Earlier this evening I read an article on The Mighty criticizing the upcoming Netflix movie To The Bone. The movie depicts the struggle the writer had with anorexia. Given the struggle was with anorexia, the star of the movie is extremely thin. Out of curiosity I followed the link to watch the movie trailer, knowing in the past things like this were known triggers of mine. For some reason, seeing an emaciated woman would drive my brain to want to look that way as well. It suddenly became a competition.
Watching the trailer, I witnessed the emaciated woman talk about counting calories, exercising until she was bruised and exhausted, and finally ending up in treatment. When she wanted to give up on herself others refused to give in. I watched the main character watch others having fun, eating, and living life while she sat on the sidelines. In a way, I felt like I was watching my former life on the screen before me in a manner older movies about eating disorders could never capture. In that moment I felt sorry for the main character; I did not want to be her.
Instead of feeling triggered to return to that former life, I felt pride and happiness. I often find it hard to believe that I started this final recovery attempt 2.5 years ago now. Often, it feels like a lifetime ago that the diseased portion of my brain controlled my every thought, action, and entire life. Watching the trailer I was reminded of how much better life can be on this side–the recovery side–of things. Instead of watching my friends eating sushi, laughing about stupid stuff that happened, and deciding to get snow cones at the last minute; I participate. I go get sushi and eat in front of people while sitting in a crowded restaurant without fear that people are judging my body and the amount of food on my plate. If someone is judging, it is his/her problem not mine. I honestly feel a little sorry for said person because, quite possibly, s/he is struggling with body image and food–perhaps without even realizing it. I’ve learned life is so much better when it is being lived versus when I was living inside myself, hidden by a life-threatening, life-changing disease.
While this film may indeed be triggering for someone in an active eating disorder or in the very first stages of recovery, I think there is going to be a lot of educational insight into the mind of a person struggling with an eating disorder. In the few moments of the trailer alone, I was really surprised by how spot-on the thoughts, actions, and mannerisms of the woman struggling were to what it was like in my mind during the eating disordered reign. I am so proud I am in a place where I can see something like To The Boneas educational content instead of using it to trigger my own disease and spiral back to the depths of the disease. This was a cathartic work for the writer, something I completely understand, we just chose to do it differently. Typically, I try to protect those in an active eating disorder, and those who are in the early stages of recovery, by not writing anything that could be clearly triggering. This post is going to be a little different.
I think the trailer to this movie could be good for those readers who have not struggled with an eating disorder, and even those who are like me and no longer triggered by this material. It makes me grateful for the place I am in now, strong, healthy, and living life. Within the few moments presented in the trailer, I felt like I was watching much of the eating disordered dialogue I had with my struggle presented in a movie format. It brings to life a lot of things I write about. So, this is where I am choosing to trust my readers and let them explore their boundaries. While this material isn’t triggering to me, I understand and respect that it may be triggering to others; therefore, this is where I am trusting you to know your limits and the bounds of your struggle with this disease.
This is where I am choosing to trust my readers and know I cannot protect everyone from triggers at all times.
Recovery teaches individuals to replace unhealthy behaviors for positive practices, coping mechanisms. Often that means instead of purging after a meal, the individual is taught to do something such as coloring, knitting, etc. to help take the individual’s mind off the temptation to engage in harmful behavior. However, there are times when an individual picks up another harmful habit to replace the original harmful habit. In my case, I was starting to become a closet drinker to replace the emotions the eating disorder attempted to drown out.
In my family there is a history of addiction. Without throwing all the people under the bus, I will say my dad was an alcoholic. He may not have admitted it, but he was; I believe it played a part in killing him. To some degree, I believe I inherited his addictive personality. The eating disorder was similar to an addiction in that it gave me a “high” when I restricted food or purged. I used the eating disorder to cope with stress, loneliness, sadness…well, just about any emotion or feeling possible. While I have not been using alcohol to fill all those voids, I was using it to cope with loneliness and stress above all else.
Living in a marina, I am surrounded by people who drink on an unhealthy level. The ship store offers a wide variety of craft beers and wines that are easily accessible. There are people who drink early in the morning and continue to do so all day long. Smelling alcohol on someone’s breath at 10am is not abnormal. I feel into the trap of thinking drinking every night was completely fine for me. Perhaps for some people having a beer after work stops there, but for me, it became something that made me salivate. Got in an argument? Grab a beer. Feeling lonely? Open up that wine. Boat troubles got ya down? No worries, a rum cocktail should fix that right up.
Before I knew it, I was having a beer or two nearly every night and drinking them without eating much on top of that. I had moments where I would want a drink so bad my mouth would water and I was having an all-out craving so I would walk up to the ship store and take care of it. While I love living on the boat, the availability of alcohol when I lived on land in a house was not like it is now. On land I would’ve had to drive 10-15 minutes to get to a store, buy the beer, then drive 10-15 minutes home. By the time it was all said and done I didn’t think it was worth it, and at that time I was still in treatment so utilizing positive coping skills was easy. Convenience is everything.
Over the years I thought I had found my balance with alcohol. For example, I realized three years ago that I can’t drink vodka because it makes me incredibly angry and argumentative. Just ask my old iPhone that got thrown down in a fit of vodka-fueled rage onto the pavement and shattered. Wine makes my nose stuffy, but I drink it anyway because it is socially common since it “pairs well” with food. Of course mimosas for breakfast and brunch; especially in the South. Then there is beer. Not your run-of-the-mill Anheuser-Busch beers, but the well-crafted, flavorful beers. They come in all flavors now–cold brew coffee, PB&J, notes of citrus fruits–I could go on and on. Lets not forget my Caribbean island favorite–rum…or rhum, depending on where it is from. Just typing that all out makes my mouth water thinking about it.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been down this road. The first time I ever went to therapy for the eating disorder, back in 2008, my therapist was concerned about my drinking. Of course, at that time, I was a senior in college so drinking a lot and often was not uncommon. Again, alcohol was and is an accepted societal norm. I still have the charts from that therapist regarding “how much should you drink” based on your age, weight, and other factors. At the time I didn’t think anything about drinking; even though I still feel bad about the one time I showed up for my appointment a little tipsy. My reasoning? It was St. Patrick’s day so Ann Arbor was full of green beer.
I’ve said the words, “I’m going to quit drinking” several times over the last few months to my husband. I would try and it would last a few days, maybe a week then I’d be back at it again. While my husband has been away on business I realized I really don’t think my behaviors toward alcohol are healthy. My mindset isn’t simply having a drink with dinner, but having a drink to drown something out. Quite honestly, the prevailing thoughts are similar to what made me want to restrict food to numb out feelings and get a high from it in the first place. Either way, none of it is healthy. Therefore, I’m calling myself out and making it public to work toward accountability. I’ve been living my eating disorder recovery as an open book, so I’m adding this to it.
If you’re reading this and you want to offer me a drink next time you see me, please don’t. Social drinking is so common and accepted that I struggle to say no. I don’t want to be the odd duck; which makes me smile a little when you consider in high school I wouldn’t drink at parties, but instead would drink plain orange juice to try to fit in. Alcohol is a socially accepted drug. Heck, I studied that in graduate school. Some people can have a drink and that is that; there is no deeper emotional reasoning behind it.
That person is not me.
I am the person who uses it to replace “my” addition of disordered eating.
Once again I find myself returning to tried and true coping mechanisms I learned in treatment, as it is obvious I still need them. Finding my center and my ability to cope with loneliness and stressful situations in a healthy manner is of the utmost importance for my recovery and my future; therefore, I must give up alcohol. I know this is not going to be easy, as I’ve said, it is socially common and acceptable; however, many before me have done it and I know it is what is best for me.
During a phone conversation with a friend and mentor the other day she said, “When you crave it is an opportunity to spiritually connect. Discontinuation of a behavior is trusting in God’s power.”
If you need me, I’ll be crafting a little memo with that on it to post in my kitchen.
The therapist I saw during my years in graduate school would marvel at how I turned everything into a competition. It doesn’t matter what, I made it a competition in my mind in order to be the best…to be perfect.
Here I am, years later, a little–okay, a lot–less competitive.
However, all that has started changing.
I joined a local gym in the fall and struggled to maintain a healthy focus while getting back into something that was once used as a tool against me by my eating disorder. My thoughts quickly changed from having a healthy focus to an eating disordered focus rather quickly. While I wasn’t spending an excessive amount of hours in the gym, I was severely restricting my food intake in combination with exercise; making my sole focus weight-loss. Within a few weeks of joining the gym my behavior started to raise red flags with those who are close to me. My track record of easing back into the gym is definitely not good.
Therefore, when I signed up for the Ruck to Remember 60 to 60 event taking place over Memorial Day weekend, I knew I needed to start with my head in the right place. The event is a 60 mile ruck march where I’ll be carrying 40 pounds on my back. While it takes place over three days, it will still be physically and mentally demanding. I had considered signing up for this event for several months, but feared training for it because of the eating disorder’s ability to grab ahold of my brain in the gym. That, and the last time I did a long ruck march was when I was in the Army very sick with an eating disorder, and ended up stress fracturing my pelvis from overuse and stress on weak bones. Needless to say that was a less than pleasurable experience. So, how to tackle training while keeping the eating disordered thoughts at bay?
Reach out. I’m training for this with a former Army instructor, turned friend, who will also be participating. Accountability for training. This instructor was with me when I got injured during the ruck march before and hung back with me at my painfully (literally) slow pace because I refused to quit. Next, I e-mailed my former dietician to ask for help and guidance with the nutritional side of things. I concluded the e-mail with, “I know this sounds like an eating disorder horror story…” Nutritional guidance for endurance training. Finally, I found a training buddy here in Charleston. A former Army infantryman has decided to run with me at 0400 in the morning (or in the afternoon, if I’m lucky) before he goes to work. I’ve surrounded myself with accountability this time around. Of course, I strive to be honest with TJ about everything, including the moments when the desire to hit the gym may not be motivated by healthy factors.
Instead of turning this into a competition with myself to be perfect or to lose weight and burn calories, I’ve turned this into a competition with myself for something good. This is a competition to prove when I am healthy I can do more and be better than I ever was when I was sick. I look back on several occasions when I was in the Army and find myself grateful nothing worse than a stress fractured pelvis happened to me as a result of the eating disorder. Now I am out to prove to myself that training in a healthy body–a body that is far heavier than it was at any point during my time in service–can serve me better than my sick and broken body ever did. For once I am taking my need to compete and putting it toward a recovery mindset instead of an illness centered one.
During my two years of treatment for the eating disorder, I learned to embrace mindful, slow exercises such as yoga and slow walking. While these exercises are fantastic for the mind and my healing body, I appreciate their place and purpose, but there is something deep inside that yearns to leave everything I have on the pavement. The Army instilled in me the need to compete with myself and I want to train with a purpose for something greater than just me. Participation in the 60 to 60 event does just that. It gives me a greater purpose and a reason to, once again, leave it all on the gravel. My body is healthier and more nourished than ever before, as is my mind. By the time Memorial Day rolls around I will be ready to participate, and my focus won’t be on calories burned or weight lost, but rather the lives that were lost protecting the freedoms we enjoy in this country.
I can already see a difference in how I treat my training times now versus six months ago. Having a designated purpose for training makes all the difference to me and my recovery.
With Body Love, Lane
PS In case you are wondering, yes, the featured image is of me in 2007 during some Army training. Here is another (that is me in the front):
Two years ago I was ending my time in intensive treatment and facing outpatient treatment. I was working hard identifying my triggers, creating a bank of coping skills, and spending more time at treatment-related mental health, medical, and nutritional appointments than I ever thought possible. My life changed in many ways when I made the decision to finally get serious about getting better, and the mountain I thought I was facing has become nothing more than a molehill.
Prior to entering treatment I knew I was staring at a mountain before me. I was preparing to have my way of life taken away in order to teach me how to face life in a healthy way. At 28-years old my food was monitored and carefully portioned, followed by being watched by treatment professionals as I ate it all within an allotted time. If my nutritional needs had not been met during the day I was given a Boost nutritional drink to supplement. I was prevented from using the bathroom after eating, and told not to exercise. My life was getting turned upside down, voluntarily, but it was anything other than pleasant. I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to face life without the close “companionship” the eating disorder provided. With each new challenge I conquered, I climbed a little higher up the mountain and toward full recovery. I slipped and stumbled along the way, sliding back down the slope and often feeling like I was starting over. However, with every slip I was never back at the bottom staring back up at the mountain in its entirety.
Fast-forward to one year ago when I was in outpatient treatment, still working diligently with my therapist and dietician to reach my nutritional and mental health goals. One year ago I was close to ending my time in therapy while sorting through the remnants of my past trauma and striving to overcome anxiety. I was struggling to eat in restaurants, sit with my back to the door, and go out in public to crowded areas. I worked hard with my therapist to identify what made me anxious and how to cope with it when the symptoms of anxiety would arise. At the same time I was working hard with my dietician to become comfortable eating in public and eating foods that were challenging to been seen eating (i.e.: pasta). Nothing about recovery has been easy but it has been completely worth it–and the journey isn’t over yet because I am still learning.
Now, nine months discharged from all types treatment, I am still working to stay strong in recovery but these days the challenges don’t look like a mountain but more like a molehill. While there isn’t a giant mountain for me to climb, I do stumble over the molehills from time to time. I have to work hard not to fall on my face as a result. For example, it took me a few months after moving on our boat to realize I wasn’t giving myself the time for self-care that I did prior to moving aboard. Instead of crafting, journaling, or doing daily yoga and meditation I was constantly rushed with adjusting to life on the water. As a result, I fell over that molehill and spent a few months on the ground in a relapse state.
My recovery is nowhere near complete, as I believe it is a life-long learning process, but what I have learned about myself is worth the fall. I thought I didn’t need the amount of self-care and meditation that I once did, but that is the beauty of recovery–I am always evolving and proving myself wrong. I thought I didn’t need intensive treatment in 2014…I was wrong. The memory of my therapist and dietician talking on the phone, and coaxing me to call the treatment center while in a therapy session, will forever be burned in my memory. Only after a month of intensive treatment did I realize I spent so many years of my life trapped in a disease and in need of recovery. Then, as I continued to meet with my dietician even after ending treatment with my outpatient therapist, did I realize my thoughts surrounding certain foods and my body image still needed work.
Today, I love being in recovery and continuing to learn more about myself and this life. There are times I wish I could talk to a therapist, but that is when I remember I harbor within me the ability and strength to pick myself up from stumbling over a molehill and learn from it. I’ve come a long way from the scared woman I was in 2014 when I passed through the doors of the treatment center. My triggers are fewer than ever before. I mean, I am sitting here watching the Miss Universe pageant while I type this; something I couldn’t have done even last year. (Which, by the way, Miss Canada was just interviewed about body shaming and loving who she is in her own skin. LOVE!)
Regardless of stumbling over a molehill a few times this year, I love myself more with each passing day. I grow stronger with each new revelation about my body, myself, and my life in recovery. Being confident in my body and who I am as a woman helps me enjoy life with a passion I’ve never before experienced. My personality has grown and I’ve developed likes, dislikes, and favorites that I never had the opportunity to do before. I may look vastly different from five or ten years ago (see photo below) but I feel more beautiful than ever. I don’t often post photos from when I was sick, but in this case I look at the photos in amazement. My eyes are brighter, my smile is genuinely happy, and I am truly living life instead of existing in it.
My body is this beautiful, unique instrument with which I get to experience life and nothing, not even the eating disorder, can take that from me.
“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, nothing more.”
The holidays are challenging for people struggling with, and in recovery from, eating disorders and I don’t think it really matters how long a person has been in recovery–the holidays can be rough. Food, and tons of it, at every gathering and family members who are either talking about their own diet and work out regimen or commenting on the progress of the person in recovery. Sometimes it is difficult to tune out the diet talk or know how to handle comments about recovery, but that is why it is of the utmost importance to be mindful and present at all times.
Christmas is right around the corner, closely followed by New Year’s and those *wonderful* resolutions. We are about to be spammed more than usual with diets, before and after photos of half naked people praising the latest boot camp style at home workouts, and the pushing of gym memberships. Not only that, but this year my 30th birthday happens to be sandwiched between the two. Yep. The big 3-0 in two weeks. Talk about time to practice being mindful and present at all times! It can really be challenging to stay mindful but here are some tips on how I plan to do it and you can always use them too…
Yoga, deep breathing. These are always my go-to for mindfulness and bringing myself back to the present. I live on a sailboat in South Carolina where the weather has grown chilly and doing morning yoga outside isn’t really an option and neither is doing yoga in a very small space; therefore I don’t get to do this one as often as I like anymore but even a few simple poses can help. Take time on the morning of a gathering to do a quick 10-minute sun salutation to start your day and get yourself into the right frame of mind to deal with negativity and diet talk. Clear your head and throughout the practice remind yourself that you are enough and you are beautiful exactly as you are in this moment. Find things you appreciate about your body and speak them gently to yourself. Once you reach the gathering take a few moments before going inside to breathe deeply for five breaths and again remind yourself that you are enough and there are many wonderful things about you. If you find yourself struggling with anxiety during a gathering take a step back in a quiet room and repeat the deep breathing exercises.
Power Playlist. I love music. It is huge motivator and mood changer for me so I have playlists ranging from caribbean/reggae, Christian, to recovery oriented positive playlists. Depending on my mood I select something to help lift it. Typically the recovery positive playlist is my go-to when driving to gatherings or places where I know anxiety will automatically increase. Singing the songs in the car helps immensely to bring myself into the present moment. Listening to my recovery positive playlist helps me feel empowered, strong, and prepared to deal with any eating disorder thoughts that pop in my head.
Small Reminders. I have a thin rubber bracelet that says “Beautiful Body Acceptance” on it that I wear often. Earlier this week I received an e-mail from a treatment professional who said she loaned her BBA bracelet to a client over Thanksgiving to help bring about mindfulness in times of stress. While not everyone has a BBA bracelet there may be a small piece of jewelry you can look at to remind yourself that you are beautiful, unique, and your body is something to be loved and appreciated. Maybe it is a small silver wave ring or bangle to remind you to let the emotions roll over you like waves, acknowledging them but not being taken under by them. The same could be said of an ocean blue colored piece of jewelry or something with sea glass. However, the sea is not calming to everyone (I love it and practically live on it, as I live on a sailboat) but surely there is something that could help remind you to acknowledge the emotions but not be swept away by them. Be creative!
There are so many ways to be mindful and bring yourself back to the present during the holidays. The most important thing is to remind yourself that you need to take time for self care. Constantly being around others can take a toll on anyone, but especially someone who is trying to recover from an eating disorder. Anxiety, stress, worry, and the eating disorder voice and take over at any moment which is why it is so very important to remember to take time for mindfulness. Experience joy this Christmas season by believing that you are worthy, loved, and beautiful just as you are. Take time to breathe and remember why you are fighting so hard for recovery.
I don’t know why I allowed you to have so much power over me.
As I posted earlier this week, your judgement of my parenting angered me but also made me feel self-conscious and unworthy. I let myself feel that way because of your domineering, harassing attitude…and I didn’t need to. I let you get inside my head and the nasty words you used to describe me, the words you used to put me down, took on their own voice and put me right back into the grasp of the eating disorder.
When you came to my home and got in my face, calling me names and blackmailing me about my parenting, I was so shocked and angry I didn’t know what to say. In reality anger is a secondary emotion and I realize now that I was afraid. I was afraid you would call social services on me because you believed your opinion to be greater than mine without giving me the opportunity to discuss it with you. When I should have told you to get the hell away from my property and to mind your own business I allowed myself to shrink back into myself, as I have always done in the past. At a time when I’ve already been vulnerable and struggling to keep my food on track you only helped make matters worse. Your behavior sent me back into an almost full-blown relapse.
While I realize no one can control my behavior but me, you actions did not help. When I already felt terrible about myself your “confirmation” of that put me over the edge. Days had passed before I realized I had hardly eaten anything for that amount of time. Small things here and there dotted my meal plan but it was predominately made up of caffeine and negative energy. I was volatile and wanted war with you. I let you tell me how I should feel and that was wrong.
You don’t know me. You don’t know my story and yet I allowed you to control me. I allowed your negative opinions to infiltrate my brain and tell me how I should feel about myself and my parenting. I allowed your words to dominate my thoughts and help control my actions–which meant caloric restriction until I was well into starvation mode for several days. You don’t get to have that power. You don’t get to have ANY power over me.
You don’t get to dictate my parenting or my recovery.
I never should’ve given you the time of day and the subsequent hours of worry. You aren’t worthy of my brain power. You aren’t worthy of my time. In my eyes you are almost worthy of nothing but that wouldn’t be correct because everyone is worthy of God’s love. While I am going to struggle to show you that over the next several months while we share a marina, I am going to try. I am going to show you that while you don’t believe I am worthy of the dirt on your shoes, I believe you are worthy of God’s love. You don’t get to send me back to the temptations of the devil, instead I will overcome your negative words with the power of Christ. Just watch me. Watch me treat you with the respect and dignity you won’t extend to me. Watch me show you that I can rise above your ridicule and continue to be the bright light I was before you.
I am going to win this war against relapse and I’m going to show you that God wins the war of hate. His love conquers all–my eating disorder/relapse and your emotional outburst. I don’t know what from your past has you angered but I hope that God can show you the way out. I hope God can show you that demeaning others won’t make you feel better but instead alienate you from others. Rather than be the pariah of the marina why don’t you try treating me with the same respect and courtesy with which you treat the other residents? I am not a threatening individual and if you would come talk to me like an adult you might even learn about me, my parenting, and my life. I’m not the bad person you tried to paint me to be and if you would get to know me you would see that I am intelligent, kind, and a fighter. Why don’t you try it sometime? Just come by the boat and try learning a little more about me before you pass judgement and try to belittle me.
In the dark of the “Cardio Cinema” at Gold’s Gym I struggled to fight back the tears that started to come to my eyes. My mind still isn’t healthy enough to do this, I admitted to myself in utter defeat. The workout seemed easy enough but fighting back the demon that still plagues my mind is another story.
I found a rabbit hole and couldn’t resist the shiny object at the end: thinness and weight loss. Instead of following my recovery mind, I followed the eating disorder right down that hole. That stupid, big black hole.
In a matter of weeks I could feel myself slipping and, once again, becoming a woman possessed by workouts, “clean” foods, and my body. Things I thought were long gone and replaced by more enjoyable life experiences such as happiness, writing for BBA, and health. I wanted to build my strength and cardio endurance so hoisting the sails on our floating home would be a little less tiring each time I did it; fully acknowledging the risks associated with entering a gym. In my case the risks are not so much physical as they are mental and emotional, but I thought I put a good support system in place. I didn’t hide my gym membership from my husband and I even decided to start going with a friend who is in excellent physical condition to help me get back at it. We set a time limit, and often broke it, but had a plan for our time at the gym nonetheless. I couldn’t just exercise endlessly without accountability. That was my plan. My plan had one major fault: my brain.
By entering the exercise arena again, I opened up a corner in my brain that allowed the eating disorder to slowly creep back into my life. I could “hear” it before I wanted to admit it was back. The voice telling me not to eat because I had done such an excellent workout that I shouldn’t poison my caloric loss with more calories.Red Flag. Talking myself into eating over a grumbling stomach; knowing I had only eaten twice but now it was after 7pm so I shouldn’t eat anything more. Red Flag. My brain telling me to just make some green tea and sip on it until I am no longer hungry. Maybe I should. Maybe then I could actually lose some weight. Red Flag. I found myself obsessively looking in mirrors and reflective surfaces with a consistency I haven’t had in months, berating my body and appearance. It took over my mind every time I saw my reflection with a vengeance for giving it up in the first place. Red Flag. I found myself utilizing the same old excuses with family and friends who voiced concern over my return to the gym, reassuring them I knew what I was doing and I was ready for this. Red Flag.
Red Flag. Bright, red, you-can’t-freaking-miss-it flag.
My recovery mind was fading into the background fast; replaced with thoughts dominated by the eating disorder instead of the real me. But why? Why now?
I’ve been doing well for so long…
I returned to the gym during a period of high stress. Mistake número uno. My sister and the son of my Army Soulmate/BFF were having surgery and I was stressed. I needed an outlet and I felt my life was too hectic to sit down and write. Instead of utilizing safe outlets such as yoga, writing, and paddleboarding; I opted for one of my bigger triggers because I thought surely I was ready for a triumphant return.
I traveled to Pittsburgh, PA to be with my sister and Army Soulmate for the surgeries; requiring I stay at a hotel. Only I didn’t stay at a hotel. I stayed at this quaint little place, Family House, for people who have loved ones at local hospitals. Upon walking into the place it felt eerily like walking into an eating disorder treatment facility; a feeling that made me want to rebel against recovery with every fiber of my being. The large kitchen with two industrial size refrigerators, large sinks, and multiple microwaves screams community meals. The environment is meant to feel inviting, like a home, but instead feels like what it is–a place where people stay when something serious happens. I stood in the oversized kitchen after both surgeries had been completed and I had been up for 18 hours, when my mind flashed back to my time at the Center for Balanced Living. At least this time my food wasn’t being checked and re-checked for meal plan accountability and I wasn’t going to be watched while I ate. I suddenly felt devious. I could sit alone at a table where I could eat as slowly as I wanted and throw out food without the need to hide it first. What I couldn’t believe was that I was even entertaining this thought. I sat at the table, playing with my food, and eating it incredibly slowly; pushing the thought out of my mind that I might actually be starting to struggle again. Despite being very busy while in Pittsburgh, I made time for exercise because I couldn’t “undo” all the hard work I had recently been doing.
All these red flags and I kept ignoring them. Excusing them away and dismissing them as paranoia. I mean, when will I get my life “back” if I don’t start now? I do enjoy the occasional run and the feeling of being back in the gym, but I went too hard too fast. The safeguards weren’t enough because I started out doing too much too soon. I didn’t ease back into the gym, I went at it like my mind and body were fully healed and not susceptible to relapse.
I was wrong.
Healing from an eating disorder doesn’t happen overnight.
Recovery and healing happens over years; marked by struggles, slips, and points of higher learning.
My experience in the gym is a point of learning. Learning I am not able to exercise daily like I used to because my mind isn’t ready for it.
The trigger to return to the eating disorder is still there, lying in wait, for me to choose it.
I chose it.
I tried to ignore it but thankfully I’m stronger than that now. My husband is stronger and knows when to call it to my attention.
Together we won’t let the eating disorder retake my life.
On a similar, yet slightly different note, I hate myself a little for supporting a business that thinks posting crap like this is appropriate, but it is what it is. Besides, I haven’t been a “girl” in quite some time…I’m almost 30!
I much prefer the cover image I’ve chosen from Women’s Running Magazine that both demonstrates and states that weight doesn’t matter. Because it doesn’t.
I found myself standing in the cold plastic surgery center; looking into a full length mirror while a doctor measured and pinched my very pale, saggy, three years postpartum abdomen. I suddenly felt vulnerable, exposed, and insecure; incredibly aware that the eating disorder had found a small window of opportunity and taken it.
If you have been reading my blogs long, you know I start my posts out with a quotation, usually of the inspirational variety. Today, however, I started it out with my own words and my own experience. I, Lane McKelvey, went to a plastic surgery center to get a consultation about my stomach; the one part of my body where true body acceptance is often so elusive. The small eating disordered voice preyed upon that insecurity and in a moment of weakness I made a phone call and scheduled an appointment. An appointment the healthy, wise-mind, recovery-oriented part of me rescheduled twice before I actually went.
Driving to the surgery center I was nervous, a little anxious even, contemplating whether I could even maintain this blog if I went through with the suggestions from the consultation or if I would be another sellout to society. I mean, I had already rescheduled twice, wasn’t that proof enough that I wasn’t even certain I should go? Apparently not. Apparently the eating disorder had the wheel and I was heading for the surgery center regardless of the nagging, healthy voice in the back of my head.
Upon arriving at the surgery center it was pouring down rain; the heavy afternoon rain that comes with the Lowcountry summer heat. I ran inside and thought I might have been in the wrong place because the waiting room looked and felt more like a spa than a surgery center…except it was cold. Why are doctor’s offices always so cold? Glancing around I saw autographed photos from Miss USA contestants, models, and local “celebrities” thanking the good doctor for making them “perfect.” The receptionist with her very perky breasts and nonexistent wrinkles gave me a nice welcome packet; which included a pamphlet about the services offered, a pen with the doctor’s well-chiseled face on it, a drink koozie bearing the logo and name of the surgery center (in case all my friends want to get some work done), a gift certificate for a free microdermabrasion (still not sure what that is exactly) and a magazine called New Beauty. I suddenly felt like a fraud and I knew I had been duped. I mean, the magazine even had an article in it called “Striving for Perfection”. Yeah, this was not my kind of place.
Frantically I sent my husband a text telling him my insecurities about even being in such a place and contemplated walking out but it felt like it was too late, I had to go to the consultation. I also conveniently left out the part where I felt like I had been tricked by the eating disorder and tricked him as well by saying I was going in to learn more about taking care of my belly fat, “since it squishes your organs and is so unhealthy” (quotation courtesy of the eating disorder). I silently cursed myself for not catching it sooner–ED had been really sneaky this time. Somehow that sly devil found a weak spot in my defenses and preyed upon it until that spot collapsed and I was standing in an office being pinched and told how my body could use some changes to be perfect. I thought to myself, “Damnit, Allie was right. This was ED all along and I didn’t believe her. I thought I knew for sure this was just me trying to make myself a little healthier and it wasn’t all about the aesthetics. I haven’t even seen myself in a full-length mirror in months, maybe even a year, and now I’m doing it with someone else. What. The. Hell?”
“You’re an excellent tummy tuck candidate,” the doctor said, snapping me back to the reality of the situation. “Sagging, excess skin and these pockets of fat could easily be taken care of with a tummy tuck procedure.” Walking back over to the table filled with “before and after” images of women who have done everything from a tummy tuck to the latest trend of CoolSculpting to rid themselves of fat, the doctor also tells me I would be a great candidate for the hCG weight loss program. “Oh sh*t, I’m in trouble now. Is it inappropriate to cover my ears? Weight loss program?” My healthy brain swirled but the eating disordered part was all ears; “A rapid weight loss program promising no less than 20 pounds lost in 40 days? COUNT ME IN!” I finally escaped the consultation with more handouts on the suggested procedures and the hCG weight loss program. I couldn’t get to my car fast enough.
Sitting in my car in the rain I was extremely sad about what I had just done. Not only had I been tricked and gone to a consultation with a plastic surgeon–something I am usually adamantly against–but now I felt like I was the worst looking woman in the world. My body image tanked in a matter of minutes because I listened to ED without even realizing it. Doing the most responsible thing I could do, I drove to the nearest outlet mall and went shoe shopping to try to take my mind off the very tempting weight loss program offer…it didn’t work, but I did end up with some cute (and comfortable) wedges.
I got back in my car and began researching the hCG diet. I found the following:
The hCG diet consists of three stages. The hCG Diet stages are:
Loading — 2 days of eating fatty, carb-filled foods. Burning — 26 to 43 days of a 500-calorie diet, depending on your goal. Maintenance — 3 weeks of a starch/sugar-free diet.
Record your weight each morning, and if you have gained more than two pounds in any given day, you should skip a meal. This helps your body regulate your appetite and weight.
hCG can be administered as daily injections.
As I drove away I started contemplating what I just read. A highly restrictive diet of 500 calories a day? Skip a meal? Was I really considering spending $600 to open Pandora’s Box and potentially undo the two years of hard work I’ve done? Finally, my brain kicked in, “WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!? This is the anti-meal plan. This is the anti-Anne, anti-CBL, anti-recovery plan. You just spent two years learning you don’t have to cut out food groups and living on 500 calories is not only stupid, but deadly. DO NOT DO THIS.” As I was having an internal debate, okay less civilized, an internal battle a song I hadn’t heard in a very long time started playing on my iTunes: Courage by Superchick.
I told another lie today And I got through this day No one saw through my games I know the right words to say Like, “I don’t feel well,” “I ate before I came.” Then someone tells me how good I look And for a moment, for a moment I am happy But when I’m alone, no one hears me cry
I need you to know I’m not through the night Somedays I’m still fighting to walk toward the light
In case you hadn’t noticed by my usual musical background to my blogs, I am a very musically oriented person. Courage is the song that is playing today. As soon as the song began playing and the lyrics hit me I started to cry. This is NOT what I want for my life. I don’t want to go back to the eating disordered life. I don’t want to tempt it by further considering this weight loss program as an option. I have no desire to go back to treatment, to monitor every bite of food I consume, or sit in group therapy trying to figure out how to cope. I don’t want to have weekly weigh-ins, therapy sessions, and the loss of trust from my family. The secrets, lies, depression, anxiety, stress, struggle, and darkness that accompany the eating disorder are not what I want. A 500 calorie diet and daily weigh-ins, even with the promise of hCG as an appetite suppressant, is too much like an eating disorder.
It is an eating disorder.
Coming “clean” about this is somewhat embarrassing. I thought I knew all the tricks in ED’s playbook…but I missed this one. This shows that I am human and recovery is anything but perfect. While the ED voice is almost nonexistent most of the time I still have to remain diligent to ensure he doesn’t get let back into my life. Today was a little too close for comfort but this is recovery. This is the very real struggle people in recovery, even solid, long-term recovery have to fight for life. In a world where doctors make money preying on the insecurities of people, we must always remain diligent and true to who we are and the people we have become in recovery.
“Whenever you get TRIGGERED...get curious. Ask why. Dive DEEP.
That’s where the beauty lies.”
Sometimes triggers feel like they can break me. At the very least they shake me to my core and make me question my recovery; forcing me to examine my stance and stability–or lack thereof. While I once had a running list of things that triggered me, those things now cease to exist and it is the random, small things that force me to dig deeper in recovery.
In the beginning triggers where the glaring, obvious things that often stand in the way of people trying to achieve solid recovery. Some of those are still triggers for me and force me to step with caution in this dance I call life in recovery. Triggers would often follow the “people, places, things” rule that those in recovery for substance addiction face. However, triggers can often be other things such as songs, emotions, thoughts, feelings, and smells. Sometimes triggers are so random they sneak up on me and I feel like they are going to swallow me whole; forcing me to return to the “safety” and “security” the eating disorder once provided.
For the longest time I had to avoid Wendy’s fast food restaurant because in college I would go through the drive thru and order things off the dollar menu to eat and subsequently purge. Wendy’s became a trigger for me once I started to move toward recovery my senior year of college, suddenly becoming off-limits. A place could set me down the wrong path.
To this day the song Courage by SuperChick throttles me back in time to lying, hiding, and covering up my actions. Telling everyone I was fine, I had eaten dinner before I arrived, or that I hadn’t exercised beyond the point of exhaustion more than once that day was a near daily occurrance. I can still picture myself driving through the University of Michigan campus on my way to the Ann Arbor Center for Eating Disorders for the Monday night support group listening to that song. It was on my “triggering” playlist I kept on my old-school iPod Nano to spur me on toward a lesser caloric intake and unhealthy weight loss.
Numbers are still a trigger for me but it is no longer every number related to an eating disorder (weight, calories, numbers, etc.), just certain ones. For example, I still avoid seeing my weight at the doctor’s office and I have no intention of returning to knowing it because, for me, it serves no purpose other than to instigate evil in my life. Calories, however, no longer bother me as much as they once did. Often I don’t even look at them unless they happen to be plastered on the menu at a restaurant, then it seems unavoidable. When people rattle off their weight, pants size, or amount of time spent engaging in exercise I am often unfazed. At least I no longer compare myself to others!
Sometimes I don’t have to dig very deep to figure out my trigger; I only have to HALT. I first learned about HALT in grad school when I was working under an amazingly brazen internship supervisor who was in long-term recovery for substance addiction. She was seriously kick-ass–and still is! Anyway, HALT was used to help those in substance addiction recovery figure out their triggers and I realized it applied to eating disorder recovery as well. Never let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Most of the time what is triggering me fits into one (or more) of those simple categories. Although, there is almost always more to it if the trigger is in the “angry” or “lonely” category. A different internship supervisor in grad school always said anger is a secondary emotion so we need to dig deeper to find out what is really causing the problem.
However, I still have those random triggers that sneak up on me.
Today I had to dig a little deeper to find why something triggered me. I had to ask myself why I was being triggered by something so seemingly small. What was it?
A sore throat.
An absolutely random thing was triggering me to engage in an eating disorder behavior. I swallowed a piece of the bread on my grilled cheese and it scratched my throat as it slid down. The sensation was so eerily similar to the feeling of purging that I could feel the thoughts creeping in and encouraging me to go ahead and engage in that behavior. The thoughts telling me to do it “just once” because I was already having an “off” day. That’s when my recovery brain–MY brain–jumped in and thought, “Ah ha! There is the real issue; the ‘off’ day.” But what about it had been so “off” anyway? I started to think along the HALT line: I wasn’t overly hungry (since I was eating), I wasn’t tired, but I was feeling angry and somewhat lonely.
Realistically, one of my biggest triggers–if not the biggest–is anger. Before going to treatment and learning how to feel and experience emotions again, all I ever felt was anger. I would hold all my feelings inside until a situation that made me angry came along and I exploded; not usually on a person but on myself in the form of engaging in the eating disorder. Makes sense right? Not. I allowed something someone else said/did to anger me (usually meaning I was hurt by their words/actions) and only hurt myself more instead of talking to that person. I digress, I was feeling angry about things that made no sense to be angry about and determined it was really just feelings of frustration and stress instead of anger.
Aside from stress and frustration, I also felt a little lonely. As I’ve stated before, we moved to a new state and, even though we lived here once before, my family and my closest friends are still in Ohio (or Columbia, SC and Saint Vincent in the Caribbean…okay, I have a lot of friends but none in Charleston). While I used to have almost weekly coffee dates with friends and a standing weekly lunch date in Ohio, I no longer have any of that. I am usually quick to make new friends (as my sister says, I can make friends with a rock) but our current situation makes that a little difficult. However, as I turned my mind toward the positives and reasons why none of this was worth throwing in the towel on recovery and allowing a lapse to creep into my life, I counted my blessings.
God is providing for our needs. We have a place to temporarily stay while we finalize our new living arrangements. We have food, shelter, and clothing. We definitely are not “homeless” as I often lament to friends.
I am staring to make new friends in the one area where I branch out.
The Charleston Community Yoga center is ah-mazing. From my very first class I felt welcomed into the friendly atmosphere. I started to become a “regular” at a few morning classes and, as a result, met a woman who has a child the same age as mine and we have started planning to have playdates. Hopefully once we get plugged in at a good church in the area we will make even more new friends.
Any day in recovery is better than even one moment in the disease!
Yes, I get frustrated and stressed that God’s timeline isn’t lining up with MY timeline but that doesn’t mean this is an “off” day. It just means His timing for our living situation hasn’t been met yet. Patience, Lane. Seriously, this small amount of time is just that–small.