Friday, 31 August 2012

Disney Characters' 'New Look'

I love Disney. Really, I do. When I was young, I loved watching all their movies. Okay, Okay. I STILL love watching their movies. And I loved the characters - Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, etc. I've been to DisneyWorld, DisneyLand, and DisneyLand Paris. And if I ever got the chance, I'd go back there anytime!

So you can imagine how shocked I was when I read this: http://ca.shine.yahoo.com/blogs/fashion/minnie-mouse-daisy-duck-whittled-down-barney-8217-172800382.html

Go to the link and see for yourself. That's right. The picture is of Minnie Mouse, wearing fashionable/designer clothes. I could NOT believe that Disney agreed to change the way their characters look just to advertise for designer clothes!

What really makes me angry is the fact that all the characters were made thinner and taller. This does not even look like Minnie Mouse anymore! Why couldn't they just dress Minnie in the designer clothes, but keep her original size and look?! Why did they have to make her look so...emaciated and 'model-like'?

A while ago, I wrote a blog about the media (http://anorexiarecovery1.blogspot.ca/2012/07/thin-is-not-in.html). Think about it: the media is always using models who are unrealistically thin and beautiful, just to get people to purchase their products. And don't get me started on the photoshop and technology that they use to enhance these images. And now DISNEY is doing the same with their loveable and 'family-friendly' characters?

What does this picture show little kids? That you have to be extremely tall and thin in order to wear brand-name clothes? That the original Disney characters' size wasn't 'good enough'?! That to be famous and beautiful and wear rich clothing you have to lose your original body and shape? Obviously, this is a big problem. I saw this and was shocked - what will little kids do? I'm not necessarily saying that this is going to cause eating disorders (although it could lead to it), but I AM saying that this is giving out the wrong types of messages to children WORLDWIDE. And for those already with body-image issues or eating disorders, this is only reaffirming that the world places way too much stress on being thin.

Does this fuel ED? For me, it does not. But it certainly makes me angry. And it makes me want to walk into people's homes and shout 'LOVE YOURSELF FOR WHO YOU ARE! THIN IS NOT IN!'.

I'm still in love with Disney movies and their ORIGINAL characters. But this is not working for me.


Thursday, 30 August 2012

Culture

When my family first realized that I had a problem with food and weight, they were really confused. My parents were frightened because they did not quite understand what anorexia was. I mean, my father knew about eating disorders from his practice, but he did not have much experience with it. Needless to say, both of my parents were shocked that I had ED.

My culture - one from the Middle East - is BIG on food. Every occasion includes big fancy meals and dishes. If a guest comes over, the best thing you can do for them is to feed them. If you do not eat a meal at a friend's house, you are being 'disrespectful'. If you do not offer people food when they come over, you are being a bad host. Your host will continuously offer you food, a drink, or even a snack until you say yes. And when you say no, they will keep pestering you until you agree. If you do not agree to something, they will most likely get you something anyways! The fact is that eating disorders are not as commonly reported in Middle Eastern countries. Notice that I said reported. Studies like http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8178219 show that although many people suffer with eating disorders in these countries, they typically are afraid to admit it because of how the culture will react.

So, you can see how confusing and well - weird - it was when it was found that I had anorexia. A Middle-Eastern person, having a problem with food? How? Why?

My parents soon educated themselves about eating disorders. They went to creditable websites to learn all that they could. NEDIC - National Eating Disorder Information Centre (http://www.nedic.ca/) is a great place to start. They educated themselves as much as they could. Of course, it is important that not everything you read about eating disorders applies to all patients. But, the standard symptoms (starvation, low self-esteem, body image distortions, etc) are usually present in most victims.

After my family learned about anorexia, it was easier for them to understand what I was going through. It did not make my illness any less-threatening, but it certainly helped them to see why I was afraid of food, why I was acting the way I was, and why I was so resistant to getting help.

Regardless of what culture you are from, I think it is pretty safe to say that not many people know a lot about eating disorders. I suppose this is a main reason why I am writing this blog - I want people to know about ED, to learn about it, and to see how debilitating it is for patients. I pray that this blog helps people to, in turn, help others with ED - or help prevent ED from controlling others.

**As a side note, here are some useful websites that may have information you'd like to read about eating disorders**
1) National Eating Disorder Centre: http://www.nedic.ca/
2) Canadian Mental Health Association: ttp://www.cmha.ca/mental-health/understanding-mental-illness/eating-disorders/
3) Eating Disorder Foundation of Canada: http://www.edfofcanada.com/mission.php
4) Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (this page leads you to worldwide links about eating disorders) : http://www.feasted.org/LocalSupport/AdvocacyandSupportOrganizations.aspx

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

I don't have a problem!

If you have ever struggled with a health issue (or any other issue for that matter), you probably know that it is very hard to admit that you have a problem. I mean, no one wants to look 'weak' or 'powerless' in front of others. So, it is simply easier to deny that there is anything wrong. However, this backfires when you fall deeper and deeper into the problem, as it soon becomes harder to get help or to get better.

Anorexics usually struggle with this. I did too. It is very hard to see that you have a problem. Now that I am better, I can reflect back on my experiences and see just how sick I was. But deep into ED, I could not see that I was dying. I mean, I knew I had a problem...but it did not seem as serious as everyone said it was.

There is actually research that anorexics do not see themselves the same way that others do. The visual cortex is anorexics seems to be less active when looking at themselves versus when they look at others. I encourage you to visit http://www.drsarahravin.com/web/pdf/AN-Guisinger-article.pdf to see the evidence. This article shows how the anorexic visual cortex responds when looking at her/himself, compared to when looking at others. Shocking!

What does this mean? In simple terms, it means that when I looked at myself when I was sick, I truly did not see that I was dying. Actually, in all fairness, I COULD NOT see it. My brain was not wired to see that. However, evidence shows that as victims recover, the brain responds accordingly and it begins to see things as they really are. I suppose that is why recovery gets easier as you continue it - it is like I am training my brain all over again.

Admitting that I had a problem took a lot of bravery. I did not want everyone to say 'see, I told you so' or 'I knew it that whole time!'. But, if I wanted to get better, I had to ignore anything that ED said.

Do not say that you are ill. Do not say that you think you may need help. People will be all over you! They will tell you that they were right all along and you will never hear the end of it! People will talk about you, gossip about you, and always be on your back. You are not sick. You do not need anyone or anything.

My response? ED, the last time I listened to you, I got sick. And every other time that I decided to listen to you, you only made my life worse and more miserable. You took away everything from me - my family, my friends, my school, my health...my life. Why should I listen to you now, time and time again? I know that listening to you only makes me worse. I do not care if anyone talks about me, or claims that they always knew that I was sick. Recovery is about MY life, MY well-being, MY freedom. So, today, I am making the choice NOT to listen to you, ED, anymore.

So what? I'm ill with an eating disorder. There. I said it. And I am NOT ashamed.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Starvation 'feels' good...?

I realize that you are probably staring at this title, mouth wide open, wondering how on earth I could write such a thing. How can feeling pain in your stomach possibly be enjoyable? Just stay with me...I'll explain.

Endorphins are neurotransmitters - chemicals produced by thy hypothalamus and pituitary gland during exercise, excitement, pain, and more. They mimic opiates in that they have an analgesic effect. That is, they promote a feeling of 'goodness' or 'well-being'. When you go through a painful thing (ex. a cut), endorphins are released in order to prevent pain signals from being transmitted. So, you may feel a sense of 'power' that helps you get through the pain.

So, why am I telling you about endorphins? Well, studies on anorexia have actually discovered that endorphins are released when not enough calories are being consumed. The body does this because it wants to protect itself - if your body is starving, it does not want you to die. So, the body releases endorphins to make you feel 'powerful'. In fact, I experienced this myself. When I was not eating enough, I really did not feel that weak and tired. Actually, most of the time, I felt powerful, strong, and full of energy. The interesting thing is that this was my body's way of handling the stress of the lack of food.

When the anorexic begins to eat normally again, the high rush of endorphins decreases back to normal levels. Thus, victims of ED feel down, angry, dissatisfied, and sad. This is because the endorphin-high that used to be there is no longer present. This makes it harder for anorexics to continue in treatment and recovery - I mean, why would you want to stop feeling that rush of power and energy? (For more information, see http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/documentStore/m/e/d/med22d00/Smed22d00.pdf).

This happened to me as well. Once I began to eat again, I felt angry, frustrated, and...icky. My mood was terrible, even though I was eating. It all makes sense - the endorphin levels in body resumed back to normal when my body realized it was getting nourishment, so I no longer felt the 'high power' that the endorphin rush gave me.

However, as I trudge my way through recovery, I am noticing that I am feeling a lot better. To be honest, sometimes I feel more tired than my starvation days - but that is because now my body is busy at work, trying to fix everything that ED destroyed. But, my mood has definitely improved - I can smile and laugh a lot more than before! I also no longer wish to isolate myself, which is a great thing!

So, like almost everything else in recovery (and on this blog!), recovery sometimes feel worse before it gets better. The road to becoming healthy is filled with challenges, pains, struggles, and annoyances that make me want to give up. But every moment of happiness, every glimpse of freedom makes me realize that this is what I need to do. Yes, it is hard and it really makes me tired. But I know that in the long run, I will be VERY grateful that I chose life over ED.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Sleeping

If you are anything like me, you know the value of a good night's sleep. After a long and tiring (and not to mention busy!) day, all you need is to put your head on a comfortable pillow, close your eyes, and let the night pass in peace. Hopefully, you awake the next morning and realize that you have slept well and are now refreshed, ready to meet the day's challenges.

But what happens when you DO NOT sleep? Well, obviously, you get tired. You feel lazy and grumpy and you simply do not want to do anything. You get headaches. And you are frusrated because you just spent seven or eight hours laying on your bed, trying to sleep. The worst feeling is being up all alone at night when you know that everyone else is sound asleep.

ED robs his victims of sleep - simply because he likes to take away all happy moments from our lives. ED made me stay awake for every waking moment of the day. I could not sleep at night because ED made me starve all day, so the hunger pains in my stomach were simply too strong to ignore. The rumblings in my gut caused me severe discomfort, but ED told me to ignore them - to keep starving myself. All night I would lay in bed, reviewing what I had eaten during the day. ED reminded me of every morsel of food that I ate, criticizing me for every ounce of nourishment my body had received. He insulted me for not doing any physical activity. And so, during the night when everyone was asleep, I would have ED as company - unwanted and uninvited.

Foolish girl! Weak and lazy! How could you live with yourself, knowing that you ate ...... (insert food here) today?! How could you be so fat, not doing any activity? What will happen tomorrow? You will have gained weight. You will become fat. Insolent girl! Useless and undeserving of life!

Eventually, I broke down. In the ICU, ED kept me awake because he scared me with insults, threats of death, and more. I was put on medication to help me go to sleep....and thank God, they worked! Within an hour of taking my medication, I now fall asleep soundly. Does ED still try to haunt me at night? Of course he does. But I always try to ignore him, giving him no opportunity to ridicule me. He still ltries to creep in during my dreams, mocking me about my weight, shape, food, relationships, etc. But whenever I have a bad dream, I wake up and say a quick prayer, asking the Lord to give me peace and comfort.

And I know that ED will always try to tease me, whether I am awake or asleep. But another thing I know is that I have God on my side - and He is stronger than ED.

Because Jesus has said to '...be of good cheer. For I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). ED is in for a big surprise!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

How you can help

If you discover that your child has ED, it can be really scary. You might be confused as to WHY your child is ill, why they are acting this way, and why they just can't eat! If your friend has ED, you may want to do anything to help, but you are confused as to what you can actually do. Having anorexia has made me somewhat more aware of the things that helped, and those which did not help me while I was sick. I hope this can help you as well!

WHAT NOT TO DO/SAY

-"You look really thin. You need to eat something" (victim gets defensive and feels offended that you are telling them to eat)
-"WHY CAN"T YOU JUST EAT?!" (Okay, this one drove me crazy. I can't 'just eat' because I have an illness that forbids me from eating. Why can't cancer patients just kill their cancer cells? Point proven).
-"Do you have cancer or something?" (In a sense, ED is kind of like cancer. Hearing this made me feel like the other person was mocking me - it was obvious that I was sick, so why were people asking?!)
-"Just ignore the eating disorder. You are going to die" (Well, you are right. This can kill me. But telling me to ignore it is undermining the complexity of the illness. It takes a lot more than just 'ignoring' ED to recover)
-Don't tell the victim to go eat something. Chances are, they WILL NOT do that. Instead, try asking them if they would like to have a meal together - maybe this will ease their anxiety. If they decline, don't keep pushing. The patient is not trying to be rude; they are just scared and ED is screaming at them
-Don't stop inviting them to parties or get-together just because they always say 'no'. The victim's ED wants to isolate him/her. If you stop inviting them to gatherings, ED will take more advantage of this and tell the victim that they are not welcome with their friends because they are useless, fat, ugly, etc.
-Don't call any of their symptoms 'stupid'. Saying that starvation is stupid does not help the victim - it only makes him/her feel less-confident and bad about themselves.

WHAT CAN BE HELPFUL

-When the time is right, approach the person and say that you are worried. You have noticed that she/he looks a bit different or ill, and you want to know how you can help them. The victim will usually take this as a supportive approach.
-Ask the person if you can help them find resources. Maybe you can drive them to a doctor's appointment or to go see a dietitian or therapist.
-Offer to take them out for a small snack or meal. If they refuse or decline, make another commitment to do something with them. Sometimes, the patient will agree to a gathering, and maybe this can encourage them to stop isolating
-Let them know that getting treatment for their eating disorder is not wrong or shameful. It is an illness like any other disease. Getting professional help - in any form - is important. Tell them that you are there for them - to support, to love, to care, etc.
-Check-in with the victim often. Give them a call to ask if they are alright. Make them feel loved and important. This can help their self-esteem and isolation.

I'm sure there are so many other tips and things to do or not do. But these are just a few that I could think of. I guess the most important thing to remember is that ED IS an illness and it is not something that the patient chooses. Therefore, teasing them or mocking their illness will only make them isolate more. Be patient with them and show them love. They need all the care and support they can get.

In my experience, I do not know what I would do without all the lovely people in my life who never left my side. To my readers, family, friends, and Church community - THANK YOU. You have all done the above with me - and even more. Your continuous support and love is what got me through my darkest days. I am forever grateful and indebted to you all. May the Lord bless all of you for your service!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Anxiety

Do you remember what I said yesterday about depression being a co-morbid condition with anorexia? Well, anxiety is the same. Anxiety is not your everyday worry...it is much more. People with anxiety disorder get extremely nervous and worked up over what appears to be trivial things to others. They have real panic attacks, such as hyperventilating, sweating, heart palpitations, etc. But, in some cases, anxiety can manifest itself through other symptoms, such as simply being really worried about something.

I had extreme anxiety around food and weight. ED made me look at food and instantly begin to panic. Look at all that food! You are going to get fat. Imagine that food, sitting inside your gut, making you expand minute by minute. Making you look fat. Adding weight to your body. You must find a way not to eat. Whatever you do, whatever it takes, DO NOT EAT THE FOOD.

ED made me really anxious! I would look at the food and become afraid. I'd think of my weight and body and freak out. I wanted to run away. I'd look at the time and hear my stomach rumble - a sign that it wanted nourishment. And I would become anxious about how I would skip the next meal, how I would survive throughout the day if I did not eat anything. And, if I actually ate something - no matter how small it was - ED made me even more anxious.

You fool! You ate an apple! Why?! Could you not stand the stomach pains for the rest of the evening without stuffing your face? Think of how fat you will become! The weight that you will gain! You weakling!

And it went on and on. I could do nothing right. If I did not eat, I felt anxious because I was out of energy, but I had to appear strong in front of everyone else. If I ate, I had to withstand the torments of ED, criticizing me for eating. I was trapped.

Getting over anxiety is difficult. There are medications that can help, such as atypical neuropeptides (non addictive but slow-acting medications) or benzodiazepines (fast-acting but addictive medications). I never went on any of these, but I have heard great things about atypical neuropeptides helping those with anxiety disorder (note: I was never diagnosed with anxiety. If I had been, I would certainly have taken the medication to help me get better). In my case, simple but effective strategies helped me get over the worry. First, my mom taught me to take deep breaths. I know, I know. This sounds simple and funny. But, believe me, it WORKS. The next time you feel worried, stop and take a long deep breath. Stretch out your arms and expand your lungs. Yup, it sure feels good and relaxing!

Something I had to teach myself was to argue against ED, or to simply ignore him. If he was making me anxious before I ate, I distracted myself with homework, reading, watching a movie, etc. This way, I could drown out his voice. If he told me that I was going to gain weight and become fat, I made sure that I did not listen to his voice; rather, I kept myself busy with something at all times. Now, when I feel ED's voice getting louder and louder, I immediately get up and do something - anything. This keeps my mind far off from ED and immersed into something else.

Now, I can proudly say that my anxiety has decreased A LOT. Of course, there are things that I need to work on, like my worry before a test or each time I get weighed. But, it will take time.

One step at a time, I'm getting closer and closer to recovery. And if that means I have to keep busy all the time to shut ED out, I will do it.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Depression

Have you ever had one of those days when you feel so down? You know what I'm talking about. That day when you feel tired - of working, of studying, of dealing with problems...of life in general. Most people would say that they feel 'depressed' that day. But, is it REALLY depression?

The simple answer is no, it is not clinical depression. Yes, you may feel terrible and bored and angry, but this feeling will usually go away by the end of the day or after doing something fun. But clinical depression is so much more than that. It is characterized by feeling down, sad, moody, tired, not energetic, etc. for a long period of time - the diagnostic criteria is usually around 6 months. When you are depressed, it is very hard to get your mood up. It seems as though nothing will make you feel better.

Depression is a co-morbid condition with anorexia or eating disorders. This means that when a patient suffers from ED, he/she is likely to also suffer from depression. Researchers are not sure whether or not the ED actually causes the depression, or if it was there before ED arrived. Either way, the fact remains that victims with ED usually experience depression.

In my darkest days, I experienced depression. I wanted to be socially withdrawn from everyone - sometimes even my family. ED wanted me to isolate, to keep to myself at all times. I became very lethargic and not energetic - partly because I was not eating enough, but also because the depression got to me. I felt sad all the time. Movies that used to make me howl with laughter ceased to even bring a smile upon my face. Jokes did not brighten up my day. Things I used to enjoy doing like reading, writing, and solving puzzle became boring. Having fun was a chore and something I did not want to do. Each morning, I would get up from my bed and feel lazy - not wanting to get out of bed because I felt that there was no point in living. Every night, I would spend hours twisting and turning on my bed, thinking about how terrible I felt all day long. ED would repeat his insults, mocking me and making me feel even worse.

You fat, lazy girl. Look how much you ate today! You are gaining weight. You are useless. No one wants to be around you, so avoid all people. And there is no reason for you to be happy or to laugh. Just stick with me. You do not need the world or anything in it. You just need me.

So, ED tok advantage of my low mood and made me fall deeper and deeper into his trance. He convinced me that there was nothing worth living for - that death would be more comforting and relieving. And so, for about 1 year, I can say that I was depressed.

I did not get medication for depression until I entered into the hospital in April. There are many types of medications for depression, including selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and other antidepressants. SSRIs are non-additive, so it is quite easy to wean patients off of them. I was put on 2 kinds of SSRIs - but not for depression, only for sleep (sleeping was very difficult - more on that in another blog!). However, since I was taking the SSRIs, they did help with my mood (my case was very very very mild depression, so I did not need high doses of the medications). And although I was very reluctant to take any medication, I must admit that they have helped me a great deal. I have noticed a big difference in my sleep - after taking the medication, I am asleep within forty minutes to one hour.

In terms of my mood, the medications have definitely helped. But since I was not diagnosed with clinical depression, the best thing that helped me lift my mood was getting my life back. Eating proper meals that nourished my starved body and brain helped the chemicals in my brain. (When you are depressed, there is less serotonin in your brain - the 'happy' or 'feel good' chemical. Medications for depression work by stopping the uptake of serotonin - basically, it increases the amount of the 'feel good' hormone in the brain, so you feel better). Going out with my friends, watching funny movies with my family, and shutting out ED has been the best cure for my mood.

My point? If you are suffering from depression, please get help. I know that it is hard to admit that you may have a problem, but we are human! Asking your doctor about medications or techniques to help you will certainly pay off in the long run.

In my case, depression was not a co-morbid condition with ED. Instead, ED decided to rob me of my happiness and cheery spirit. Thankfully, I exposed ED and let him know that he was NOT going to take my joy from my soul. I got help, and I am happy to say that today, I do not struggle with depression. Instead, the everlasting joy of the Lord fills my heart. What a blessing!


Thursday, 23 August 2012

What does Recovery look like?

You're probably staring at this title and thinking, 'OBVIOUSLY recovery means that you are not a little twig anymore'. Well, in one way, you are right. Being recovered means that I will no longer look like the skeleton I looked like in April 2012. It means that I will begin to have a normal body - one suitable for my age, height, gender, etc. It means that my body will be healthy.

But recovery is so much more than just the physical changes. Mentally, recovery means that I will be able to eat food without feeling guilty after every meal or snack. It means that my appetite will return, and that I will actually enjoy eating - just like everyone else does. Recovery entails blocking ED's voice out, especially when he tells me that I am fat or lazy for eating. Or when he tells me that I should feel terrible for nourishing my body.

Emotionally, recovery means that I will feel better - happier, safer, and more at peace. I will not feel as if the world is judging me based on what my weight or body shape is. It means that I can look in the mirror and like what I see - or at least accept that this is my body. It means not feeling anxious before, after, or during meals. Recovering from ED means that I will no longer feel depressed or sad about the things that ED tells me (You are so fat. You have gained so much weight. You are hideous. You are powerless and useless).

Socially, recovery means that I will be more prepared to be around others. I will not be concerned that they will call me fat or tease me about my weight. I will not be worried if there is food in a gathering because I will know how to handle it. I will be able to go out with others and have a good time - without letting ED tag along for the party.

Spiritually, recovery means that I will realize that my body belongs to Christ. That it is not mine; it is a gift that I must take care of, before returning it to the Lord. It means that I will cherish and take care of my body the way God intended. I will shut ED out as my master and welcome Jesus to fill my heart with His peace and comfort.

In general, recovering from ED means that I will be free. I will be free to eat when my body tells me that it needs energy. I will feel free to laugh, to smile, to enjoy my life. I will feel safe to be around others. I will be able to look into the mirror, and for once, appreciate the body that God has given me. I can stand proud and be confident in my abilities and talents - and not focus on my weight and shape. I can block ED's voice and ignore his ruthless demands. I can be the independent young woman that God wants me to be - independent of ED and his lies.

So, what does recovery look like?

Well, to put one word on it: FREEDOM.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Eating: before, after, during

Recovering from ED takes a lot more work than you'd think. If the patient is underweight, the obvious thing is to get them to a healthy weight. Sounds easy, right?

Wrong. It would be easy if we were talking about someone without ED. However, victims with ED are absolutely terrified of food. So, getting them to eat is a challemge. And, if you are lucky enough to get them to eat, you have to persuade them to eat enough. Then, you have to help them finish all their food.

Before I eat, I am anxious because I know that I am about to put food into my mouth. ED is screaming, telling me not to touch the food. To make up an excuse not to eat. To only take a little bite, and no more. To look at the food and see myself getting fat because of it.

While I'm eating, I try to distract myself. I try not to focus on the food. I mean, it tastes good and all, but I have ED telling me that I am weak. Powerless. Fiflthy for consuming food. Lazy and useless for giving in to my body's demands for nourishment. A failure at life.

After I've eaten - which is already horrifying - I have a gazillion feelings rushing through me. There is guilt because I have eaten - I have consumed the very thing that I am very afraid of. There is anxiety because ED tells me that I will gain weight. There is hatred for myself for being so greedy, so weak because I actually ate something.

So, you can see how ED can torment me all day long. He talks to me before I eat, while I'm eating, and after I'm done eating! And it hurts. He knows just what to say to get me down, to make me feel horrible and not confident. To make me cry.

The solution? Well, I wish there was a quick fix. I suppose I have learned to drown his voice whenever he decides to invade my brain. While I am eating, I talk with my friends or family - this lessens the focus on the food. If we can, we plan games like Table Topics or Scruples (by the way, anyone should invest in these! They are great!). After I am finished eating, I make sure that I know what I am going to do next - be it a puzzle, studying, calling my friends, watching TV, reading, etc. This ensurse that ED cannot creep in and distract me from my life - I am one step ahead of him. I'll be too busy to listen to his annoying and hurtful comments.

Before I eat...well, if all is well, I am great at keeping myself busy. I have trained myself not to think about the food before I have eaten it. This way, my entire day is not consumed about thoughts of weight, shape, food, etc. I love to do things - anything. Distractions or activities are a lot of fun, and they sure do keep my mind off ED. Whether it is writing this blog, reading a good book, shopping with my friends, watching a movie - I have a back-up plan against ED at all times.

Who would have imagined that a simple and mandatory thing in life - providing my body with the nourishment it needs to function - could be so much work?! Well, that is ED for you. He is relentless; he will not stop nor give up easily. The only way to be sure that he does not have the upper hand is to be on duty, watching out for him 24/7. Tiring? Of course.

But worth it? Definitely.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Isolation

No one likes to be alone for a long time. You start to feel lonely, and you long for someone - anyone - to break the silence that you are living in. You want to speak to someone, to stay with someone, to feel connected and loved. This is a basic human need - we all want to be surrounded by people sometimes.

ED takes this away from his victims. Deep into ED, I wanted to completely isolate myself. Any gatherings or outings probably included food, so I had to avoid them. I did not want to go there and be the only one not eating, and then have to explain (or lie!) that I had already eaten before, was not hungry, etc. Get-togethers also meant that I would see other people - people who were (as ED put it) prettier, smarter, thinner, and more-loved and important than I was. So, why would I go to such things that would only increase my anxiety and worry? Simple. I would not go. I would isolate myself.

In truth, I was not COMPLETELY isolated. I had ED with me the entire time. When no one was around to speak to, ED talked to me. He told me how fat, ugly, hideous, stupid, and useless I was. He whispered insult after insult into my head. He reprimanded me for feeling hungry or wanting to eat something. He called me names when I felt like meeting with people. He told me I was no good, and that the best solution was to stay away from people and only stick with him. And for the longest time, I blindly listened.

But now, in recovery, I am realizing that isolation is NOT fun. I miss my friends, my school, and my family. I want to go out with my friends and watch a movie, go to the park, shop in the mall, go bowling, etc. I want to have a nice conversation with my friends. I want to feel the warmth of having people around me, of sharing stories, of laughing at funny stories, etc. I now feel the innate need to be loved and be around others. If food is part of the gathering and I have not eaten my meals, I will eat. If I have already eaten my meals, then I can confidently explain that I have already eaten - and this time around, it WILL NOT be a lie. I can surround myself with people that I love and who love me. I can feel safe, happy, and comforted that I belong - that to others, I am important and wanted.

ED hates this. And he is constantly making up excuses why I SHOULD NOT go out or meet with people. You are too ugly and fat. You have gained a lot of weight and everyone will notice and comment. You will look so terrible that people will talk about you - or even behind your back. They do not want you around. You do not need them. I am all you need.

Well, ED, you are NOT what I need - or want, for that matter. You are, in fact, the main reason why I am choosing to go out. I no longer want or take refuge in your company. I am surrounding myself with people who love me because I deserve that - to be loved, cared for, and wanted. I am filling my life with important people and precious moments of happiness. And guess what? There is no more room for you in my life. Move over, ED, here comes my life.

Monday, 20 August 2012

God's Plan

Have you ever taken a few moments in your day to stop and reflect on WHY you are here. What is your purpose on this Earth? What plan does God have for you?

I was always a curious child, so questions were constantly filling my head. Now, in walked ED. And that put even MORE questions about my existence in my head. Why did I get ED? Why me, of all people? What is God's plan for me? Doesn't He know that I am suffering because of anorexia? What good can come from this? Why can't He take away all my suffering and free me from this misery? In short, WHY AM I HERE?!

Being a victim of ED has brought me down to my lowest points in life. I have endured innumerable days of starvation, hardly eating anything and feeling the rumbles and groans in my stomach. I have felt my stomach being empty - void of any nourishment or food. I have seen my clothes slipping off me, elastics and belts doing nothing to keep pants up. I have felt others being reluctant to hug me out of fear that they would break my fragile bones. I have slept and awaken to fears of gaining weight and becoming fat. I have lived two months in the hospital and ICU, not knowing whether or not I would see my loved ones the next day.

So, after all of this, you can imagine that I am confused as to what God has in store for me, Why is He allowing me to suffer not only the effects of anorexia, but also the challenges in recovery? Why can't He just cure me and not allow me to go through this?

I've always been a firm believer in my faith, and I suppose that this case is no different. Deep down, I am 100%  certain that God does in fact have a plan for me. Perhaps God allowed me to suffer with ED in order to bring awareness to others about this horrible monster. Maybe God let me go through this illness because He wanted to teach me to value my life - every waking moment that I am alive and healthy. Or maybe God wants me to help others with eating disorders, or to teach parents/family members about how to prevent/help someone with ED. Suppose God wants to teach me that suffering is not always a bad thing - that I can learn a great deal from my trails and obstacles.

Now, I can think of reasons why God is letting me endure these harships, but this certainly does not take the challenges away. However, it gives me a sense of hope. A feeling that this too shall pass, and that the light at the end of the tunnel is well worth the present darkness. That in suffering with ED, I will emerge as a stronger and more confident individual, one who has seen terrible moments in her life but has persevered through them all. I will learn to cherish my friends, my family, and most of all, my own body and well-being. I will let others know that they are beautiful for who they are, and that no one has the right to say otherwise. I will praise the Lord's name continually, for He is the One who has guided me through my obstacles. I will worship Him and adore Him always, because He never left my side - regardless of what I was going through.

For God has said, "be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified... for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deutronomy 31:6).

Sunday, 19 August 2012

In the Moment

Do you ever find your mind rushing to the future, or spinning back to the past? You know the feeling - you are sitting in front of loads of work that needs to get done, but all you can do right now is think OUTSIDE of the present moment. It takes a lot to rewire yourself back to here and now.

I struggle with this a lot. I find myself searching through my past, desperately trying to find a reason for my ED. I can pinpoint numerous events that may have triggered it, but I cannot find THE ONE THING that made me develop anorexia. I recall the horror that I faced in the ICU, and I think: God, why me? Why did I have to go through this? I just wish I knew the answer.

Now, I'm also struggling with thinking far into the future. I think about what my weight will be next week, what my grades will be next year, and what my future will look like in ten years. I have great difficulty staying in the moment because my mind just wants to know what is coming up next. Humans like predictability - it gives us a sense of assurance because then we feel like we are in control. When things like the future are unknown, we get scared because we do not know what is coming up. I myself become anxious thinking about the future because I'm worried about what will happen to me, my body, my school, my career, my (future/possible) family, etc.

But worrying about the future is not healthy, and it certainly does not make me feel any better. On the contrary, the more I think about the future, the more anxious I get because I realize that I can never know for sure what will occur. The solution? Simply staying in the moment. Not looking back to the past, nor searching ahead for the future. This is not to say that I must forget my past - it will always be a part of me, whether I like it or not. But I should not dwell on it, as I have learned that it only causes pain and confusion. At the same time, this is not to say that I must not look ahead to my future. No, I should try my best to achieve my goals and dreams. But I should not search for answers that I cannot find - God knows what is in my future, I just have to trust in Him.

ED is the master of making me look back to my past in order to reprimand myself for my mistakes (ex. eating too much when I was a kid, not having physical activity, etc). Then, he makes me look into the future, only to see no hope and a world of darkness. Understandably, this leaves me feeling sad, alone, and helpless. So, starting now, I am committing myself to staying in the moment. Whenever I find myself going to the past or the future, I will become aware of this and bring my mind back to the present moment. I am here and now - not then and there.

"THIS is the DAY that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24).

Friday, 17 August 2012

Vulnerable


Vulnerable. I hate that word. It makes me feel weak, powerless, and alone. It makes me feel that I am a failure and a disappointment to people around me. To be vulnerable means to show your weakness to others and to be exposed in front of them – at least, that is what it means to me.

I have always been the type of girl who likes to appear strong in front of others. I do my best to smile all the time, to look composed and ‘put together’. I get embarrassed when I make mistakes, although I try my best to see the bright side of things.

Now, say hello to ED. He is great at making me feel inferior to everyone around me. When ED came along, I felt that my vulnerability increased. When people knew that I was sick, I was so worried that everyone would start to treat me differently. I was afraid that people would look at me and comment on my eating habits or body shape, or simply the way I looked. Having this illness made me feel weak; I was scared that others would see me this was as well. And for a long time, this fear kept me locked up inside of my home, terrified of seeing others because of their reactions. I did not want people to judge me or make fun of me because of my sickness.

As I am recovering, I am still worried that people will look at me and see my vulnerable side. I am anxious that people will not see Marina, the smart nursing student, the respectful daughter, the caring friend, the loving sister, or the faithful servant. Instead, I worry that they will only see Marina, the girl with an eating disorder who is gaining weight daily and no longer looks thin. I do not want them to see me as a sick individual who has problems with her body image, self-esteem, or accepting her shape. Deep inside, I am frightened that they will not see the good parts of me, and that they will only see the negatives – just like ED does.

It is really hard to admit this vulnerability to others because I am scared that they will not understand. I am terrified of the day when someone tells me ‘ why don’t you just EAT?’ or ‘you have gained weight and now look so healthy’.  I don’t want people to say ‘oh, you know Marina, that girl who has anorexia’. I want people to know me for ME. I would not mind if people knew me as the girl RECOVERING, but when I am labelled by my illness, it hurts. It makes me feel as if I need to hide from society because I do not belong. And once I start to isolate, ED takes advantage of that and begins to creep back into my life. He takes this chance to remind me that I am all alone, that I am the black sheep of the community because I have anorexia.

So, for now, I am trying my best to remind MYSELF that having this illness does not make me anymore vulnerable than the average person. I am sick with anorexia, but anorexia does not define who I am. Being ill does not make me weak or useless – it just means that I (like everyone else in the world) am struggling with an obstacle in my life. The great news is that there is hope that I can, and will, recover. Humans all have their weaknesses – this is mine. There, I said it. And if anyone wants to use my illness against me, they are a waste of my time. (That includes you, ED!).

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Stages of Change

You have probably heard of the 'stages of change' used for addictions like substance use or alcoholics. There are five 'steps', each of which is characterized by certain criteria or ways of thinking and acting. The first is 'pre-contemplation', where the person does not see that there is a problem or need for change. The second is 'contemplation' - realizing that there is a problem but the person is not yet prepared to make changes. The third stage is 'preparation', where the individual is preparing to make steps to getting better. The fourth step is 'action' - the person starts taking real steps (that can be seen) to recover. The final stage is 'maintenance', where the individual has made great progress and is trying to keep it going.

The interesting thing about these stages is that they are not linear - a person may start at the second or third stage, or they may reach the final stage and find themselves starting back at one all over again. ED is a great example of this. Many patients with ED are stuck in the pre-contemplation stage for a long time because they cannot see, or do not want to admit, that they are sick. This prolongs the illness and puts them at higher risk for complications.

I was one of the rare ED patients that always KNEW that there was a problem, but I wanted it to be kept on the 'down-low'. I did not want my parents or friends worrying about me or pressuring me to stop being ill. It took me a long time to realize that I was getting VERY sick. Even at that point, I was scared to get help. I did, however, take some steps to helping myself. I sought out books on recovery and listened to professional speakers. So, in a sense, I was entering into the 'contemplation' and 'action' stages. Testing out treatment put me into the 'action' stage. And when I go home, continuing on this way to recovery and getting better will help me progress towards the 'maintenance' stage.

Understandably, each step has its challenges. It is difficult to first admit that there is a problem, let alone to seek out help. Then, it is ever so hard to stick with a plan in order to get better. And once you are better, it is even more of a challenge to maintain the progress and success that you have achieved. ED makes it even more stressful because he is so deceptive and knows exactly what to say to make me feel down about myself and my life. He therefore sneaks back into my life and tries to put me down the rabbit hole all over again. He is angry when I am in the action and maintenance stages because that deceases his power and importance in my life. So he will fight tooth and nail to get back into the picture.

I have learned that the stages of change can be quite useful when trying to recover. I am able to take a step back and analyze where I am at, what I am doing, where I am going, and what I need to do to get there. However, this takes a lot of practice and discipline - I mean, who wants to admit that they are sick or imperfect? Exactly....no one. And, being a perfectionist, I hate it when I look weak or vulnerable to others, and sometimes this means that admitting that I have a problem can be difficult. With time and effort, I have seen that people - the true friends in my life who sincerely care and wish to help - will not judge me because of my illness. They will strive to assist me whenever I need it, and they will be glad that I am reaching out for help. This makes it easier for me to work hard, to continue in the 'action' stage and move towards the 'maintenance' stage.

It is not an easy path, and like I alluded to before, it is not always a linear path. But one thing I know for sure is that no matter where I am, God is always there. Isaiah 45:2 says that the Lord '...[goes] before you'. And as long as I remain steadfast in my faith, I know that He is always with me, guiding my ways and lighting up my paths.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Black and White Thinking

Even if you do not have ED, you might find yourself falling into the traps of white and black thinking. This type of assumption means that things are one way or another - that you cannot have two things that are different happening at one time. There is no medium; no balance or moderation. For example, today may be the worst or best day of your life - it probably is never just a 'neutral' day. You may really like a food, or you hate it. You are rarely indifferent to a meal.

I suffer from this type of thinking. I admit, I often fall into it's trap. ED takes advantage of this. For example, I am either very thin or very fat. I do not believe that I can ever be 'just in between' or at a healthy weight. I am either pretty or ugly  - I cannot be 'medium'. And of course, in my head, ED will tell me that I am fat and ugly. He does not even inform me of the other end of the spectrum - the positive parts. He likes to remind me that I am always on the terrible end of the line - the fat, ugly, failure, useless, and unworthy ends.

It is difficult to change this type of thinking. It takes a lot of practice. The first thing I had to do was to realize that these thoughts were from ED. Then, I had to counter what he was saying. It took a while to believe what I was saying, but eventually, it started to sink in.

You can never be just 'healthy'. You will gain weight and be fat. That is why you need to restrict - to stay thin. 

Well, ED, I think I may just be able to be healthy. I can work with a team to make sure that I stay at a normal range. This way, I won't need to restrict to lose weight, nor will I need to be worried about dying from malnutrition.

You will never be beautiful. You will remain ugly.

I am beautiful in God's eyes. I am the child of the Lord. And I know well enough that you will always tell me that I am ugly, because you know that this makes me turn to you. You know my weakness; you know how feeling fat and ugly makes me feel. But now I know that this is your trick. And I refuse to let you in again.

There is no medium-ground in anything in life. Black and white thinking will help you stay in control.

When I used black and white thinking, I became your slave. I believed your lies about being fat and ugly. I heeded to your commands because I was scared of the 'other' side. I thought I was in control of my weight, but in fact, I was losing control with each day that I let you boss me around. What started off as a journey to control my weight ended up with me in the ICU, where I had no control whatsoever.

....And the conversations carry on and on. ED is smart; he does not give up easily. If I close one door in his face, he will find another. If all doors are closed, he will try to find a window, a crack - anything to let himself in again. My job now is to put up barriers and locks everywhere. Lock the doors and windows, fill in the cracks, and hide the keys. ED will no longer be allowed to creep into my mind and my heart, where he deceptively implants negative thoughts and feelings. I won't give him anywhere to stay - he will be homeless, with no one to give him the time nor the energy that he so desperately longs for.

And with everyday that he remains homeless, I know that I am one step closer to reclaiming my life from him.


Monday, 13 August 2012

Compliments

ED is the master of twisting things around. He can take anything and somehow make it seem horrible or negative. He is particularly skilled at doing this with compliments that I hear from others.

When someone tells me that I 'look healthier' or 'all better', ED immediately tells me that this person is alluding to the fact that I gained weight.

He/she is saying that you have gained so much weight and that it is obvious. They are telling you that you are fat. And they are right. You are nothing short of huge, ugly, and a failure.

You can see how this is problematic. Here I am, getting great compliments from people who mean well. All they want to tell me is that I am getting better and that they are proud of me. They are happy to see me healthy and they want to share this with me. But ED does not let me feel the joy I should be feeling when others praise my efforts. Instead, ED twists around compliments to make me feel useless and unattractive.

It really sucks. I mean, how is anyone supposed to support me if they cannot tell me that I'm doing well and that I look healthier?! I suppose it is a matter of changing the way I see things. If I refuse to let ED in and change what others are saying, I can be sure that I will take compliments in a positive and constructive manner. If someone tells me that I look healthier, I will not let ED tell me that I look fat. Instead, I'll take the comment the way it was intended - that I indeed look better, because I am not knocking on death's door any longer. If people say that I 'look better', I will understand that this means that I do not look sick anymore. And this is a good thing!

So, I have to be mindful of the way that ED twists around words and conversations. He is great at making me feel down, and he knows how to make things seem worse than they really are. He is a pro at putting me down and making me feel worthless. The important part is for me to recognize that the nasty voice in my head that is filtering all positive aspects of people's comments is ED. He wants to bring me down, to take away every source of joy and happiness in my life - including the pleasant comments that others give me. So, today, I WILL NOT let ED control the way I hear comments from others. And, if for any reason he somehow manages to twist things around, I will ask the person what they really meant by their comment.

ED does not stand a chance.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

'Fear' Foods

The title might make you think twice - why is 'fear' and 'food' put into the same sentence? I mean, isn't food just lovely? Why would any normal person FEAR food? It is just food. You make it, you buy it, you eat it. And that's it. Nothing to it.

Well, welcome to the world of ED, where food - usually certain kinds - are scary. I admit, when I first came into treatment, EVERYTHING was scary. An apple was poison. Vegetables were dangerous. Now, imagine what I did with desserts like cheesecake or chocolate?! I was panicking. I honestly thought that I would not survive to the next meal. It was frightening to be faced with desserts and to be expected to eat all of it.

It is so unfortunate how ED messes up with people's heads like this. Delicious desserts that are meant to be savoured and enjoyed become the enemy, the worst piece of food that can be placed in front of you. Eating no longer becomes pleasurable; it is a chore and punishment.

Eating desserts still makes me a bit anxious. When I see that I have to eat chocolate or cake, I start to feel tense. My mind instantly thinks of how wrong this, of how much weight I will gain, etc. But I am starting to realize when these thoughts are coming, so I quickly try to deflect them away by reminding myself that NORMAL people enjoy desserts even once in a while. And God made this food, so it must be good. I am trying to stop labelling foods as either 'good' or 'bad'. All foods in moderation is the perfect motto!

And so, I find that I am starting to even challenge myself to eat these foods I'm incorporating dessert-type foods into my meals, and each time, it actually becomes a bit easier to eat them. A perfect example of exposure therapy!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Night Sweats

Okay, this might sound disgusting...but bear with me.

A starved anorexic is...well, a starved person. The body has the ability to compensate for this lack of food by lowering the metabolism. This is why I used to be so cold all the time - instead of wasting energy on keeping me warm, my body decided to use that valuable energy to keep my brain, heart, and organs alive. Hence, my metabolism slowed down. A LOT. This is why I can a little bit of food and gain weight easily - my body is scared that a period of famine will come again, so it wants to store all it can just in case it happens.

Now, into my third week of refeeding, my body is revving up again. This means that although I am gaining weight, my body is anticipating that food is coming, so it can keep me warm. This sounds great, right? Well...it IS good news. But the annoying and uncomfortable part of this is that I get sweaty at night. I mean, REALLY sweaty. My body is getting warmer, so it produces sweat (like normal human beings!). The only difference is that it does this at night. And so, I wake up, feel the sweat on my back, and then instantly feel cold as the air passes over my body. It feels so uncomfortable!

I have to admit, my night sweats are not as bad as some other people. I have heard of patients who must get up three times during the night in order to change their beds and clothes because they are simply too wet! Nevertheless, ANY amount of night sweats is highly uncomfortable.

I suppose this is a good sign - my body is getting back to normal functioning and it recognizes that it can now keep me warm. So, in a way, I should be thankful for the light sweats. But it is ever so difficult to be thankful for something that is so...weird, nasty, and uncomfortable. I hate feeling the sweat on my back, the sensation of my shirt sticking to my back, and the horrible chill that follows. I hate waking up in the middle of my sleep and feeling that I want to change my clothes...but then I'm too lazy!

And so, like many other things in recovery (and I'll say this A LOT!), night sweats (to put it bluntly) suck. They are such a nuisance. But, like other things in recovery, they are a good sign that health is on it's way.

So, for now, I have to live with the discomfort. Night sweats can last a long time - about three to six months for some patients. I guess now I realize that a few extra set of PJs are the perfect birthday present!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Thus Far I Have Come

A big problem with me is that I hate disappointing others. I hate feeling that I have let people down. It makes me feel like a failure and it hurts me. I begin to hate myself because I feel that I am no good; that I can accomplish nothing; that I have no purpose or use in life.

I'm writing this post to apologize to anyone that I have ever hurt - whether in the past few years or in the past few days. I'm sorry to my parents who have always loved me and have endured the hardships of my eating disorder. I am sorry to my sister who has been nothing but strong throughout this entire journey. I am sorry to my friends whom I neglected because I was too sick. I am sorry to my Church for not being a better servant. I am sorry to anyone I have intentionally or unintentionally hurt.

Right now, I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. I talked to my family today about leaving treatment. I feel trapped in this unit - not being able to go outside the 4 walls I'm confined in, being under severe scrutiny, and not going anywhere. I feel like my emotions have taken a plummet downwards, especially in the past week. Over the last two weeks, I have been debating on whether or not I want to stay here. Today, I feel like it is my time to leave.

Upon leaving, I believe that I CAN in fact do well. I plan on meeting with a dietician (and perhaps a therapist) to ensure that I am progressing. I will also have follow-up appointments with the staff at the hospital. I will be leaving with a great deal of knowledge on the food that I need to eat. During my stay here, I have also gained a lot of information about how to cope with my feelings, how to handle certain situations, and much more. I know that this journey will not be easy, but I feel that this is the decision that I have to make.

I want to apologize if I, in any way, have disappointed anyone. I promise with all my heart that I will continue to move forward, that I will continue to nurture myself back to full health. The month that I spent in treatment has given me great lessons about life, ED, myself, and so much more. I am confident that I can do a good job outside as well. I am, however, in need of lots of support and prayers. I need the constant encouragement and love and kindness that I have so far received on facebook, this blog, in person, on the phone, etc. I am only a weak person and cannot do this without all of you!  And, during this entire journey, I have (and will!) keep my eyes on God, for He alone has the power to make me better.

"For I press on towards the goal, which is the upward calling of Christ" (Philippians 3:14).

Tired

I did not sleep well last night. Actually, I hardly slept at all. I was awake, laying on my bed. Thoughts rushing through my head, heart beating fast, sweat trickling down my back...I was anxious, sad, frustrated, and full of remorse.

I'm not feeling well this morning either. I guess it's pretty obvious when I'm not well - the nurses and other patients keep on asking me what is wrong. And all I can do is give a forceful smile and say that I'm alright; that I'm just tired.

And the truth is, I AM tired. In no way do I intend to make this post a 'pity' post, but I find that writing about what I'm going through is helpful. If you feel that you no longer wish to continue reading, then please stop here. But perhaps you may find something that you can identify with, or perhaps even share in my pain.

I'm frustrated that my weight continues to climb high, with pounds and pounds being added to my body. I'm angry and uncomfortable that my clothes are fitting differently. I'm astonished at the amount of food that I'm eating. I'm overwhelmed by the feelings that I am feeling. I'm sad at the way my life is with ED. I'm full, I'm grumpy...I'm exhausted.

I spent last night in my bed, praying that God would grant me serenity and peace. I so desperately longed to sleep - to escape from all my problems for just seven hours. But, to my frustration, I did not get any sleep. Staying awake on my bed only made me MORE tired. But my eyes could not shut. This morning, I feel very....unlike me. I feel that all my feelings and thoughts are jumbled together. I'm confused, I'm lost.

ED is taking advantage of the fact that I feel ill today. To add to my exhaustion and frustration, he's screaming in my ear that I'm no good, that I'm a failure. That I look terrible, ugly, hideous, and fat. That I deserve nothing good in this world, and that nothing good is coming my way. That I have no purpose but to serve him, to lose weight, to be miserable my entire life. He's yelling at me even as I write this, forbidding me from sharing my feelings so that no one makes me feel better. ED loves it when I feel this way because then it is so simple to fall into his traps and obey him. I was crying all last night; I'm still crying through this morning. My tissue box has been changed twice; my nose is bright pink and it is getting difficult to breathe.

I want to go home. Actually, I don't know where I want to go or what I want to do. I'm heartbroken, tired, frustrated, and sick of myself. I'm uncomfortable and angry at everything around me. I want to scream, but instead, tears come out. I want to escape from everything and just be alone to cry myself to sleep - and even that did not work last night. I'm hopeless.

I'm asking that you pray for me today. I'm begging you to pray to the Lord that He may fill my heart with peace and acceptance. I am nothing without Him, and yet, I feel like I have no value. ED is so powerful right now because of my low mood. Please, this is my call to YOU. I'm in need of motivation, of strength to carry on. Every inch of my being is telling me to run away, to go somewhere where no one can find me and I can be alone. But deep down, I know that this will do more harm than good.

"If God is with us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). I just wish that I could apply this verse to my life right now.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Body Image

I'm starting to become paranoid of the way I look. And it really sucks. I'm aware of the fact that I am gaining weight. I feel my clothes getting tighter, and I feel my body changing. I hate it.

As the number on the scale goes up, I feel more and more anxious. I hate the fact that my body is getting larger. My treatment team likes to remind me that I'm not getting fat; that I'm getting healthier. That my organs are becoming their normal size; that everything will slowly start to recover from the starvation.

But inside, it feels terrible. I'm starting to see myself in the mirror and I'm not liking it. I'm feeling the food in my stomach and I feel uncomfortable. I'm not seeing the bones stick out or the tiny arms and it scares me. It makes me feel that I'm expanding...that soon enough, I'll be overweight all over again.

This is what body image is all about: how you see yourself. ED messes up with body image....he tells me that I'm no good, that I'm getting fat, and that the weight gain won't stop. And it is ever so easy to believe him because I SEE the number increasing A LOT each week, and I feel my clothes getting smaller. It is anxiety-provoking. I feel scared and unsafe. I feel very down. My self-confidence is falling.

If it were not for my God, I would not be alive today. My parents always tell me that God has a purpose for each of us. Many times in my life, I forget about this because I'm just so frustrated with my life and ED. But today, more than ever, I'm realizing that they are right. Life is not just about the way I look or what size I am in clothes. Life is so much more. It's about fulfilling God's purpose and achieving....being the best that I can be and being His true image. But I need help with that. I cannot do it alone....I don't think anyone can. So, even though my body image is terrible right now, I know that there is ONE person in the entire world who will not judge me based on my appearance. He will never tell me that I'm ugly or that He does not love me. I'm ever so thankful to have a God like Him.

And with each day that I recover, I know that I am one step closer to Him.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Ambivalence

This is possibly the hallmark of eating disorders: ambivalence. Wanting to stay in program because I need to get better. But at the same time, seeing and feeling how hard this is and wanting to leave treatment.

Deep down inside, I know that I need to stay here. I see how much this program is doing for me, and I feel that I may just get better. But I also miss my home. I miss my school and my friends. I miss everything about life that has been taken away from me.

It is so easy to leave - after all, it is a voluntary program. It would be ever so simple to sign myself out and go back to normal life. To be honest, I often wish I could do this. Well, the truth is, I CAN do this. But something, somewhere, someone, somehow...there is that 'tug' that is keeping me here. Perhaps it is because I believe that I should have a life worth living. Maybe it is simply because I do not want to be miserable all my life.

I promise myself that if I leave treatment, I will continue to do well at home. And I truly believe that. But at the same time, life is so difficult. With all of it's frustrations, I can see how easy it would be to slip back into my old habits - even if I don't mean to. So, for now, staying in program might just be what is helpful.

Today was tough because I got weighed. And again, I gained A LOT of weight. I was so tempted, so eager to sign myself out. Every inch of my body and mind screamed to leave. I was prepared to pack my bags and head for home.

But something kept me here. I made it through the day, regardless of how hard it was. And let me say...it was VERY hard eating through all my meals. Feeling sad, angry, frustrated, and anxious definitely did not help.

But prayers did. I called on my support system and I am very lucky to say that they are what kept me here. I'm counting on my God to help me through this. I'm also counting on the people that love me, and on the people that I love.

So, am I still ambivalent? A bit. But I'd like to think of it as frustration more than ambivalence. I WANT to get better. But, no one said that this was going to be easy. In fact, it is a lot of work. But for now, I will focus on the present moment. Right now, I am in treatment. I am getting better.

I am getting my life back.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Feelings

Here's a strange fact for you: eating disorders numb you out. Totally. I mean, you begin to stop feeling emotions. All your time and focus and energy goes into the eating disorder, so that you no longer have ANY feelings except anxiety and fear around food and weight gain. Research has shown that anorexics  lose most of their 'emotions' - love, happiness, anger, etc.

And then once you start eating, everything floods back into your life. I'm in my third week of treatment, and I'm experiencing MAJOR emotions that I have not felt in a long time. And it's scary - one minute you feel happy, and then you realize that you have not felt this emotion for a while.

It is so different from what I am used to. Deep into my starvation, I blocked out all feelings. I never felt happy; I simply put on a smiling face for the world to see. I never even felt angry; I always felt alone and sad. Now, I find myself getting angry about things and it is new to me. No one likes to be angry, but it is kind of interesting actually EXPERIENCING anger. My head gets hot, my heart beats faster, and my body responds accordingly. It's the typical fight or flight response that my starved body forgot.

Now, when I feel happy, I know that I'm happy. My cheeks start to hurt because I'm smiling so much. My thoughts are free from ED - and what a liberating feeling that is! I feel so free, so loved, and so....present. For once in a long time, I do not feel that I have to act happy. If I'm sad, I'll be sad. If I'm happy, I'll be happy. I do not have to pretend any longer. And I do not have to live my entire life emotionless.

When I feel like I love, I love. I can share this with my family and friends and tell them just how much I appreciate their kindness. I can give my sister and parents a big hug and feel their warmth; I can realize how beautiful it is to have that sense of touch with my family. When I'm thrilled to see guests visiting me, I can express my appreciation.

To be honest, all of this is great. But part of me is scared. I'm scared to show happiness all the time because what if that makes me look silly? I'm frightened to show anger because people are not used to seeing me be angry. I'm nervous to show love because it was something that I blocked out for a long time. And now, all of this is rushing back into my life. It feels so different, so liberating, so....normal. Who knew that being normal can feel so different?!

I guess, like everything else in my treatment, this too will take time. It will take a while for me to get used to feelings of happiness, sadness, anger, and love. It will most likely not be fun or comfortable - also like many things in recovery. But in a sense, I am thankful. I'm thankful that I can once again feel the emotions that we are meant to feel. I'm thankful that I can start living life normally, without pretending to have different emotions that I never actually had. It's hard to admit that I have these feelings, but in the long run, it sure is worth it.


Sunday, 5 August 2012

ED does not discriminate

Someone on my blog commented, asking me what my field of education is. I'm proud to say that I am a nursing student.

....Now, here comes the awkward silence. Everyone looks at me with mouths wide open. How can I, someone suffering with an eating disorder, be a nurse? Shouldn't I KNOW that anorexia is dangerous, that starving myself is wrong, and that this will make me unhealthy? If I'm a nursing student, should that not protect me from becoming ill with ED?

The truth of the matter is...no. ED does not discriminate. He creeps into one's life, threatening to take away everything. He blinded me, making me believe that he knew what was best for me. That once I listened to his every command, I'd be granted a life of happiness and peace.

He was lying. And I let him lie away, taking bits and pieces out of my life as time went on. ED took away everything from me - my body, my school, my relationships, and my happiness. If it were not for the grace of God, ED would have taken my life.

I guess my point is that no one is really naturally 'armed' against ED. Personally, I had a wealth of information on anorexia before falling into it's trap. I was always giving presentations about eating disorders, informing others of the harm that it does to people. I was the girl who spoke against negative body image and why it was so harmful to people. And yet, I was the girl who became anorexic.

My message to parents: watch out for your children. If you notice any change in the way they eat, take action. Talk to them about it and learn why it is that they are doing this. If they are not satisfied with their bodies, take the time to understand their feelings and address these issues immediately. There is nothing wrong with seeing professionals like therapists if you need to. Please, do not waste time! Once this disorder sets it's foot into the victim, it can be VERY difficult to stop.

My message to any individual reading this blog: watch out for yourself. Do not let yourself be fooled by all the hype in the media about thinness and the so-called 'happiness' that it will bring to your lives. Do not let others tell you that you are not treasured or beautiful because of the way you look. Love and cherish yourself for who you are - inside and out. Be proud of who you have become. Look to God for peace and comfort. Be mindful of all the world's messages and discern between which are right and which are wrong. Watch out for others who may be falling into ED. Take action if you feel it is necessary. Please. You could be saving someone's life.

Looking back now, perhaps this is what motivated me to become a nurse. Maybe I saw all of my struggles with ED and hoped to one day, become someone that could help others. Maybe I wanted to use my experience for the benefit of others. Maybe I thought that one day, I could use my journey to change someone's life, to make a difference.

And everyday as I write this blog, I continue to pray that it may be helping others - directly or indirectly.


Friday, 3 August 2012

Thank you!

It's coming close to being the two-week mark ever since I began treatment for my anorexia. And let me just say, it's been really tough. I've endured countless tummy aches, no sleep, cramps, reflux, and more. I've participated in group discussions where I've bawled my eyes out over my journey with ED. I've shared personal information about myself that I would normally not like to talk about. I've slept in a bed that is not mine; I've used bathrooms that are not my own. I've challenged myself eating foods that I do not like or am actually fearful of. In a nutshell, it really has not been my cup of tea (pun intended!).

I realize that this sounds like a post that is simply about complaining. But be patient with me, there is so much more. Although it's been a hard fight, I know that I would not be here today if it were not for my loving parents. My mom and dad have supported me ever since they realized that I had ED. They were by my side everyday when I was in the ICU, even when I was asleep/sedated for the entire month of May. They were there when I opened my eyes in the beginning of June, and they were there when I got discharged. They put their lives on hold for me so that I could fight and live. They took me to California for a fun vacation right before I was admitted to the hospital for treatment. Now, they visit me everyday. I am ever so grateful for their endless and powerful love. It is truly a love that conquers all.

I also want to thank my sister, who spent many nights alone at home because my parents were with me at the hospital. She has always been my strength; the rock that I can lean on when I feel scared or worried. She has supported me my entire life, always sharing her wisdom and experiences with me. She is my best friend, one that I will be forever in debt to. She is my role model; my source of motivation and encouragement.

And it just would not be right if I did not thank everyone who comments on this blog. I may not respond to every single comment or 'like' on facebook, but I want you all to know that I appreciate it so much. Reading comments here motivates me to write more; it makes me realize that people ARE interested in what I have to say, and that I have many supporters out there. It makes me feel that I am making somewhat of a difference in other people's lives. It shows me that I am loved and cared for - something that I have often struggled to see.

To all of my friends, family, commenters, and readers, thank you. Thank you for showing me that it is possible to recover from an eating disorder. Thank you for making me feel loved and special. Thank you for encouraging me to share my story with the world. Thank you for empowering me and helping me realize that there is so much to live for.

Thank you for being there for me, every single time I fall. For showing me that I can always stand up and fight. And I'll always fight, regardless of how many times I fall down.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Perfectionism

Okay, we all have to admit it: each of us has some little thing that we get picky about. You know that thing that HAS to be done a certain way, or else it simply does not feel right? Or what about that homework assignment that you have to look through about fifty times before submitting it? I think it's pretty safe to say most of us can get perfectionistic about a few things in our lives. But, it is usually healthy perfection: the type that motivates you to work and to get things done. The problem is when perfectionism becomes unhealthy.

I'll be the first to admit that I can be a bit of a perfectionist. I like to have a neat room, tidy spaces, and organized things. I finish my assignments on time, and I'm never late for appointments. So, this is healthy perfection. It encourages me to keep things clean (but not obsessively), and it helps me excel in my school work. But, I have a side of perfection that is dangerous...

Say hello to ED. He is the KING of perfectionism. When I first fell victim to ED, I thought that I would simply lose a few pounds. But, when I lost five, I realized that I could further. Maybe ten or fifteen? How about twenty? Heck, let's even lose thirty! No number on the scale was 'good' enough. Every number I saw meant that I had done 'alright', but I could still do more. The drive to lose weight engulfed me so that all I could do was think about how I would lose it. That number on the scale dictated my life - it determined if I was worthy of praise and love. If the number was lower than the day before, I had done a good job. If it was the same or more, I had failed. But there was no room for failure with ED. He won't accept that. You can never lose enough weight with ED. My perfectionism with my weight gave me a non-stop trip to the ICU, dialysis, liver and kidney failure, heart strains, breathing dysfunction, and so much more.

Now that I am trying to overcome ED, I find myself struggling a lot with the perfectionism. I feel like I have to be the perfect patient - I have to finish all my food, not complain to anyone, and pretend that everything is easy when it is really not. I have to put on a smile for my parents because I do not want to disappoint or hurt them. But inside, it is really not okay. It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do. And ED gets worked up because I am no longer restricting or losing weight. The number on the scale is climbing upwards and I'm terrified. I am faced with food countless times during the day and I am scared. I am realizing that I'm gaining weight rather quickly and I want to cry.

Part of the work that I have to do to help myself is to simply realize that I am human. I'm allowed to make mistakes. I cannot expect myself to be perfect at everything. I have to come to face the fact that it is alright - well, normal - to NOT be perfect. Lowering the very high standards and expectations I have for myself makes my life easier. It teaches me to love myself for who I am, mistakes included. It teaches me to be proud of my accomplishments. It means that I can go about my day, not worrying about the little blunders that I may make. It allows me to treasure every breathing moment in my life, knowing that I (like everyone in the world) am human and cannot be perfect. It teaches me to want to live a happy life - one that I deserve.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

I'm full!

'I'm full'. I think I've said this phrase more than a gazillion times since I got into treatment. And it's not because I'm trying to be annoying or drive the staff crazy. It's because it is the truth: I'm stuffed by the end of every meal and snack.

My first week here landed with the 'base' meal plan - the smallest amount of food that the hospital would give ED patients. This week, however (and even though I gained five pounds), they decided to give me even MORE food. So, now I'm on three meals and two snacks...and the meals are BIG. Lunch, for example, is not simply a sandwich. It's a sandwich and a dessert (and a generous portion of both, may I add). Dinner is a starch, a veggie, and a protein, plus a dessert. Breakfast can be a combination of things, just like snacks can be. But, regardless of what meal or snack it is, it is A LOT of food.

By the middle of each meal, my stomach begins to tell me that I'm full. Try as I might, the feeling of heaviness in my stomach makes me realize that I simply cannot eat anymore. But I know that I have to. And so, I take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, and I keep eating. They call it 'mechanical' eating because you are basically like a robot - put fork into food, lift fork, put fork into mouth, chew, repeat. And then repeat as many times as needed until your plate is sparkling clean.

This all sounds so easy, but the feeling of fullness is horrid, especially to me with my anorexia. Feeling full means that I feel heavy. It means my stomach is no longer empty like it used to be when I was restricting. It means that I have eaten more than what I need. It means that my body will hold onto the food. It means that I will gain weight.

Pushing myself through meals gets very challenging and uncomfortable. I feel awful when I must eat even though I simply cannot eat anymore. But I have no choice. The anxiety before eating (because I'm scared of the food) becomes anxiety after a meal (because I know that I will gain weight from what I just ate). Then, anxiety follows through for the rest of the day because I'm still full from breakfast by the time lunch comes, still full from lunch by the time snack arrives, etc. It is so frustrating, sitting there and eating mechanically because you have to. Not because you enjoy it. Sure, sometimes I enjoy some of my meals. But once I get full, all happiness and comfort comes to a halt.

But, it is something that I have to do right now. What bothers me the most is knowing that each time I am full, I'm likely gaining weight because of the extra food in my system. And that makes me anxious, scared, and uncomfortable. I wish I could just eat until I'm full so that I do not have to feel this way.

I can't wait until that day comes.