navigating recovery/life

I’ve been thinking about how alienating talk about recovery is when you’re sick (or even when you’re in recovery).
When you’re utterly exhausted and broken by an ED the sunshine and rainbows and inspirational quotes land of recovery seems so bizarre and unachievable. And twee and kitsch, to be honest. Even when disabled by depression my inner voice is quite snarky and cynical.

So, if you’re like me you have to model your own personal recovery.
One big point I’d like to iterate: Recovery is not returning to the way you were before.
Before is what spawned the ED. Before wasn’t working.

For me, before the ED was a traumatised childhood and a teenage years of gender dysphoria, bullying, untreated PTSD and OCD and general horribleness.
I can remember my legs collapsing under me when I tried to go to school because I was having some kind of hysterical episode. I remember crying every damn night over my maths homework which I couldn’t understand even though I’d stayed up till midnight with my parents trying to help me with it. I remember being raped and telling the school councillor who looked at this (severely underweight) queer teen from a working class background and a poor area and said sex with older men at 13 was normal and I should “grieve for the loss of my virginity” then get over it. What the everloving fuck? Gah!

The above isn’t just a cathartic info-dump of my woes. No, really. It’s a description of my Before. Oh yeah, there was good in there – I had a cat I loved, I got some good grades and met a few people who accepted me as I was. I enjoyed rock music and travelled abroad. It was cool. But I wasn’t OK. I was a traumatised child not equipped to deal with life. Oh boo hoo cry me a fucking river etc etc
SO….OK. Conclusion: Recovery is NOT about resetting myself to the state I was in before.
Instead, recovery is about finding a new way to live. A new way to be.

And I’ll be honest, I don’t know what that is right now but I’m working on it.
I feel like a child who never got the chance to test themselves in the ways which matter. I feel like a child who craves safety and nurturing. And no one but me is going to provide that. I have to find a way to give that to myself.

The only advice  I could offer anyone else is: Be fucking brutal (at least as brutal as anorexia) – cut out those parts of your life that are hurting you and keep only the OK bits. While seeking to add new parts that are more healthy and rewarding. Keep the good bits and throw away the garbage. Anorexia is part of the garbage. Self-hate is part of the garbage.

Oh look, I drew a diagram. Please feel free to use this visual model and adapt it if it works for you and your life. Drawing it certainly helped me…life copy

Building a future

Here’s a project to get stuck into: Building your own future. It’s a great creative challenge – there are no boundaries, it’s all about the positive, fulfilling needs and wants! Working with what you have at hand to build something unique and rewarding! You get prizes at the end. Woo! YAY!

Hmm.
No.
No thanks. I’m not good at keeping the positive in mind. And I don’t like the lack of boundaries, they scare me. For years and years I’ve been sticking with the familiar and unpleasant because change is hard and rewards are for other people and when it really comes down to it….I’m more motivated to avoid harm than to chase rewards. It’s the same with my internal issues – It’s easier to be EDNOS/Depressed/OCD/Anxious and be unhappy than to figure out how to climb out of the hole. 

I was burbling about how my life isn’t working to my therapist last night. I want to live alone (not with my parents), I want to share my life with animals, I want to make enough money to fund that modest lifestyle. Probably simple achievable things. Yet they feel huge and inaccessible goals. I might as well want to go to the moon and turn invisible at will (OK, I do kinda want that, too).

…I just wish I knew why I can’t make that obvious choice and go after what I want in little manageable increments, rather than seeing life as a huge insurmountable monolithic block – i.e. Something not even worth bothering with. 

I know a lot of this feeling locked out of my own future comes from my past experience
s. Life has taught me not to want and not to seek. That harm lurks around every corner. And I can’t trust myself. 
But I can intellectualise that shit, I know it’s not true.
I just find that when it comes down to it, you have to feel it’s not true, not just know it.  

 anblog2

Absurdity

I had one of those rare moments of clarity the other day.
Walking back to work after my lunch break, headphones in, not thinking about much…the absurdity of ED hit me.

Source

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Like, I just take for granted that restricting my food intake is a normal and inevitable part of life. For all my therapy and over-thinking I don’t often stop to wonder what purpose restriction is serving for me right now. How on earth did intentionally never quite eating enough to fuel and maintain my body become normal? When I state it like that, it’s bizarre. 

Oh, I say to myself, it helps quell my anxiety and helps me function. There are recognised neuro/bio reasons eating makes me feel bad. 
Well, fine, whatever. It’s still bizarre that you’ve come to unquestioningly come to accept it as an integral part of your life. 

I think sometimes it really helps to step outside yourself and examine your life and behaviour from the point of view of an alien visiting earth. How much stuff I take for granted falls apart when I try to justify and explain it?

 

Slackerexic

Phew – day off today. I only work part time but I volunteer and see a therapist once a week and somehow I’ve even started socialising a little bit.

I am so relieved I can do this now. What would have been overwhelming a while ago is now possible. And I’m gently pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. But…I still feel a bit overwhelmed these days and I know I have to be firm about my boundaries and limits. I used to feel so ashamed that I couldn’t be a high achiever, couldn’t tick off ALL the boxes: relationship, kids, house, career, experiences etc etc. It’s a constant conscious effort to say fuck that, I’m still valid as a human being and my priorities have to be coping first, glittering prizes second. Yeah, it’d be nice to have amassed more traditional life milestones and achievements. But there’s no need to be ashamed of not being a high achiever. Really, it’s true! I’m pretty sure you only have to be ashamed of the actual shameful stuff you do, like being a shitty human being, causing harm that sort of thing. And I can honestly say that I’m in the clear in that respect. I may feel guilty and ashamed but when I stop and think I’ve not actually done anything awful. 

I don’t know how accurate this stereotype of the manically drive, high-achieving person with anorexia is. The good girls who study hard, people please and excel at sport. The working mothers balancing a career, raising kids and having a social life. All the while starving and feeling trapped on the treadmill. For decades. I’m in awe of these superwomen who show up in the case studies. I’ve never met one though. 
I’ve never, ever been that together. When I’m below a certain weight I can hardly cope day to day, let alone hold down a full-time job or studies. I’m still broke and struggling at 30 (largely thanks to my decade lost in anorexia and depression). 
So… any other slacker-exics out there? Where are all my average folks struggling with EDs?

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Change, choice, responsibility

When I first really sought treatment for my ED I was physically, mentally and emotionally very sick. I couldn’t choose recovery or take responsibility for my own care – that’s why I’d finally reached out in desperation, with the last of my energy, to people I hoped could save me.

They of course told me I needed to “choose recovery” and take responsibility for my health. I was bereft! Seeking help was about all the responsibility I was able to take at that point and I needed guidance and help. Instead I kept hearing that hateful phrase “What do you want to get out of this?” I had no answer of course. Not to feel shitty? Not to die?

I wish healthcare providers would stop trying to foist responsibility on ED patients who are not ready to shoulder it. Treat the illness, save the person. Don’t try and give them “coping tools” or encourage them to save themselves. They can’t. Nobody chooses to become anorexic, it’s a complex illness with neuro/bio (& psycho/social) causes. Likewise, you can’t just choose to get better. That’s just hurtful victim blaming. 

…However, I’m also quite keen on the Jungian ideal of treating the person as a whole, as opposed to focusing on just exorcising their pathological symptoms. Clearly, most people’s psychic malodies, their disorders and neuroses weren’t caught like someone might catch a cold. They’re part of the person and their maladjusted approach to life, an SOS from the subconscious. Just because they might have only shown up recently that doesn’t mean they weren’t bubbling under the conscious surface for a long while.

I’m convinced that by the time you show symptoms of an ED something has been Not Right With You for a long time. And ED is a last, desperate attempt to cope from someone who is struggling. I personally think my AN was a big “NO”. Overwhelmed by life for many years I eventually ran out of energy and had to put up boundaries. Nothing went in, no feeling, no food. It was a symbolic way of pushing all that messy, invasive, scary life away.

big no

Kinda like this.

But does that matter by the time you show up, dull-eyed, starving and suicidal at the Dr’s office? No. At that point they need to get you medicated, medically stable, furnished with emergency phone numbers and intensively helped with the basics like how to eat, how to leave the house despite your anxiety and get to the therapists.

I wasn’t unmotivated or reluctant to recover, I was incapable and terrified.

Like Carrie Arnold says in one of her excellent blog posts – the recaltriant non-compliant patient is a myth – it’s just that a lot of us can’t take the help offered. We can’t pick up those tools and make use of them. We need people to take that responsibility and do it for us.

So what am I blogging about here? I guess I’m saying that people with active EDs need nuts & bolts basic help, handholding and direction when they reach out for help. Sure, you’re just treating the immediate symptom of a deep psychic malaise but it’s important to provide help, not just the opportunity to pursue help. Because otherwise, many of us would actually be dead before we even made it to the top of the psychotherapy waiting list. 

And the deep psychic malaise can be explored later. I’m in therapy now and I’m able to make use of it because I’m not starving and I’m more mature. This is me taking a responsible step to cement my recovery. I wouldn’t have been here to do this if I hadn’t got the basic nutritional and medical support (eventually) when I reached out for help. 

So, to finish I’d just like to emphasise – developing an ED wasn’t your choice or your responsibility or your fault. Fuck anyone who tries to tell you you chose it and you just have to choose to get better. You’ll probably need to reach out for help, be that in the Dr’s office or from online support or from your friends. Do that, do it sooner rather than later and stand up for yourself and your needs. You deserve it. Yes, even you. 

Its been a while here’s where I’m at

My weight goes up and down, within acceptable limits.
My depression and anxiety is gradually lifting thanks to the prozac (and no thanks to the NHS who have had me on a waiting list for a therapist for over a year and a half). I’m feeling a lot stronger and more at ease with my weird self.
I’m settled on describing myself as genderqueer and have stopped worrying so much about whether I’m trans or just can’t deal with our cultures bogus gender roles or whatever. Neutral pronouns please.
I’ve been working a bit. Little baby steps into the adult world, being around people. My confidence has grown exponentially with every day I get through and don’t fuck up (or get attacked or summon cthulhu or whatever it is I’m actually afraid of).
I still live in an emotionally incestuous tense little knot with my parents but hey, right now were all getting on so things are OK.
I turned 30 and only freaked out a *little bit* about being so old and such a pathetic underachiever.

Anyway, I don’t know why I stopped posting here but right now I’m inspired to start again. I think I might be having a teeny tiny micro mini relapse – I’ve been restricting for two weeks and feel the urge to dive back into reading about EDs…but even recognising this shows I’ve come a long way.

Privilege Denial

Is fat really the worst thing a human being can be?
I was going to blog about something else today but then I saw this article on Jezebel and its really bugging me.

In case you don’t have the time or inclination to click the link, the gist of the matter is: – This woman, Britton Delizia, has started a kickstarter campaign to raise money to create a book celebrating “thin and beautiful women”. Fine, fine, that could possibly be done well, as long as it celebrates the women as people first, rather than bodies and doesn’t objectify them. As long as it’s saying thin isn’t the only acceptable shape…
But of course, it’s not at all body-positive or female-positive. It’s a pile of delusional, thin privilege denying fuckery. Because, apparently she and other thin women are being persecuted for being thin. Apparently we live in a world where “fat culture is protected”.

Uh….no.

Thin Privilege exists. How can you not be aware of that? How can you deny that?! According to these figures on the ANAD website, 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat. As a thin person, Britton Delizia can open a magazine or turn on the TV and see people who look like her represented in the vast majority. Obese Americans make less than their thinner co-workers. For whatever it’s worth, Anti-fat bias gets a wikipedia article.
If you are thin, you are privileged over someone who is fat. Fact. Our culture holds much, much more positive views about thin people and this will positively impact on the ease with which you progress through life. Of course, having privilege in this one respect doesn’t mean your life will be wonderful. And sure, thin people can be body-shamed, too. And it sucks for everyone. No one is denying that by saying fat people in general have it worse. And guess what, changing our culture to be more accepting (even respectful!) of fat people does not diminish the acceptance and respect you have as a thin person. It’s not about fat versus thin, it’s about accepting all bodies and also looking past the body and seeing the person. Pitting fat against thin in some ridiculous adverserial contest is not helpful, it’s a distraction from the real enemy – a culture that defines people (especially women) by their bodies and keeps us striving to conform to a shallow and narrow beauty standard just to feel worthy of existing.
It’s telling that when someone wants to insult a woman, most often the first insult of choice is one relating to weight. Usually that happens to be calling them fat, sometimes it’s calling them them thin. Either way I’d rather have my intellect, my moral character, my politics insulted if only to acknowledge I’m more than just a body to be looked at.

OK. Rant over. I just had to get that off my chest.

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