed about not getting to snowboard again this season.  Probably a good thing since that's how he fractured his wrist in the first place.

I'm already planning our first camping trip of the season with some friends.  We went camping with them last year and had an amazing time so we're going for longer this year.  The boyfriend and I also celebrated our anniversary this weekend which was nice.  And best of all the boyfriend got his first grad school acceptance!  I can't even explain how much it feels like a weight has been lifted.  I knew he'd get accepted but it wasn't for sure until he had the letter.  It's such a relief, even though he's still waiting to hear from all the other schools and I don't know where we're moving yet.  But hey, in 6 months I could be a Colorado resident.  Weird.

Anyhow, the eating disorder has been pretty quiet this past week.  I can't let my guard down even when it's not actively trying to kill me but it's nice when things feel a little less insane in my head.  I get to breathe a little.  So I think now is a good time to make my list that I keep talking about.  So without further rambling:

Why Eating Disorder Recovery is Worth it

1.  I'm not freezing all the time.  I've always tended to be cold, even years before the eating disorder, but not eating results in this bone-deep, aching cold.  It hurts.

2.  I can enjoy meals out with friends and family.  I turned down or suffered through so many social events just because they involved food.  Restaurants were the scariest things.  These days I rarely even check menus, let alone calorie counts, before I go somewhere anymore.  It's refreshing.

3.  I don't get horrible headaches.  Hunger headaches suck, enough said.

4.  I have room in my life for relationships.  My eating disorder isolated me from friends and family, especially my parents who I love so much.  There was no time or energy for romantic relationships either.  If I went back to the eating disorder I'd have to accept the fact that I could lose the man I love.

5.  I don't feel like I'm in a fog.  I can't think straight when my brain is calorie-deprived and I need to for my job.  Who wants to be working with hazardous chemicals when they're mentally a mess?

6.  I'm not frantic if something interferes with my workouts.  Last night a friend from out of town was around unexpectedly.  I'd planned to workout but it was easy to pick which was more important.

7. I want to someday have children.  An eating disorder screws this up in so many ways.  Even if I could get pregnant how could I submit a growing fetus to starvation and then, once it was born, teach it to treat food like an enemy?  I want my kids to have a healthy relationship with food.

8.  I don't have a scary sunken face anymore.  I still have trouble accepting that my body looks better now but I can at least look at the pictures of me from when my eating disorder was bad and see how sad and aged my face looked.  It's a cosmetic reason but whatever works.

9.  I don't have to sleep in crazy contorted postions with pillows everywhere.  Between 2 people and 2 cats the bed is already crowded enough without me having to worry about putting pillows under my hip bones so I can sleep.

10.  I rarely have huge bruises that I don't remember getting anymore.  I bruise easily still, it's a fact.  And sometimes I don't know why I'm black and blue but nothing like when the eating disorder was bad and I was embarrased to wear skirts because of my brusied shins.

11.  I don't cry if someone gives me food.  I take it as the nice gesture it is and move on.

12.  I almost never have uncontrollable binges.  I suffered from binge eating before the anorexia, binges are something I will always struggle with ocassionally.  But when I was underweight I physically couldn't stop eating sometimes.  It was awful but now at a normal weight I can tell my body I will feed it again when it's hungry and it's starting to believe me.

13.  I cook more exciting things.  If a recipe calls for sugar or oil or nuts I don't run away screaming anymore.  It's really fun to experiment and try new things.

14.  I enjoy travelling much more.  What would a camping trip be without s'mores?  One trip to London when the eating disorder was bad I didn't get to enjoy hot chips on a cold night like I did when I lived in the UK  These things are okay and won't hurt me.

15.  I don't have to worry about a low heart rate or getting osteoporosis before I'm 30.  These health things are abstract and still don't really scare me but it's important to remember how physically dangerous eating disorders are.

16.  I don't have my mood decided every morning by a random number on a piece of plastic.  I'd like to one day be okay with knowing the number and not have any emotional response to it but for now I'll settle for just not weighing myself and being okay not knowing.  Seriously, who flies their scale around the country with them?  It was sad.

17.  I enjoy food.  Ice cream while watching trashy TV, my mom's delicious salmon, the stew that my boyfriend made that I have no idea what was in.  Why should these make me afraid?

18.  I don't get sick anytime anyone sneezes within a 50 yard radius.  I ride public transportation almost daily.  I need a better immune system than the one that let me catch 2 colds and a stomach flu all in one month.

19.  I lose it, emotionally, less.  I will always be sensitive, it's just a fact.  I don't need to cry over things like eating something that has 50 more calories than I thought it did. 

20.  I have a lot more free time.  Writing down every bite, scouring the web for diet and exercise tips, and staring at pictures of skinny models leaves no time for the things I really enjoy like reading or discovering a great new TV show.

And that's what I have for now.  I felt like I should maybe do a big one for the last one but these are more honest.  Yes, an eating disorder might kill me but when I start to get stressed and it starts to feel like restricting might be good, that won't stop me.  These might actually remind me why I'm doing this.