Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Where I am today...

Every time I’m absent from my blog for an extended period of time, I feel the need to explain – to let you know why I’ve been gone – like a school kid with a parent’s note.

You know...Summer’s a busy time of year.  There’s vacations, trips, yard work, Red’s games…  It’s been so nice outside.  I’ve been busy with my garden (canned for the first time the other day!).  I’ve been reading a lot of baby books.  I’ve been sleeping a lot more than I normally do because of the pregnancy.  I just haven’t had time for blogging.

I also haven’t been blogging because I said good-bye to Facebook.  I said I was going to do it, and I did.  However, it was so so soooo difficult to click that “deactivate account” button.  I tried several times and failed.  Cancel, cancel, cancel, I can’t do it!  But eventually, I clicked it.  And I don’t regret it at all.  I love the freeing feeling of not being so attached to social media.  I don’t feel like I’m missing out.  I like not having that unnecessary responsibility to “stay up to date” with everybody and everything.

The only effect I hadn’t anticipated was, now, I feel no narcissistic urge to check my Facebook account.  Therefore, I feel no need to check the internet in general.  As a result, I don’t post to my blog either.  Hmm...weird, didn't expect that...

Another factor contributing to my “not blogging” is the fact that my eating disorder recovery has been going really well.  I think that I might not be able to connect to others who are in the midst of terrible E.D. struggles anymore.  It's a good problem to have, I guess.

My mind is no longer consumed with the negative, body-bashing, fat-fear, food-is-the-devil thoughts.  I don’t need to utilize the blog as a coping skill as often as I had done in the past.
What’s really cool is that I’ve found things that I love more than I had loved my eating disorder.  I never thought I’d be able to get to this place.  My E.D. used to be my full-time hobby…well, full-time job really.  There was no room in my head and no room in my life for anything else.

Now, since I’ve been recovering, I have room for lots of other things.  I am able to fill my time with things like, gardening, knitting and crocheting, reading, walking, and visiting friends.  And I don’t think about food, calories, exercise, losing weight, and looking a certain way.  There’s no more fear of eating, no more guilt after eating, and, most of the time, I don’t even remember what I ate yesterday (which is a huge deal).
I realized just how far I’ve come the other day during a family event.  Someone who I suspect struggles with disordered eating tendencies and body image issues made a comment about all the food.  They said, “I look around and all I see is food!”  It made me so sad, because I know that feeling.  I could tell that all the food was causing this person a lot of anxiety.  I’ve been there and it’s miserable.  My heart went out to them because, in that same situation, I looked around and all I saw was a bunch of people!  It was an “A-ha” moment for me.
Eating disorder recovery is all about baby steps.  If feels so minor at times that you don’t feel like you’re making any progress at all.  But then all of a sudden, you look back and see that you have made great strides.
Two years ago, I didn’t think this type of recovery was possible.  I would read success stories like this one and think that I was not capable of achieving it.  I didn’t think I was strong enough, committed, determined, or even had enough desire to do it.  There were many times I didn’t even want to get better.
But, I did.
And if you are also struggling with an eating disorder, you can do it too.  I’m no one special – If I can do it, you can do it.

I like what Jessica said in her blog, “Surviving ED”:
Honestly, four years ago when I started following eating disorder recovery blogs, I would have read the above paragraphs and thought, “Well, that’s nice. For her. It will never happen for me.” I always believed that the person whose blog I was reading was more intelligent, stronger, more stubborn, more gifted, more whatever than I was – and that why was s/he was able to recover.
Here’s the thing, y’all – there is nothing special about me that has enabled me to get to this point in recovery. I’m smart, but I know plenty smarter. I’m strong, but I know plenty stronger. I am not at this point in my recovery because I am some sort of special case – I am at this point in my recovery because I worked for it. I decided I wanted recovery and I decided I was willing to do whatever it took to get there.
It has been a lot of hard work. It has meant working even (and especially) when I don’t want to. It has meant redefining who I am without an eating disorder. It has meant learning new coping skills and using them. It has meant dealing with the physical and emotional side effects of refeeding and renourishing my body.
But most of all, it has meant freedom.

I’m not trying to say that I am completely, 100% cured.  I still have bad days here and there.  I am still tempted with negative thoughts.  Occasionally, I still think that my life might be better if I went back to my old habits and became super thin again.
Especially now because my belly is growing, I’ve had breakdown moments when I can’t fit into my pants anymore or my favorite shirt becomes too tight.  At times, I’ve been sad, I’ve cried, I’ve analyzed my flaws in the mirror, I’ve coveted other people’s bodies.  It hasn’t been all roses and sunshine in the recovery department.
But that’s OK.
The difference is that I can bounce back.  If I do have a bad day (which are fewer and farther apart now), because of my experiences and my commitment to recovery, I have a lot more resources to rely on when things get bad.  I can avoid another relapse because I know the warning signals, I have an emergency plan set in place, and I have lots of people to talk to about my struggles.
Recovering itself became a habit.
And that is a good place to be.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Post-Party Anxiety

A while back, I wrote about Pre-Party Anxiety.

I think many people can relate to the nervousness or butterflies you get before going to a big social event, party, or gathering.  Some experience the anxiety worse than others – especially if you have agoraphobic tendencies or social anxiety in general.  On the flipside, I’m sure there are some people who don’t have trouble at all.  However, for those of you who are familiar with the symptoms of anxiety, you know that it’s no fun.

Previously, I thought that after an event was over, I was out of the woods, in the clear, free from harm…done with anxiety for the time being.  But after last weekend, I became aware of this other anxiety that came after an event.  I realized, begrudgingly, that there must also be a post-party anxiety.

Social events drain my batteries (even though I do enjoy them and participate in them because, to me, it’s worth the work).  Nonetheless, the company, the conversations, and all that good stuff, still get me overwhelmed and nervous.  Even after the event is over, I noticed that I get a different kind of anxiety that threatens to take over my brain.

I spend time mentally preparing for social situations, and I try to equip myself with the skills I need to get through it joyfully and relatively pain-free.  Yet, I haven’t been prepared for what comes after, even when I’ve successfully stayed at a gathering without leaving early because of anxiety.

It’s probably the result of low resources – being at parties takes a lot out of me – and I don’t have the strength to fight off the anxiety demons post-party.  But, I think a lot of it can be prevented (or at least, reduced) if I have a game plan.

It’s worth it to me to attend social gatherings.  I’m not just going to stay home all the time.  I want to learn how to cope with the anxiety so that it’s not so bad.  And being aware of what causes me anxiety is a good first step in learning how to deal with it.

After a party, I find myself unable to relax.  It’s like I need to decompress, move really slow, and reorient myself to my surroundings.  I find that I analyze conversations, re-live certain moments, and think and think and think and think about the day.

“Did I say the right thing to that person?  I didn’t get a chance to talk to that one person.  That one moment was really awkward.  Why did I say that?  Sometimes, I don’t know why I say certain things.  I should think before I talk!  Did I unintentionally blow off anyone?  I didn’t finish that conversation with that one person.  I hope they don’t think I didn’t want to talk to them.”

And vanity and pride play a part as well…

“Did I sound silly when I said that?  Did I overdo it when talking to that person?  Did I look dumb?  Did I eat too much or too fast?  Is that person still going to like me after that interaction?  Are they still going to think highly of me?  Is this one person still going to want to hang out with me in the future?”

My mind feels like it’s going 100mph and I don’t feel like I can stop it or slow it down.  Sometimes I find myself walking around the house in circles doing random things that aren’t necessary.  Like, I’ll fluff the couch pillows, fill up my water bottle, and organize the books on my end table…at midnight.

I think that I can help myself in these situations by first becoming aware of this “Post-Party Anxiety”, how it affects me, and what I can do about it.

I think a good way to deal with this type of anxiety is to first get rid of the desire to appear a certain way; whether it’s about physical looks or whether it’s about personality – appearing smart, composed, or graceful.

A lot of my anxiety stems from the fear of not being a certain way.  And the fear of not being a certain way comes from the fear of not being accepted and loved.

I need to remember that I am who I am and that this good enough for me.  I need to care less about what others think of me, because, in the end, it doesn’t matter what they think anyway.  Comparing myself to others is useless because it only leads to discouragement and self-pity.  I need to remember that I am loved, I am accepted, and I am good enough – first and foremost, because my self-worth comes from God Himself.

Also, I need to remind myself that I’m not weird.  It’s OK to have a transitional routine – nothing out of control or really lengthy – just a few things that help me settle down.  I was doing this before without realizing what I was doing, but my mistake was that I thought I was crazy and I felt weird for doing it.  But I can see now that it is helpful to have a specific routine in order to transition from a particularly taxing event.  What I need to add to the routine is the awareness of what I am doing and the confidence that when I’m done I can let go of the anxiety.  And I need to give myself permission to wind down when I get home instead of expecting myself to go perfectly from one thing to the next.

A transition routine can be anything from brushing your teeth to taking a shower to sitting for a few moments with your eyes closed or mediating.  I think a good practice would be to pray the rosary because it is so rhythmic and repetitious.  A rosary can calm the anxiety while getting you back into a pattern of peace and trust.  Or, if not a whole rosary, I’ll try just a decade or even just a short prayer, “Lord, I offer you this anxiety.  I pray for everyone I spoke with this evening.  I trust that you’ll bring good from all my weaknesses.  Help me always to desire to lead others to You.  All for Your greater honor and glory.  Amen”

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bad Food, Bad Person?

Personally, I have a problem with categorizing food as unhealthy vs. healthy.  I understand that there are different foods – they’re not all the same.  And I realize that there is a hierarchy of food – some foods have more nutritional benefits than others.  But unless you’re eating cardboard, your body will metabolize whatever you eat into energy, muscle, necessary fat, etc.

Likewise, I think it’s harmful to teach kids about unhealthy vs. healthy food.  The danger lies in the rhetoric, what we say, how we talk about the topic.

The problem is that young kids learn in black and white.  If you’ve ever been around kids, you know this is true.  They take things very literal.  They don’t yet have a developed vocabulary to understand all the gray area found in food hierarchy.

When you’re teaching kids about right and wrong, you use words like “bad” and “good”.  They learn what these words mean before they can understand abstract concepts such as “sometimes” or “depending on the situation”.

If you’re going to teach kids about unhealthy/healthy food, until they are in about the 6th grade, they will translate your words into black and white statements, wrong and right, and bad vs. good.

Tell a little kid that certain foods are unhealthy and they will look at you and either stare or say “what” or ask you what that means.  You might say, “Well, unhealthy means it’s not good for your body to eat that all the time.”  Kid translation, “Not good means bad.  This is a bad food”.

Or you might take a different approach and tell them that unhealthy food will make you feel sick.  No one likes a belly ache.  If the kid is old enough to understand this, he might follow your advice.  But a stomach ache is still “bad” in his mind, and he will still think of that food as being “bad”.

The problem with learning that some foods are bad is that it becomes a moral decision.  If you eat a “bad” food then you committed a “bad” act.  Does it merit a time-out, a spanking, or something worse?

It would be better to let children learn about how food affects them on an individual basis.  Kids learn about their bodies and their appetites through experience.  They develop preferences and likes and dislikes over a span of many years.

Telling a kid that a food they like, i.e. ice cream or candy, is unhealthy will create confusing signals in their developing brains.  “How can something I like and that tastes good be bad?”

Some kids, if they aren’t ever allowed to have “bad” or “unhealthy” food, might resort to hiding food, hoarding food, obsessing over food, or lying about what they ate.  This causes unnecessary shame and guilt for a little kid because in their minds it becomes:

If you eat “bad” food, you become a “bad” person.

Even as adults, we tend to think this way.  Because of our “thin obsessed” culture, foods that could potential cause you to gain weight are deemed “bad” or, have you heard the phrase “sinfully delicious”.  Foods that could potential cause health problems are called “unhealthy” regardless of scientific backing or not.

The bottom line is: Food choices are not moral choices.  Food choices are preferential, like favorite colors, picking out furniture for your home, or listening to certain music as opposed to others.  You are not a good or bad person depending on what you choose to eat.

And, actually, if you think about it, food choices have more to do with social status.  Because some foods are more expensive than others, i.e. organic brands, food choices can become another way to separate the society’s classes.  But that could be a whole other post in and of itself.

No one should tell another person what to eat or not eat.  Each person is so intrinsically different and has his or her own needs, preferences, and individuality.  If certain foods make you feel physically ill, give you a headache, indigestion, etc, there is no reason to ignore your individual reaction.  However, other people might have no problems with those foods.  The problem lies in using blanket statements categorizing food into black and white, good and bad lists.

In reality, we don’t know everything there is to know about nutrition, healthy, and preventing life-threatening diseases.  I think healthy problems are more related to genetics and hereditary factors than to what someone does or doesn’t eat.

Whether or not that’s true, the state of someone’s soul does not depend on what they do or don’t eat.  The truth is everyone is going to die at some time or another.  Instead of obsessing over your food choices, spend more time getting your heart and soul in shape.  If we all spent as much time in prayer as we do thinking about unhealthy vs. healthy food, the world would be a much better place.