Tag Archives: recovery

Wherever I go, there I am

There have been times I thought a physical relocation would be the answer to my problems, that getting out of a certain environment would also mean leaving any issues there as well.  And while it certainly is true that environment plays a large role in my emotional (and therefore, physical) state of being, there is no physical place I can go to escape being with myself, thinking how I think and feeling how I feel.

So when a physical move didn’t “fix” things, I thought that maybe simply ignoring them and wishing them away would make it so. While it works to put things on the backburner for awhile, they eventually just fall behind the stove and burst into flames, am I right?

Wanting something to change and waiting for it to magically happen while simultaneously ignoring the contributing factors to the situation is not going to work, at least I haven’t heard of it working yet. Things don’t just go away, no matter how much we try and physically and emotionally run from them.

Until we actually face them head on, wherever we go, there they are.

The kicker for me is that wherever I go, I also take with me every single tool I might have to use to change my situation. I don’t know how it is for you, but I could write a book about how to work through dysfunctional/disordered behavior. Every day I come to some new conclusion about myself and why I do (or don’t do) some of the things I do.

And days when I’m willing to listen to myself and even the words of others I trust, I tell myself that this time, this little revelation and nugget of knowledge will make the difference. I am always aware of what I’m doing and why and what I should be doing instead and how I can go about doing it.

But in all likelihood, I’ll keep on doing the same things. I am still the same person, only armed with a bit more insight into why I am that way. 

I might start with an excuse, something along the lines of the fact that I cling to my destructive behavior as a way to cope with “real” life so I can function and be a productive member of society. Then I’ll add that my emotional tie to my actions is much stronger than any revelation or logical explanation I might have come up with. Let’s finish it up by saying that all the irrational and stupid things I do to myself are the only stupid and irrational things that I do at all, that they keep me centered and hurt no one but me.

But if I look at that sentence and par it down a bit—I am into minimalism, remember—I might find “The irrational and stupid things I do hurt me.”

It really is as simple as not doing what you know is unhealthy and doing what you know you should do. If you drink, don’t. If you smoke, quit. If you need to gain weight, eat.

The actions themselves are so basic, but the emotions we attach and the way we can fall prey to the discomfort—physical and mental—is what makes it so difficult. It’s what makes us want to escape. 

But wherever you go, there you are.

And until you use those tools to step outside your comfort zone, you’ll always be where you were.

With that I shall leave you in the immortal words of my idol, Liz Lemon

I want to go to there.”

I’m so glad the new season started.

Do you watch “30 Rock?” What shows are you looking forward to this fall?

Hypocritical—but practical—Healthy Hints

As much of a control freak as I am with most things, there is also a big part of me that is impulsive. To be more specific, I am very impulsive to my emotions and how I feel.

If I am uncomfortable—physically or mentally—I want to make it go away as quickly as possible. I don’t want to take time to let things pass or work themselves out. All I know at that moment is that I want to feel better and I know the easiest way to get there—instant gratification.

So where logic often takes the place of my impulsivity with most things, there are times when I act completely illogically, despite my awareness. (This is why I don’t often put myself in situations where I feel vulnerable, as I know that when I like something, I tend to take it to extremes.)

When you work on recovering from anything, a big part of the process is delaying gratification. I know what will make me feel better in that moment—when I’m stressed and want to (insert any default behavior here)—but it takes more work and impulse control to delay gratification until I’m in a “better” place.

I’ve recently had to remind myself that delaying that instant gratification can lead to a more long-term satisfaction. When I’m in the moment and deny myself the unhealthy coping mechanism, it stinks. I hate it. When I wait for things to pass, I might still feel like crap.

However, there is also a sense of gratification knowing that I made the healthier decision. To be honest, I hate the lists I was always given to do a puzzle or write a letter to myself when I want to do whatever it is I’m not supposed to do. Although delightful activities, that doesn’t work for me. So even though I’m in no place to give advice about this right now,  the practical list below is to help me as much as it might help one or two of you.

Consider this my practical Hypocritical Healthy Hints list.

Whether you’re trying to stop over-exercising, overeating, under-eating/restricting or any other behavior you know you need to change, maybe something below will help you “in the moment.”

Leave your shoes at home: I mean this literally and figuratively. For example, if you have a tendency to over-exercise, don’t enable yourself to do it any time and any place. If I have my tennis shoes at work, I will go for a walk. If I don’t, I won’t. As embarrassing as it is, I often wear certain clothes or shoes for the sole purpose of comfort in case I walk. By leaving my shoes at home—whatever your “shoes” may be—I delay that activity.

rose1Don’t buy it: I am someone who basically eats the same foods every day, just in different combinations. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this—we all have our staples—it is a problem when I feel like I can’t branch out without panic or when I feel like an ass for eating the same thing every day. My solution? Don’t buy it. If I don’t have all my “safe” staples in the kitchen all the time, I am forced to try something else. I am a huge enabler with this in that I need backups to my backups, but forcing myself to get creative with what I have can be a nice change.

And while this is centered towards food, it applies everywhere. If I don’t buy a scale, I don’t have a scale in the house. If I don’t buy a workout DVD, I don’t workout at home. You get the point. Don’t enable yourself for disorder.  

rose3Try something once: Do something different, whether it be eating something new, forcing yourself to be social or taking a full day off from all your self-imposed obligations. If you hate it, you never have to do it again. If you like it, the benefits are obvious.

Keep your mouth busy: That sounds weird, but after I eat a meal I feel like I always want something more, even if I’m stuffed. It’s not hunger, but rather the fact that I want something else to do with my mouth (other than ramble on, if you can believe it.) Drink a cup of hot tea, chew gum or brush your teeth. These are not meant to prevent me from eating anything—that’s not the point—but rather a sign that I’m done and it’s time to move on until the next feeding.

rose2Find a happy place: I mean that in a concrete sense, not some psychological meditative sense—although I do advocate that as well when I can actually sit and focus for more than five seconds. Anyway, on days when my head is nuts and I just want to get away from myself for awhile, I go to the botanical gardens. I’ve posted about them many times, as I’m a member and take full advantage of the beautiful distractions it can offer. I get out of my house and among nature and other people. Even if I come home and slip back into bitch mode, at least I had a nice reprieve. It can be a coffee shop, a bookstore, the mall—just find a happy (safe) place.

By the way, these pictures scattered throughout are from the Rose Show they had this weekend. I needed a break, it was rainy, they had flowers. It worked.

Shower: I know that if I take a shower and wash my hair, I am much less likely to immediately go get sweaty working out. It might just delay the inevitable, but it’s better than nothing. Plus, a warm shower makes everything feel better, no?

rose4Clean: Along those lines of cleanliness, clean. I know it’s the OCD in me, but once I get started cleaning, I usually get pretty into it. This can serve as a great distraction and once again provide that buffer of time to either delay or completely eliminate the urge to do whatever it is I shouldn’t do.

Just say no to drugs: Namely coffee, laxatives and sleep aids. Hear me out on this one, and remember I am only speaking from my own experience. For a long time I had a reliance on all three of those things to bring me the “quick fix” I talk about above. If I was uncomfortable, all I had to do was drink or pop a pill and everything would quickly resolve itself, even if the after-effects were unpleasant. I know I was relying on these things to alter the physical, but also to alter the mental. Not good. It completely screwed up my system(s) in a way that I am still recovering from today.

Now if I’m tired, I know it’s not a crash from the coffee or a haze from the sleep aid. If I have stomach issues, I know it’s not from the pills or the coffee, but rather just because I have an effed up stomach. You get my point. While all of these things can be helpful in certain situations, for me, it’s best to not have them around at all and rely on my body to take care of itself. If they are around, I’ll use them, so I don’t keep them around.  

Trick yourself: I have a habit of skipping an extra snack in favor of just waiting for the next meal, using the excuse that I’m not hungry and I can just wait—this is especially true in the afternoon for me. Well, of course I could, but that doesn’t mean I should. To ensure that I get my mid-morning snack in, I eat an early breakfast so I’m forced to have a mid-morning snack. I hate going longer than four hours without any food, so this taps into the fact that I would feel worse for going a long stretch of time without eating than I would to have the snack. I kind of trick myself, I suppose. At any rate, it works, and mid-morning snacks are no problem now.

And because I used the word above, Ensure really isn’t that bad. You may feel like a 90-year-old lady buying it at the store, but it’s a quick way to get in a lot of nutrients/calories without feeling full. In fact, they usually spark my hunger.

rose5Question your motivation: I don’t mean the healthy motivation. Why are you buying food you know you will binge on? Why are you going to the gym again? Why are you passing up the chance to go out? Why are you reading those blogs? It can be easy to default into behavior we’re comfortable with, so check yourself once in awhile and question your motivation. If you feel like you’re coming from an unhealthy place, don’t do it—or at least delay it a bit and see if the urge is still there later.

But don’t question yourself: By that I mean don’t surround yourself with people or things that make you feel uncomfortable about the (healthy) decisions you make. Just because someone says something doesn’t mean it’s true, and it’s important to remember that we all have different goals and needs. Surround yourself with people that make you feel good—this includes “virtually” as well.

Find one:  Talk to at least one person for accountability and always be honest, no matter what. The first time you “forget” to say something you allow the disorder to regain some power. It may take awhile to trust or be trusted, but it’s worth it.

Cut yourself some slack: No explanation needed.

Do you have any practical tips you want to add for anything?

Triple Digits

The way I think is usually contrary to that of the average person.

Gaining weight is hard for me, while losing weight is not something I have a problem doing. While people struggle with resisting the office bowl of candy and dessert, I struggle with adding things in I don’t think that I want. Exercise is a chore for some, while for me it is an unhealthy drug.

And while I’m an independent thinker for the most part, it can be hard to be surrounded by such a contradictory values system at times. It’s not that I don’t understand it, but rather that I sometimes have a hard time reminding myself that I have different needs.

I have a co-worker about the same age as me, and over the past year she has embarked in a weight-loss journey that has been interesting, to say the least. She was a very heavy woman, and although you wouldn’t think we would have much in common, we have actually had some great talks about our similar struggles (in very vague terms, mind you.)

She has reached the “100 lb” mark today in that she’s lost that much weight in about 10 months time. She looks like a completely different person, and she is—physically, but especially mentally. While I get the impression she might still have a lot of “issues” with her food and exercise obsession she hasn’t addressed—it takes one to know one—for the most part, she’s looked upon as healthy and strong, a model of willpower and hard work.

I’ve been supportive and complimentary along her journey—even sharing a few recipes and exercise thoughts here and there and we’ve had some nice chats—but it’s been a big struggle for me. Constant talk of early morning workouts, two-a-days, weight lost and restrictive food (to me) is hard to face on a daily basis. She prides herself on the fact she resisted the temptation of a bagel in favor of her yogurt and fruit and is applauded for her efforts (actually, I just think the others are happy there’s more for them.)

My (male) boss has even made comments that as soon as she reaches her goal, he’s taking her skydiving as a reward for all her hard work and dedication. Ummm…what?

Please don’t get me wrong in that I’m happy for her; I would be excited today as well, as I sometimes celebrate going two days without wearing the same T-shirt (I’m kidding—kind of.) But I can say with 100 percent certainty that the same attention and accolades would not be given to me if I suddenly crossed the 100 lb mark myself weight-wise, which is my first mini-goal. There would be no party.

I think I’m extra sensitive to this weight-loss celebration because although I don’t actively want to lose weight, there is still a sick sense of jealousy and that pull is still there. I see her diet, I want to restrict. I hear her talk about running, I want to go run. It’s not that I want to get smaller, but that I want to prove to myself (to others?) that I am just as strong and can be just as dedicated.

This strength and “over-will-power” we’ll call it, is what gets me stuck in the first place. In wanting to be the best at what someone else might do, I end up doing less of what might be the best for me right now.

That bring us to now

While I haven’t really talked about it, I have been trying even more diligently these past few weeks to up the calories and gain some weight (yes, again.) With the help of an incredibly supportive friend, I set up a similar blog at the same time and have been tracking my progress.

Anyway, the only difference is that my exercise is still too much and my line hasn’t gone up. While I haven’t been to the gym in months, I’ve been walking entirely too much, so it’s no surprise I haven’t gained. She has made great strides, and now I feel like I am left behind a bit, like she’s moving on without me. I’m kind of jealous, and I even had a mini freak out yesterday.

God bless her, she hasn’t ditched me yet.

But in my slightly maniacal state, I realized that her success—and that of my co-worker—isn’t a reflection of my failure. I’m not weak because I haven’t reached a goal yet, but rather aware that more changes need to be made. I can’t think myself out of this one and have to follow the example of those that have had success. Without Kim, I would have given up and settled for “meh” a long time ago.

In other words, I have nothing to be jealous of. If anything, I have two more women to look to for motivation.

And while I don’t think my boss will pay for me to jump out of an airplane when I reach my first goal, Kim might be ready to push me out as time goes on.

Let's Hope So.

 

Obsessed

FYI: I think I’ll make these a regular feature for purely selfish reasons in that a) I have many random thoughts  and b) I love your additions in the comments. They make my day.

Anyway, here is where I turn off all those readers. I need to ramble incoherently, so buckle up.

I’ve recently become obsessed with “Obsessed,” and the irony of that fact isn’t lost on me. While I in no way deny that I have food issues, I also acknowledge the fact that I’ve had OCD long before it turned into an eating disorder (I would say as early as six or seven years old.)

Anyway, I was “professionally” diagnosed with OCD about five years ago, but was always sent to ED treatment centers due to the fact that my obsessions and compulsions manifest in food and exercise. I’m underweight, and my behaviors, compulsions are rather maladaptive ways to deal with anxiety.

Simple as that, except it isn’t.

If you’ve ever watched the show, you have an idea of how seemingly illogical routines, rituals and compulsions are the only ways some people can even touch on any semblance of normality. Most of the time they’re so deeply ingrained that being a productive member of society and carrying on personal and professional obligations becomes impossible, as anything and everything revolves around the obsessions and compulsions. It’s a mental illness with biological roots, but it’s also often developed as a defense mechanism in response to a traumatic event or situation. It’s not a choice, as the thoughts take over and you feel there are no options or defense against your thoughts.

It’s a mental illness, and it stinks.

“Talk” therapy doesn’t work for me. I know what my issues are, I have a pretty clear picture of how I feel, I have no self-love/body issues and I don’t think that I’m fat. When I feel the need to exercise, it’s not to lose weight. When I feel the need to restrict, it’s not to drop a dress size. Talking about things doesn’t really help, as I need to expose myself to the anxiety-inducing experiences and challenge the thoughts that tell me these routines have to be followed, that I have to do them to feel calm.

Why am I bringing this up?

Good question, (and I’m not sure), but I think it’s in part because lately it seems to me that my indifference towards so many blogs has to do with the fact that I am kind of viewing them through a splintered lens. To be honest, I think there are  different factions of people with eating disorders. Just like OCD, eating disorders are a mental illness, something that I think many people are hesitant to admit.

There obviously is no right or wrong, there is just different, so don’t bite my head off yet.

GROUP 1

One group’s actions are truly motivated by a desire to fulfill some idea physical image they feel they need to attain for happiness or acceptance. For some people, I think it really is about the food on some basic level. Yes, they use it as a tool to manipulate their figure and their thoughts, but once they eat and restore the weight, they are seemingly “fine” over time. I’m not making light of it at all, but it’s almost as if it’s a deadly phase they eventually pass through.

All the focus goes towards food, because if it is about the food and looks, then eating more is the simple answer. There is less of a stigma. It’s a tangible act they can engage in to change their physical appearance, with a side of therapy to build self-love.

GROUP 2

For the other group, I think the development of the disorder is more deeply biologically rooted and motivated from a genuine place of anxiety over things completely unrelated to food, weight and body image. They acknowledge that the disease has everything to do with control, routines, etc. and that the mental aspect of it is the be-all and end-all of the issue.

It has nothing to do with looks or physical beauty, but everything to do with feeling restricted in their choices for no other reason than they are obsessed with finding some sort of contentment, some sort of peace from their racing thoughts. Simply put, it’s an entirely internal struggle that’s often revealed externally. The food becomes directly involved because it is one of the only things that can be completely controlled and predictable. Numbers are tangible, numbers and routines can be used to neatly classify things into tidy groups of solid evidence.

The food and/or exercise are simply one way to try and regain control, as many of these people also have other areas in their lives where they are either restrictive, impulsive or obsessive.

On “Obsessed, the patients logically know that what they’re doing is illogical, but they feel powerless against their thoughts. I can relate to this 100 times more than any ED group, book, blog or video. For me, I feel I HAVE to exercise at times, I HAVE to eat a certain way, etc. or else things go nuts in my mind and I can’t focus on anything else. I know the world won’t end, but I don’t want the discomfort–physical and mental–and I don’t want to be stuck feeling I made the wrong decision.

No, it’s not a worry about my weight or looks, but rather a worry about discomfort and chaos in my head. I want to feel clean, neat and tidy. Even though I know an extra snack here or there won’t “taint” me, it still feels unnatural in the same way that I feel anxiety when someone walks in my house with their shoes on, the toilet paper roll is put on wrong or I can’t do the dishes right away.

WRAPPING IT UP

My point is that there is so much chatter out there about what constitutes health and what constitutes disorder, when in all actuality, we all deal with our issues in different ways. I can in no way relate to those people that see food as the enemy, that are driven by a desire to look a certain way. I know there are people out there than can in no way relate to my issues, and I don’t expect them to.

Regardless of why or how you struggle from any mental illness, I do think that relative “recovery” is entirely possible. However, I believe that in most instances, it’s  impossible to just eat and think that any deeper mental issue is fed and has now disappeared.

Eating disorders are real. OCD is real. Depression is real. Sometimes they overlap, and sometimes there’s no connection.

While food/body image may be the root of the evil for some, for others it’s simply a branch on a very tangled tree. Only by exposing themselves to the anxiety head-on and learning to sit with the discomfort—learning that there are alternative actions to take without their world falling apart—can they begin to recover.

Like I said, there is no right, no wrong, but only where you are right now—and we’re all in different places. Now I just need to figure out how to get on “Obsessed” for my own hour…

We will return to lighter topics in the next post…