Tag Archives: OSFED

I don’t know if I’m “recovered” and that’s okay

I had a particularly physically active day today and, as is fairly typical for me when I’m physically active, my hunger signals were muffled. They don’t go away exactly, but they become majorly delayed and aren’t as strong as they should be (until I actually start eating, at which point they becoming insanely strong). I ran by the store after my volunteer gig and the thought hit me that I could totally just skimp on or skip dinner altogether, go to bed early, and call it a done deal. The thought, It’d just be so easy actually flitted through my brain because apparently physical activity also gives me amnesia.

As of today, it’s been exactly fifty-one weeks since I entered an intensive outpatient (IOP) eating disorder treatment program. I graduated about ten weeks later and haven’t looked back. Well. I have. Obviously. But I’ve managed, through work, therapy, and keeping myself honest, to not dip back into old behaviors. I haven’t purposefully skipped or delayed meals, I haven’t counted calories, I haven’t been running at all.

However. The thoughts are still there. Not all the time, and they sometimes take slightly different forms (I will sometimes fall into a rabbit hole of second guessing myself. “Did I hike for that long because I wanted to or because of calories or something?”), but they still crop up, which is why I’m writing this in the first place.

I remember the first time I really thought about the difference between getting better and getting well. I read about it in a book: the main character spoke about being in the hospital for some chronic condition and how people shifted from saying, “Get well soon!” to “Feel better!” There’s quite a bit of nuance there, and I think it’s important to recognize.

I’ve thought a lot over the past year about the recovery vs. remission camps in the eating disorder community. There are those who say sufferers can completely recover and never deal with an ED again — they can get well. Others say that sufferers can be without symptoms for massive lengths of time (or potentially forever), but that, much like many substance abusers, the tendency to turn to ED behaviors is still there — so, they get better, but still have to remain somewhat vigilant. I’ve sat in both camps over the past year, and now, I have no idea where I fall.

I do know one thing, though: I’m personally doing pretty well. But I still have thoughts. There’s not a part of me that thinks back to this time last year with longing or nostalgia. But, there’s apparently a part of me that momentarily remembered restricting food as being “easy”, at least this evening. There’s a part of me that still has issues with the shape and size of my body or with balancing exercise. It’s all there; I’ve just learned a lot of tools to deal with those issues.

I think this is really important to recognize. Over the years, I’ve often seen recovery painted as a pretty stark Before and After. There’s so much more to it than that, though. It’s rare that recovery is presented in such a way that leaves room for those thoughts, those wonderings, those feelings. (In fact, a couple of years ago, when I first felt urges to restrict after eating intuitively for awhile, I completely freaked out because I assumed such urges meant that I was relapsing.)

I’m not sure where I stand on the whole recovery/remission debate any more, but I do know this: I’m doing really well, but I still don’t love my body. I’m doing really well, but I still have urges to go run when I need to deal with something hard. I’m doing really well, but I apparently still have thoughts about skipping dinner. I don’t really know what conclusions can be drawn about that — it’s not even been a year for me after all. But I do think it’s important to recognize that the recovery process can certainly involve thoughts and urges. It’s not just an After photo.

I ate dinner, in case you were wondering. It ended up being more of a fiasco than anticipated due to some spoiled food (oh, how quickly I would have used that excuse to just skip altogether last year), but I definitely ate dinner. So, even though the old thought was there, clearly something’s different. I think just knowing that is okay for now.

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On the subject of bravery

Wow. If I put off writing this like two days, I’d have spaced my blog posts apart exactly one year. Oops.

I could make a bunch of apologies or excuses or whatever, but what it really boils down to is the fact that this hasn’t been a huge priority for me; the whys and wherefores aren’t all that evident even to me and, in the end, aren’t particularly important. I don’t have it within me to make promises of more frequent posts, but the world is full of exciting surprises, so who knows.

The subject of bravery keeps appearing in my life and it’s something I have a complicated relationship with. I’ve made several choices over the years that others have called “brave” while I just knew the choices had to be made. I’d have called those same choices “brave” in others, which does lead me to wonder if anyone truly feels brave when they’re in the midst of an act of bravery.

At some indeterminate time either early this year or late last year, I started slipping after experiencing some pretty solid months concerning all things related to eating and weight. I could retrace exactly what went down, but it’s truthfully a rather dull series of events that eventually culminated in a plan that I never named but should probably have been called My Very Own Plan To Relapse But Only For Ten Weeks And Then I’ll Stop Because It’s Not Like This Is A Slippery Slope Of Deceit And Doom Or Anything. 

So, long story short, I went down the rabbit hole as it were and ended up in a place that, if I’m honest with myself, is the worst I’ve ever been eating-disorder-wise. I’ve fooled myself into thinking I’m not as bad as I was in 2009 because I haven’t lost the same amount of weight (yet), haven’t fainted in a library (yet), haven’t had many major physical side effects (yet)…but at my Previous Worst Place, I was at least completely unaware of what I was doing to myself. This time around, I’m painfully self-aware. I have made some really unwise decisions for months based on fear (so. much. fear) and the lies that come free (!!!!!) with your purchase of the Eating Disorder Starter Pack and have spent the past couple of months telling myself that I’ve been in a holding pattern when it has been confirmed by reliable sources that I am, in fact, getting worse.

It’s been exhausting. The initial excitement of dropping weight and hiding something has worn off – partially because I’m not dropping weight and I’m not hiding things like I was earlier this year, but also because it’s draining in general. I’ve had to drop two of the three classes I was enrolled in this semester; I’ve had to reenter ALL THE THERAPIES; and I feel as if my life has become some sort of shrine to Not Eventually Killing Myself By Way Of An Eating Disorder.

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Original image source: Hyperbole and a Half | Template source: Know Your Meme

So, after weeks of just sort of flopping around like a lost Magikarp (that’s right: I play Pokémon Go. I’m a cool mom. Minus the mom part.), my dietitian (who’s super rad and has her own blog that she updates slightly more often than I update mine) said the Dreaded T Word (“treatment”) – literally hours after I’d had the following thought:

No one will ever tell me to go into treatment because I’m not like dying or anything.

Or something to that effect.

Anyway, the past few weeks have involved several discussions about Treatment or “a higher level of care” (a phrase which I’m like 99.9% sure is stamped all over every textbook pertaining to the clinical treatment of mental illnesses because it keeps popping up everywhere I turn right now). After an assessment and some discussions with my counselor, my dietitian, my friends, my pastor, my job, my insurance company, the jack o’ lantern I carved last week, and probably the entire cast of Grey’s Anatomy or something, I’ve decided to go into a three-evening-per-week IOP (intensive outpatient program).

At this point, it’s just something that needs to happen. I don’t like it. Parts of it are terrifying, and frankly, every aspect of starting any sort recovery sucks. The number of times I’ve used the phrase “lose-lose situation” over the past couple of months is…a lot. But, it just needs to happen. As one of my very favorite poems says, “If you aren’t recovering, you are dying.”

While I’d love to say this decision was a no-brainer, it honestly wasn’t. These disorders are gross and giant and have creepy talons and a lot of empty promises. They’re coping mechanisms, so they serve a purpose (or at least did at one time), and when it comes time to give them up…it’s legitimately hard. It’s not even about the weight; it’s about having something there that’s mine, that I can manipulate and control and focus on when everything else seems super crazy. Or at least feel like I can. Until I can’t actually control it any more…then it’s time for more help. (I believe the phrase that tipped my dietitian into You Might Need Treatment territory was “I’m not driving the car any more”…and then some smart-ass comment about Thelma and Louise because if I don’t maintain a two-to-one ratio of sincere transparency and deflecting jokes at all times, I will implode or something. I’m working on that.)

Which brings me to the subject of bravery. Through this entire process (getting help, slipping, relapsing, getting help again, and now getting a [*sigh*] Higher Level of Care), I’ve heard the word brave applied to my actions. I don’t consider myself particularly brave in light of all of this; I just know things can’t keep going the way they’re going and I only have two choices; one of those involves me being a terrible role model for my friends’ babies, abusing my body horribly, and…I don’t know, having a heart attack or collapsing from electrolyte imbalance or something equally as horrifying and not particularly fun. The other choice involves increasing the intensity of my recovery efforts.

If I were to see someone else struggle through this stuff, live a life truly eaten up (ha) with a debilitating and excruciating disorder, and then choose to get what will no doubt be very difficult help, I’d probably call them brave. They’re repeatedly shoving themselves into uncomfortable and (irrational as it may seem) frightening situations in hope that someday things will be a little better. When you think of someone working every day to fight against actual fear in order to do what’s best…that’s bravery, is it not?

But I don’t feel particularly brave; I just feel as if I’m doing what needs to be done. I’ve found myself thinking about this quote from The Village (which is underrated and you should go watch it immediately) a lot lately:

Ivy Walker: How is it that you are so brave while the rest of us shake in our boots?
Lucius Hunt: I don’t think of what might happen, only what must be done.

I started thinking about this more last night as I have a recovering friend who is considering her own (*siiiiiigh*) Higher Level of Care. She thinks I’m brave; I think she is; we both think pretty poorly of ourselves for “getting to the point of needing this”. And I’m now wondering if anyone ever actually feels brave.

Because, really, what is bravery in the first place? My favorite definition (courtesy of whatever source Google uses) is “ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage”. That doesn’t mean the pain or danger isn’t real or scary, just that brave ones are ready to face it. Bravery involves some sense of fear, some weight, some risk…and in the midst of all of that, it may just be doing what needs to be done despite the hurdles all around. It may not be making a giant show of confidence by breaking the neck of the scary thing and standing on it for all to see. It may just be pushing through and doing what’s uncomfortable and even painful because it’s the right thing to do.

I still don’t know that I’m particularly brave. And I don’t know how much that matters in light of the Lord’s plans. I do know that He’s gifted me with certain attributes and that He’s growing me through all of this. I don’t totally know how everything will turn out. It’s scary and stretching and exhausting…but, I think I know what needs to be done, and I think I’m finally doing that thing…and that’s something.


Why I don’t want to go on your diet

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This post will probably annoy/upset/offend some people. I should note that this is not directed at anyone in particular, but just at people as a collective whole. I’m shouting into the void, not directly in your face. Promise.

All right, sports fans, it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week here in the States (or maybe everywhere; I don’t actually know) and I thought I’d post a little something. But instead of telling you a detailed and grueling story of weight loss and heartache or posting inspiring before and after photos or whatever, I’m just going to whine. Okay? Okay.

Full disclosure: I have slogged through the putrid swamp that is EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, technically now known as OSFED [Otherwise Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder] in the DMS V but no one, including dieticians and therapists, likes that title, so we’ll stick with EDNOS for now) since 2008 and have only actually begun to work all of my issues out in the past year. EDNOS can take a ton of different forms, but for me it meant that I underate and overexercised with the intent of losing an unrealistic and unhealthy amount of weight as a coping mechanism for dealing with some garbage that was going on in my life at the time, and since that period of time have experienced a lot of anxiety regarding my weight, shape, and food. I have never been underweight, so I have never qualified as anorexic, but EDNOS is just as serious as the token eating disorders (Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa), and involves just as many health risks and just as much emotional anguish.

Now that that’s out of the way…

I do not want to go on your diet. It does not matter what your diet is, if it masquerades as a lifestyle, if it allows you to eat chocolate every day, if it causes significant life changes, etc. Barring me finding out that I have a medical need to cut a certain food out (like, I know I can’t eat gluten, but that’s not a diet; it’s a survival tactic to keep me healthy, employable, and not nauseous/vomiting/other uncomfortable things 24/7), I do not want to go on your diet.

I am fully aware that you love your diet. I know that you have lost x number of pounds on your diet. You have reiterated time and again how much better you feel on your diet. I still do not want to go on your diet.

Why? Because I hate restricting food categories.

Actually, that’s not true. I love restricting food categories. Or, at least, the eating disorder that I’ve battled does. It makes me feel strong and in control and like I’m accomplishing something. So, when I start to restrict any category of food, I just want to do it more and more and more.

If I cut out simple carbs, why not all carbs? If I can’t eat beef, let’s add chicken and fish to that list. If I’m not supposed to eat butter, how about severely decreasing my fat intake? No milk? No problem! I’ll cut cheese and yogurt out, too.

I assume you can see the issue here.

I currently eat an immensely healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables and all three of the macronutrients necessary for life. I, generally speaking, don’t eat too much or too little. I have the energy I need to go for a run and go to the store and go about life. I’m not losing weight or combining my meals in a specific way or avoiding an entire macronutrient group. And, shockingly, I somehow manage to live a pretty good life without doing any of those things.

I want to eat foods I enjoy (bell peppers, apples, cupcakes, tofu, broccoli, vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberries, grilled cheese sandwiches, clementines, and so many others). I want to avoid foods I hate (stevia-sweetened anything, mushrooms, stevia, red velvet cake, stevia, calamari, stevia, rice pudding, stevia, cauliflower pizza crusts, and did I mention stevia?). I want to be able to eat soup and sandwiches and waffles and bananas without feeling guilt because I didn’t stick to some arbitrary rules set forth as the only way to maintain health. I want to eat dinner at a friend’s house without the heavy oppression of a set of instructions that must be followed or else.

Because the fact of the matter is that abandoning all of my food rules has resulted in me having energy and hair that grows at a normal rate and nails that don’t chip every time the wind blows. I’m not cold all of the time any more, I’m not growing increasingly weaker, and I no longer feel like I’m going to pass out on a near-daily basis. My dress size may not be what I want, but at least I’m a functioning human being.

So, no, I don’t want to go on your diet. I don’t want to go on anyone’s diet. I want to live my life for once without being worried about what food I eat or don’t eat. And, to quote one of the great philosophers of our time, “That’s all I have to say about that.”