Hello everybody! I hope you are all having fantastic weekends so far. Brace yourself – this is going to be a long post.
I have a genuinely positive post in me today. My posts have been pretty much downers on life recently, but today I am feeling good. I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere and I’ve hit on some renewed motivation with this whole recovery malarkey. I mean, even with the previous lack of motivation, I’ve been scrapping by without getting too sucked in to my eating disordered thoughts, but over the past week or so, these thoughts have been making me increasingly frustrated. Yes, I am still anxious about food and my weight, but I’m starting to realise that all that achieves is me being sad, isolated and even more anxious. Maybe it’s the medication, or maybe it’s the fact that my weight is finally into the normal range (yes, I’m gaining again), but all of my rigid food rules and rituals and thoughts about the comfort of potential restriction and subsequent weight loss don’t seem to be making much sense right now. I’m not naive enough to think that this new-found frustration will be sustained without serious reinforcing through action, but somehow, I have ended up actively wanting to ditch the behavioural aspects of anorexia. Cognitively, I feel strong enough to right now.
It is not that I want to gain weight. I have to and I will, but I don’t want to. It’s not even health I’m desperate for right now. What I want is just to be able to relax about it all and not have to care all the time. I want to let the Mum make me soup when I’m ill, I want to be able to eat chocolate and it not be a massive deal, I want to eat the foods I like, when I like and feel ok about it. I know that is still probably a long way off but I’m just so fed up of caring about all this inane, useless nonsense that I just really want it to go away now. It’s boring and it really takes the fun out of life. Food is such a crucial part of everyday life that lacking flexibility around eating just completely inhibits you from doing so many things. For instance, having to eat alone means no dinners out, having to eat at certain times means never being out the house for longer than 4 hours as eating something unplanned is just not an option, needing to know your exact calorie intake means not being able to have a chip when it’s offered to you, eating by numbers means never being able to choose something because its tasty. It’s lonely, depressing and entirely boring. This is not who I want to be anymore. Caring so much about my weight has led me to lead a really tiresome life and I just want to not care anymore.
This all culminated in a really great session with the dietician yesterday. I’d gained a little more than I’m comfortable with (but a lot less than I’d convinced myself I had), but I didn’t cry and throw an anorexia tantrum at her like last time I gained weight. I actually didn’t freak out too much at all. I can’t say I’m ok with it, but it’s not making my head spin into itself and implode. I talked to her about my frustrations with calorie counting and my food being boring and basically how rubbish it is being scared of so many foods and eating situations and we came up with a plan. A plan that involves not counting calories. I’ve been counting calories now for so long that I honestly don’t know how to eat without it. I’ve been practicing a bit (not weighing my hummus, not counting the calories in black coffee etc.), but I’ve got to a point where I think it’s doing my recovery more harm than good. I eat the same things everyday, always trying to negotiate my meals into lower calorie amounts, then making it up at the end of day – meaning my most substantial meal is nearly always super bumped up porridge or granola. This was obviously previously useful as it got me eating enough and got me gaining, but now this attitude just means I’m not eating other, higher calorie things and I’m getting progressively more scared of them as time goes on. So together, we worked out what the comfortable minimums I’ve been eating for every meal and snack of the day and came up with a relatively safe, normal sized evening snack and formulated a basic, easy meal plan. If I were to only eat this, I’d still be hitting a normal amount of food, but the idea is I have to eat at least 500kcals more than this everyday to gain, but how I do it is up to me. I can still have my granola and porridges if I’m having a hard day, but equally I can have a muffin instead of a cereal bar, or a dinner out instead of my usual grain/pulse/veg combo. It means occasionally having proper weekend breakfasts of french toast and maple syrup. Sometimes having real bread toast. Letting the boy cook me dinner. Actually using some of the food porn I obsessively collected during this disorder. It means making banoffee pie for my dessert sometimes purely because it is really really tasty. And not weighing bananas. That’ll be good. The dietician also got me to write-up a list of fear foods and start to actively find ways of incorporating them into my daily intake. Hopefully this’ll mean I’ll get out of my food rut by trying new things. I really appreciate the food ideas as well by the way, it got me thinking about how to make my eating something enjoyable again and gave me some good direct. Plus I’d never have thought of some of those suggestions simply because I’ve just never had them. Like crayfish. And BLTs. And so far today, I’ve even eaten on time.
Now for the big news – I deleted my calorie counting app from my phone. I literally cannot be so exact any more. I could install it again but I really hope I don’t and right now, I don’t feel the need to. Doing this makes me feel finally freed up to start really addressing my compulsive need to weigh and measure everything. I’m actively trying to not measure out my soy milk in the morning and I’m not weighing vegetables. I’m not there yet with starchy carbs and pulses and meat yet, but it’s a real step in the right direction. I didn’t even measure out my olive oil last night. I can’t obsess about macronutrients if I don’t keep a record of my daily intake so hopefully I’ll stop worrying if I’ve had “too much” saturated fat, sugar etc. It means I have nowhere to plan my meals days in advance so can decide on what I actually want to eat, when I want to eat it. I have a back up minimum meal for if the choice anxiety gets too much, but it allows me the option in the moment, rather than relying on something I knew would be safe four days ago. It means I can drink as much coffee as I want without worrying about how it’ll affect my total. I can have different dinners from my usual without seeing the number and worrying that I haven’t saved enough space. It means that yesterday I got to have some instant hazelnut hot chocolate just because it’s tasty. I hope it lets me address more of my fear foods as numbers quite often dictate what my fear foods are (though not always. I mean, peas are a big fear of mine and they’re a bloody vegetable). It means that yesterday, I let the Mum make me peanut butter on toast. It’s the first meal she’s prepared for me in over a year that I didn’t watch and scrutinise and back seat cook. She didn’t know what type of peanut butter I like so I got one crunchy and one smooth. On proper, seedy bread. As a snack. Just because I wanted it.
This was actually a massive deal for me.
Although I inherently don’t trust myself enough to eat without counting calories, I’ve been doing it so long I can pretty accurately guesstimate the calories of a lot of food, so in theory I should be able to get those 500kcals in every day without too much thought. I’m scared a bit though. I think I have to be. I’m scared that this isn’t healthy me, that this whole plan is eating disordered me trying to find a way to restrict again without being conscious of it. That it’ll allow me to maintain instead of pushing forward. That I might lose weight. It’s not like my anxieties have disappeared with this new recovery drive and I am still very emotionally tied up with eating disordered behaviours and psychology. So right now, it’s just a trial. I have to make sure I can be trusted to do this for healthy reasons and that means really being sure I am eating enough on top of my basic meal plan every day. If, in a weeks time, I’ve maintained, I’ll know I can keep this up, but I have to eat even more. If I’ve lost weight, I’ll know that this isn’t working out right now and I’m not ready to make this step healthily yet so back to calorie counting I will go. If I’ve gained – score! I really want to be able to prove to myself that this was the right thing to do for my mental and physical health. I’m on high alert for signs of restriction, but I know I might miss them. I really hope I’m ready for this. I think if I can let go of the need to eat by numbers, I’ll be in a much more positive place in my psychological recovery as it’ll allow me to learn to trust myself again and let go of some of my fears. It’s not concrete and if I mess up, it’s back to what I know. I don’t want to have to go back there though. I guess we’ll see.
And in an effort to make this plan more sustainable, I made the decision to allow treat food to be reintegrated into the kitchen. I mean, if I’m going to start making choices based on what I’m in the mood for or actively trying scary foods, I need to be able to access them. For about 9 months, treat food (biscuits, crisps, chocolate and cake), bread (not my bread though, the fam’s bread. Mine is in the freezer) and cereal has been hidden away from me. For most of my eating disorder, restriction and exercise have been my main methods of weight control. I occasionally purged as a way to rid myself of calories eaten in performative meals to stop people from worrying about me, but I never binged. Ever. Then the boy broke up with me and everything felt so awful and so I did the only thing that would take my mind off of it (bearing in mind how starving I was and thus how obsessed with food I was) – I baked. I tried to feed as much of it to others as I could, but eventually, I started binging on it. After the initial baking period cooled off, I continued binging, mostly on cereal with milk and bread with peanut butter or jam, though sometimes treat foods and sometimes fruit (I never bought binge food, but the fam wanted it around to enjoy so I had no say in it). And I purged. Every day. Multiple times. For me, binging and purging left me feeling so ashamed and so upset and I just couldn’t stop it. I had no control over what I ate or how I compensated for it. Every night I’d promise the next day would be better and it wasn’t. It was exactly the same and I’d hate myself even more for failing all over again. (I really hope that my real life people don’t judge me for this – I will forever be ashamed of this time, so never talk about it really. I just want to be honest on this blog. Sorry). Restriction makes your body feel horrible, but purging makes it feel worse. Vomiting and laxative abuse leave your body so dehydrated and cause terrible chemical imbalances and I ended up feeling so awful and spent, physically and mentally. At this point I was near my lowest weight and was all too aware that doing this behaviour could kill me. I collapsed a couple of times and got pretty close to passing out. My hair was falling out in clumps. My heart rate was reaching all time lows and my blood pressure dropped rapidly. I was waking up multiple times in the night, which your body does when you’re heart starts going dangerously slowly and it needs to start getting faster again. It was terrifying. All those people who think that eating disorders are personal choices are so entirely wrong – I was so completely out of control. I hated every second of my life and desperately wanted to get myself out of it. The fam were so supportive during this time though, doing everything they could to help me gain some control again. It really really helped me and I don’t know what I would have done without them. It was so hard to tell them what was happening, but after I let the secret out, it became so much easier. The brother bought me a kettle so I’d have less reason to go to the kitchen, people would come to the kitchen when they heard me in there and my trigger foods were hidden from me. I found them a couple of times when the binge urges got too strong, but the fam kept moving them around and eventually, I got out of the cycle. Only to go into full restriction mode and reach even lower weights, but that isn’t the point really. The point is that I’m so scared of going back there that I’ve asked the fam to keep all my trigger foods hidden until now. That was the worst time of my life and I never want that again. I haven’t had binged since June, haven’t purged since July, don’t get binge urges and I’ve been laxative-free since November. My main disordered thoughts are of restriction, which has always been my go to method of weight management and I’m actually eating now so my body isn’t so starved that it’s just going to try to find ways for me to eat as much food as possible. I feel pretty confident that I’m not going to binge/purge on these foods if I have unlimited access to them. It terrifies me, but I’m hoping that this initial step can help me learn to trust myself again and start building a more comfortable relationship with food. Scary stuff though.
Also – I’ve been self-injury free for eleven days. That’s the longest it’s been in months. I’m working hard at alternative coping mechanisms – music, colouring in, knitting, clay, play-doh, talking books etc. The urges are still there and I’m not confident it’s gone for good, but its the first time in about 9 years I’ve ever consciously tried to stop and for me, this is an achievement in itself. I haven’t worked through the reasons I want to self-injure, but I am learning to stop my head from spinning using mindfulness techniques and a lot of distraction. Right now, it’s not natural or easy to do, but I am really trying. I still worry constantly that I just don’t have any other methods of coping with distress, but hopefully through practice, I’ll learn to trust myself to be able to get through difficult times without relying on self-destructive behaviours. This is definitely real progress for me. Positives all round it seems.
It’s exciting. Absolutely terrifying, but exciting.