“It’s okay to miss your eating disorder,” and other things we aren’t telling people in recovery, but should be.

IMG_7734.jpg

I came across this picture on Instagram recently of a block of text that reads, “It’s okay to miss your eating disorder.” And it was such an important thing for me to read (and came to me at exactly the right time) that I thought I may as well pick up writing on this blog again for the sake of sharing my thoughts on this topic.

A while back, on a smaller, more private, Instagram account than the one some of you may follow, I opened up about the fact that sometimes I miss my eating disorder. I miss the structure that calorie counting gave me, and the pride I’d feel whenever I ate below my limit. I miss the motivation it seemingly pumped into my system. I miss the sense of accomplishment I felt when I dropped another pound. I miss the compliments I’d get from my parents. (I miss that last part, the validation, quite often, I must admit, especially when my mother cooks bland recipes out of diet cookbooks for family dinner). When I expressed these thoughts, however, I received a surprising amount of judgment and backlash. People started texting and messaging me privately, telling me I shouldn’t miss my eating disorder, that my brain was just trying to trick me (which, on some level, is true, but wasn’t the point I was trying to get at with my post). They made me feel like it was wrong of me to miss my eating disorder, and that these personal feelings (which I should technically be the only person capable of judging and expressing, right?) were incorrect.

I never felt comfortable expressing thoughts like those again. They worried people, or at least made them uncomfortable, for how can you miss something that was so harmful to you? And I never got a single response telling me what I needed to hear.

So I’m here now not only to tell you that these thoughts are normal and valid, but to provide you with the phrases that I wish I had heard when I talked about these feelings that I didn’t even know other people had, the missing of something that had ruined considerably large parts of my everyday life. Here are only a few things I wish people had said to me (there are, of course, endless possibilities when it comes to variations and branching out off the general subject, so don’t feel limited to the tiny amount things touched on below):

  1. “I’m sorry you feel that way, and I know it might not feel like this now, but there are healthier ways to find structure and motivation in your life.”
  2. “I know your eating disorder felt like a safety net, like something that ensured that you would be happy in the future, but I promise that the promises an eating disorder makes to you are empty. And while the future seems scary and dark now, it will soon be filled with more light and love than you ever could have imagined feeling before.”
  3. “Just because you’re unmotivated now, doesn’t mean you won’t find motivation again soon. And while feeling like this can be difficult to fight through, you won’t feel like this forever.”
  4. “Those thoughts and feelings are completely valid.”

And you know what would be most helpful? Taking that person by the hand (either literally or merely metaphorically) and telling them that you’re there to listen to them without passing judgment on them. Refrain from aggressively telling them that those thoughts are completely wrong and lying to them, chances are, they already know that, and it can merely seem like you’re discrediting feelings that are, in fact, very real and valid.

I also feel like it’s worth mentioning that these thoughts are not necessarily a sign that the recovering person in question will relapse in the near future. I have felt this way many times without considering a relapse or falling back into my habits. This longing for a more structured or motivated life (that we thought our eating disorders provided) is merely another part of coping with the major lifestyle changes that come along with recovery.

Lastly, remember that the feeling of missing, or longing for, something is involuntary. There’s no point in judging someone or putting them down for thoughts they have no control over.

So that was the main point I wanted to make tonight, I guess, that we need to stop looking down on people for missing something that was such a big part of their lives for a long time, even if it was bad for them. You can miss something even if it had a negative influence on you. And just because you miss something doesn’t mean you have to or are going to go crawling back to it.

Your feelings are valid, I promise, no matter what the words of others may bring you to believe.

Until next time,

Jo

P.S. If you’re interested in reading more about a similar topic, I’d like to direct you towards a Tumblr post which begins with the statement “eating disorders will never make you happy” and then goes on to discuss the things about eating disorders that can easily be missed by those in recovery. I even added in some of my own rambly thoughts at the end, just for fun. Here’s the link to that: https://myjourneywithed.tumblr.com/post/177988912413/they-say-eating-disorders-will-never-make-you

xoxo

Advertisements

Progress, Progress, Progress!

Hi all!

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve written on here, hasn’t it? But I come bearing really good news, something that I’ve been noticing for about two weeks now, but haven’t wanted to share for fear I might jinx it.

It’s been long enough now, though, that I feel like it’s definitely post-worthy:

Many of you probably remember that I’ve talked a lot about this calculator in the back of my head that guesses and counts up the calories of every single food I eat, a side-effect of my calorie-counting days.

Well… he’s shut up!

Yeah, for at least two weeks now (probably more, I just started noticing it when I started eating from the cafeteria at Curtis) I have not worried about the calories of food I ate. At all. As a result, thoughts like “I should eat less” and “I’m not sure I should really have any more food today” have decreased drastically. Sure, body image has still been difficult, but even that has improved. I’ve been feeling super good recently and it’s made me focus so much less on food and the stress surrounding it. I’ve been able to enjoy eating so much more and have found it easier, as well, to concentrate on spending time with people that I love and doing fun things. I haven’t been thinking about my next meal as much anymore.

This progress surprised me a lot when I first started realizing it, not only because that voice has been there (on and, sometimes, off) for about two years now, but because I haven’t even been focusing so much on recovery recently, I’ve been too busy singing. Maybe the lack of stress surrounding my body and thoughts and eating habits allowed my brain to take a break and work on recovery on its own a little bit.

Anyways, that’s really all for right now. It’s been a hell of a two weeks so I don’t really have much more to write about other than a quick update, but I felt like this was something I should share.

I promise things get better, whether you believe me or not.

Stay lovely,

Jo

My Journey

I got asked yesterday to talk about my journey so far, and if I had any comments or tips on/for recovery. I thought I’d share my response with you:

Ever since I was young my parent’s used to complain about their own bodies and tell me not to eat too much, otherwise I’d “get fat and be sad like them”. I’d get shamed for snacking and I started developing a relationship around food that made me feel ashamed every time I snacked. I started sneaking snacks, and hiding wrappers when I bought candy (which I still do to this day, I have a giant closet full of food wrappers…). I always brushed my parents off and was usually quite happy in my own skin (to be clear, I was still a lot skinnier than I am today so body image wasn’t quite as upsetting yet), although ballet did fuck with me. Then, I went to Vietnam for a month in eighth grade. We ate healthier (and less frequently), walked more, drank more water, and I ended up losing at least 5 pounds in 4 weeks (I was ~120 pounds before the trip, I think, and came back at around 115), but that was all healthy weight loss, not anything I had tried to do, it just happened naturally because of my new schedule and eating routine. When I got back home, my mom wouldn’t stop complimenting me, calling me her “skinny girl” and constantly obsessing over the weight I’d lost. And I felt great, too. I wasn’t self-conscious in ballet class and I was really happy to be constantly getting compliments from my mom.

Then, because my eating habits changed again, I exercised less, and drank less water (aka returned to my normal life) I started gaining weight again. By the time I gained ~10 and was above the weight that I was at when I left, I was unhappy. I fell into comfort-eating habits (which, again, I still have to this day), and was uncomfortable in my body. By the summer after 9th grade I’d gotten up to 130 or 135 pounds. I started looking up diet apps at this time. I found calorie-counting apps and, in combination with my biking to Bush every day for the summer play, started having success at it. I lost 6 pounds in 5 weeks. My mom praised me, tried to join me in calorie counting, even, and I was happy and proud. But I started taking in a total ~700 calories a day, if even that, (I subtracted about 100 a day for the bike ride, I think) and I knew it was unhealthy, but I didn’t want to stop, because I was happy and proud and felt like I was actually doing something with myself for once. There were times when I stopped, but I always started it back up again, I was always unhappy enough with myself to. 10th grade started and I was still calorie-counting, but it got harder. Without the daily exercise I found myself restricting more and more. I remember one day I brought in 1/3 cup of cottage cheese and 1/3 cup of apple sauce in for lunch. That was it. Pretty sure that amounted to under 200 calories. I counted every little bite of food and when people asked, I lied to them and told them I was tracking my meals so I’d eat healthier. They all believed me, nodded, and moved on.

The main thing I tell people is recovery has to be started by the person recovering, and it’s hard work, and there’s no way around it. It’s also so freeing, though. When I started recovery I bought myself a notebook and started journaling (which I’ve stopped doing recently, which upset me). At first, all I did was write down 10 things that I’m grateful for every day (which I tried to make overlap as little as possible). Then, for a while, I not only wrote down my gratitude, but also how the day went, what struggles I faced, what challenges I overcame, just what happened in general. It wasn’t always recovery-focused, sometimes it was just a regular diary entry. I’d write down body positive quotes, as well, and draw them so they were pretty, focusing, though, on not making it “perfect” (a big part of eating disorders and disordered eating is perfectionism, so fighting that is important, even though it’s incredibly hard).

In Which Johanna Basically Writes a Diary Entry

As the title suggests, this is going to be a long, probably rambling, piece of writing, more similar to a diary entry than a blog post, but I wanted to write this anyways, because that’s what this blog is for. I’m not just here to speak out for eating disorder awareness and body positivity, but I’m here to document my recovery, and everything that comes along with it. So here’s what’s been going on since I wrote here last (which was a while ago, I apologize):

First off, I started using my recovery journal again a few days ago, which I’m really excited about. I stopped writing in it about a month ago and, for many reasons, haven’t worked on it since. However, I’ve decided to use it for more than just gratitude and journal entries, so I’m hoping to remember to write in it every day now.

Second, I started reading again, which seems like such a small and insignificant and weird thing to mention, but I haven’t had the time or, quite frankly, motivation to read for quite some time now. I used to be a total bookworm and getting myself to read again was a really good feeling. I have so many books in my room that need to get read!

Lastly, before I jump into what I really want to talk about, I didn’t break down while looking in the mirror. While I should be very proud of that, because for a while leading up to NEDA Week I would break down, or at least tear/choke up or panic, every time I looked in the mirror, I’m not. At least not as proud as I should be. Because every time I looked at myself this week, I just felt numb. And my not breaking down didn’t stop the invasive, self-hating comments racing through my head. That voice has been with me a lot recently, and stronger than normally. Thankfully, I’ve grown stronger, too, and for the most part, I’m able to ignore it, but I don’t want to ignore it anymore. I want to fight it. I want to push it away for good, so that it only comes out of hiding every once in a while instead of being with me constantly except for the nap it takes every few days.

And that’s what I want to talk about today. The recovery, the fight, and why I feel like I’m not getting anywhere.

(Note: for the sake of clarity, I’m going to be referring to my disorder/situation/whatever as an eating disorder, often abbreviated as “ed”, as while it’s never been officially diagnosed, that’s what I strongly suspect it is)

I’ve never felt my recovery to be hard, at least not in the way other people’s seem to be. Maybe it’s because my ed has never become critical or life-threatening. I never had enough self-control for that, and was too afraid to let my brain and thoughts fully take over. In short, my brain didn’t quite let me, I wasn’t quite sick “enough” to get to that level. However, my ed was very cyclical. Everything mild to the point where it could almost be seen as normal, but still life-consuming. I would cycle through restricting via calorie counting, binge-eating, more restricting, and then “recovering” (a.k.a. eating what I wanted with the desire to recover without doing any work).

My recovery feels like it’s working in the same way. It’s happening in cycles, it seems like. While the cycles vary more from one time to the next than those of my eating disorder did, they’re still most definitely cycles, and they make me feel like I’m not going anywhere.

In fact, not much of my recovery feels like it’s going anywhere. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to do this without the help or insight of a professional, or because my eating disorder and the way I deal with it feels so different from what I see other people online struggling with. Sometimes, I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere, only like I’ve paused my eating disorder in the middle of the “recovery” step.

I don’t know how to break out of this cycle. I don’t know how to stop the voice in my head from nagging me day and night, telling me to relapse, and that the fat on my hips is disgusting, and asking me why that girl can be skinny healthily and I can’t.

The goal this week is to be patient with myself as I try to figure out ways to fight the voice instead of ignoring it. As I try to find out how I can establish a healthy relationship with food instead of merely establishing a relationship of “as long as you’re not restricting, you’re okay”.

I will be patient. I am doing my best. And that’s all I can do.

Thanks for reading my ramblings. xoxo

Today

Short little story time for today post:

Today I read an article on Insider about how little adults know about how to recognize an eating disorder. 34% of the 2,108 adults that participated in a survey were unable to correctly identify symptoms of eating disorders, and 21% of those who correctly identified symptoms were able to name psychological symptoms.

As I read on, the article highlighted some of the most common symptoms of eating disorders:
“It’s important to remember, as the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) notes, that eating disorder symptoms differ from person to person. …

Overall, you should keep an eye out for behaviors and attitudes that fixate on weight loss, dieting, and control of food as primary concerns. … feeling anxious and or irritable around meal times, feeling out of control around food, exhibiting secretive behaviors around food, and using food as a source of comfort or self-punishment, … frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws in appearance, extreme mood swings, and withdrawal from usual friends and activities, according to NEDA.

Physical signs aren’t limited to weight gain or loss, although weight change is something to keep in mind. Physical signs can include dizziness or fainting, feeling cold all the time, having menstrual irregularities in women, and feeling lethargic or having low energy, as noted by NEDC.”

Reading through these symptoms I found myself making a checklist of things I’ve done:
fixated on weight loss and dieting? check.
control of food as primary concern? check.
out of control around food? check.
secretive behaviors around food? very much check.
using food as a source of comfort or self-punishment? check.
frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws in appearance? check. still.
weight change? check.
dizziness? almost every time I stood up.
lethargic and having low energy? check.

Recently I’d been thinking, maybe this whole thing wasn’t as serious as I made it out to be. I seem to be having an easier time with recovery than others in the community. Maybe it’s because my eating disorder (or disordered eating, I’ve never had it diagnosed so idk what it is) never became as deep as others. I wasn’t absorbed by the worst parts of it for as long because I didn’t have enough self-control (which led to, and sometimes still leads to, a lot of binging, but that’s a different story). However, reading through all of those simple symptoms, it brought back some of the toughest moments that I’ve been through. They’re nothing compared to what others went through (I know I’m not supposed to make comments like that, but it’s true…), but they took over my entire life. The dizziness, for example, didn’t really ever click as a sign of my disorder.

This little list gave me a whole new perspective on what I’ve been going through. While it may not have been the most extreme of disorders, it was real. I feel guilty for needing a list of symptoms to legitimize it, but it feels kind of good to know what I’m going through is real. Sometimes it feels like I’ve blown things out of proportion, possibly because I’ve never talked to a specialist or my family about it. It’s nice to know I haven’t.

Hope NEDA Week is treating everyone well and that awareness of eating disorders has been at the forefront of your thoughts at least once over these past four days!

xoxo

Small Victories

DSC_0142

Today’s post is about this picture right here:

When my friend first sent me this picture from our photoshoot, I loved it. The first thing I thought was, “this is definitely my favorite picture from that day.” The lighting was gorgeous, I thought I looked good, and it just made me happy. (Big thank you to Tamarin for this gorgeous photo, by the way! This is unedited, can you believe it?!) I didn’t hesitate to post it on my Instagram, I was so caught up in how much I loved it. As soon as I shared it, I was flooded with comments (possibly with more than I’ve ever gotten on a picture), including, “slay” “…you’re stunning…” and “My god LOOK AT YOU…,” some from people I rarely talked to. I’m not going to lie, those comments boosted my confidence immensely. (While this is not the main point of this post, I’d like to include this reminder for both you and myself: your worth is not defined by other people’s opinions of you.)

However, despite the comments, despite how much I’d loved the picture as soon as I saw it, I began picking out the “flaws”. The more I revisited the post, or glanced at it while scrolling past, the more I began to judge it. My focus quickly turned to what parts of myself looked “bad”. I started hating on the little bit of stomach showing because it wasn’t sucked in. I started noticing how wide the sweater looked in the picture, and how wide it made me look. I became uncomfortable with the way my nose looked, a feature of mine that I’ve disliked for a long time now. I noticed the weird bumps above my eyebrows that show up in some pictures of me that I absolutely despise (yes it’s weird a weird thing to hate, I know). I’d trained myself to find what was “wrong” with myself that I soon forgot what I loved about the picture.

I’ve decided, though, that I won’t allow myself to take the picture down because, once in a while, I remember what part of the picture I fell in love with, and it’s not just the lighting in the background. I love the confidence I had when this picture was taken, the truly happy smile I wore. I love how I wasn’t worried about how “gross” my body would look.

This realization (and the decision to keep the picture up) felt like a big step for me. To be able to post a picture that showed more of myself than just my face and shoulders, to be happy with the way I looked, to ignore the judgements I’d trained myself to make, feels so good.

Small victories are so important, they lead to the big ones.

Happy 2nd day of NEDA Week!

 

Dear Body

On day one of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I was inspired by the “Dear Body Project” to write my own “Dear Body” letter.

Dear Body,
I know we haven’t had a good relationship recently. For the longest time I’ve hated on you, I’ve picked out your flaws, I’ve tried to change you by hurting and starving you, I’ve let other people shape my opinion of you. And for all that I am sorry.
I’m sorry for blaming you. For my unhappiness, for my failures and shortcomings, and for my mental breakdowns and panic attacks in dressing rooms, for everything I’ve done. I’m sorry I allowed my parent’s unhappiness and the environments I was a part of convince me to calorie count. I’m sorry I restricted instead of letting you stay healthy and happy. I’m sorry I stressed over how every single calorie would affect the way you looked, over how even 10 calories of food could “throw off” my entire day. I’m sorry for fighting against you instead of living with you in harmony.
I used to be ashamed of your curves, your bumps, your angles. I used to hate the way you moved. I used to be embarrassed of the weight you carried and the space you took up. I was uncomfortable with the marks that stretched across your skin because I never saw them on other girls. I compared you to so many other bodies that I forgot what your true purpose is and where your true purpose lies.
Your purpose lies not in your physical appearance. Sure, every inch of you is beautiful, no matter what size or shape, but you are so much more than what other people see in you. You allow me to explore the Earth, to breathe air, to see new places, to learn about the world I live in, to make a change, to fall in love. Without you I wouldn’t be alive.
And for the longest time, I wasn’t. Not truly. While I was surviving, during my most restrictive times I was barely alive. I seemed happy, even felt some form of joy at times, but there was always a voice in the back of my head, nagging at me,
“How many calories do you think are in that?”
“Are you sure you want to eat that?”
“How many calories do you think you burned today?”
And I let that voice get to me. I let it slowly eat away at the way I loved you, the pride I felt in you, the life you gave me. I let it take over my life. You know that after I let it control me for so long, I began to struggle against it. I was never free for long, though, before it pulled me back into the depths of its anger and hatred.
I want to promise you now that that voice is gone and no longer torments me, but I can do no such thing. What I can promise you, though, is that its grown quieter, that I’ve learned to tune it out, that I am able to fight it now. I can promise you that I am doing everything in my power to nourish instead of starve you, to love instead of judge you, to build you up instead of pushing you down. I can promise that I will do my best to fulfill your purpose in this world.
So please, forgive me. Forgive me for hurting you, for forcing our relationship to become so incredibly unhealthy. Forgive me for thinking you ever had to change because of what other people said and looked like. Forgive me for judging you for what you weren’t instead of loving you for what you were. Forgive me for everything I’ve done to you.
And thank you for allowing me to live my best life. For giving me the tools to explore the world and pursue my passions. Thank you for continually putting up with me as I find out how to accept you for what you are and how to best take care of you.
Dearest body, I love you. No matter what I may say to you, I promise I do.
Love,
Jo