Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Just keep swimming!

Before I start, I want to dedicate this post to one of my special friends who I believe will beenefit from this post. Hope it helps! Stay strong!

I've mentioned this before, but it keeps coming up in my life: I have a hard time giving myself a break or taking time off. I feel so useless and lazy when I do not do my work, study, read my notes, etc. Even if I am so tired by the end of the day, I still feel as though I need to keep working. It feels BAD to do 'nothing' - as in, to take time off to do fun things, to play, to 'chill' or to relax. I feel guilty when I DON'T work. It is as if my brain is on all the time and simply does not want to turn off.

It is not a fun experience. Sometimes I criticize myself for not being able to finish all my work, even though I have been working all day. Why aren't I done this assignment yet? Why can't I just finish it and be DONE? Why can't I be better? WHY WHY WHY?

It feels terrible. By the end, I am neither done my work nor am I satisfied with myself. It results in me feeling bad about myself, along with me feeling incompetent. I feel angry at myself for feeling this way, but I am also angry that I have not been as efficient as I wanted to be.

But I've noticed something. It comes down to this: what am I really trying to achieve? Is it reasonable? Am I trying to finish too much in such a small time period? Have I worked so hard that I am just tired and need to take a break? Am I putting too much expectations on myself that are unreasonable? Usually, this is the issue: I am being too hard on myself. I am pushing myself to be a 'superwomen' - an impossible task, even for the most efficient people.

Great. So I know what the problem is. But how do I solve this? Can I just ignore my work and expect it to get done? Obviously not. But should I still push myself and feel terrible nonetheless?

The answer probably sounds easier than it really is. But the simple answer is: STOP! Stop working, stop criticizing yourself. Stop being too hard on yourself. Breathe. Yes, you have too much to do. Yes, it seems impossible. Yes, you feel angry because you have so much to do and it seems as though it never gets done.

BUT...You are human. I am human. And I know that eventually, I reach my limit. I can no longer push myself to work anymore because I am tired. I look back at what I have done for the day and I suddenly realize that I ACTUALLY HAVE done so much! Maybe I did not finish everything, but that is okay. It is impossible to finish everything! What is important is that today, I have truly done my best. I really have worked hard, and I know it.

I am not saying that I will start to be lazy and not do anything - because honestly, I can never be lazy. I am a working machine. What I AM saying is that taking time to see how much I have achieved makes me stronger. It makes me more aware of my abilities, and this helps me realize that no matter how hard the task at hand may be, I am capable of finishing it. I KNOW I CAN because my past tells me that I am a strong, hard-working, dedicated, and organized person. I have all these wonderful characteristics and I have SEEN proof in my life that I can achieve my goals. But this will not happen if I am stressed, if I push myself too far, or if I criticize myself.

One of my close friends once told me that she thought that she was failing at everything because she could not do everything that she had wanted to complete for the day. My answer? There is no such thing as failure. There are times when we cannot complete all things. There are times when we are not so great at certain tasks. But we are NOT failures. We may make mistakes, we may fall, and heck, we might even totally bomb an assignment! But we are NOT FAILURES because when we fall, we get back UP. We brush off this little challenge or bump in the road and we keep GOING. We do not stop. We KNOW that we are STRONG and we keep pushing.

Have you watched Little Nemo before? If you have, I'll tell you what Dory says...
'Just keep swimming'.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Something Special!

Something special.

There is something special about everyone. Something that makes you unique and wonderful.

ED used to make me think that I was special because I could survive without eating anything. I didn't need food. I was 'strong, I was special'. It was as though I was able to do what no one else could - I could function and NOT eat anything!

But now I see that that was wrong. It was a lie. I wasn't surviving - I was slowly dying. But I could not see it at the time. I was blinded. The drive to lose weight and stay thin was too strong and powerful - it was all I could think of. I wanted - no, I NEEDED to be thin. Nothing else mattered. If I was not thin, I was a failure. If I did not stay small, I was weak and powerless.

Of course, this was totally wrong. ED had me fooled. He took away my happiness, and he nearly got my life. So now without ED, it is as though I have nothing special about me - well, I am eating like everyone else. I am no longer the girl who could starve all day and still function well. It is a good thing. But now I am left to wonder...what is special about me?

I'm calling on all my readers and commenters to read this, think about yourself, and post. I want you to think of two things that are special about you. Anything. Maybe it is something that you can do that no one knows about. Maybe you have a special talent. Maybe you have an awesome personality. Whatever it is, think of it. Then please comment and tell me what it is. This is a great way to see just how wonderful you are - and it will help you realize how special and loved you are!

I'll start:
1) I love to sing. I don't know if I'm good, but I certainly enjoy it!
2) I'm good at public speaking. I don't get  nervous (most of the time), and I feel that I'm an articulate speaker.

How about YOU?

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Do I HAVE to eat?

Recovery is hard work. No matter how long you have been in recovery, you will sometimes find that it gets harder at some points and easier at others. Perhaps stress makes it harder to stick to recovery. Or maybe a busy day makes it hard for you to eat on time. Whatever the case, the point is that recovery has its easy and hard moments.

One of the hardest experiences I had in recovery was sticking to my plan after I got discharged. I told myself that I would stick to my meals, but as soon as I got out, I felt that I did not want to. It was hard to eat, especially since there was no one there to make me do it. In treatment, there were nurses and doctors there that ensured that you were eating. But at home, who could make me eat? Sure, my family was there. But they could not technically MAKE me do anything.

Eating on my own became easier when I realized how terrible ED had been. I looked back at my life and remembered all that ED did to me. He made me restrict and starve, and I nearly lost my life. He took away my happiness, my personality, my body, and my smile. Was this worth not eating? Would I again fall into his trap and not eat simply because ‘no one was there to make me do it’?

No. I was stronger than that. I AM stronger than ED. And so are you. Eating is definitely hard, especially at the beginning of recovery. It feels so foreign, so wrong, so…strange. But with practice, it becomes easier. The most helpful thing that I did was to become a robot. It sounds strange, but it worked. I ate not by hunger cues but by what the clock said. If it was time for a meal, that meant it was time to eat. Having something to do during meal times was helpful as well. I read books, wrote a journal entry, played a game, talked to my friends or family, or watched TV. Whatever took my mind off eating and helped me get through the meal, I did. And it worked. It was not easy, but it sure helped.

Now, eating is easier. Don’t get me wrong – it is still tough. But each time ED tries to tell me not to eat, I say, ‘NO! I HAVE TO EAT. Eating is what normal people do. I need to eat to live. My body and mind will thank me for it.’ Maybe I do not enjoy eating now, but one day, I know it will happen. Yes, there is no one there to make me eat – but I am there. My body, health, and well-being depend on it. I have taken responsibility for my health and I intend to treat myself well. I have seen that ED can kill and I know that that is not what I want for my future. I have a life to live and things to do. I will not let ED get in the way of my happiness.

And so I say, keep eating. I need to learn to ignore ED and to realize that although I might not WANT to eat, I HAV E to. One day, maybe I will actually enjoy doing it. But until then, eating must occur. I will not let ED win this battle ever again. I am stronger, wiser, and healthier. So when ED says ‘don’t eat’, sometimes you have to say, ‘actaully, ED, I think I WILL eat’.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Published again!

I am very honoured to say that my work has been recognized by a different INTERNATIONAL organization called FEAST (families empowered and supporting eating disorder treatment). This organization is for caregivers of people with ED - spouses, siblings, parents, friends, etc. They have a lot of information on their website and they really do make an effort to get the word around about EDs.

They have asked me to include my story on their website to encourage caregivers to keep fighting for their loved one. I have included a brief summary of my journey, and I am now volunteering with FEAST to ensure that people are informed about ED. I am really blessed to have this opportunity, as I have received feedback from parents/spouses/siblings from FEAST saying that my story has given them hope and strength that their loved one will recover as well.

I hope you enjoy reading this, and please - if you know anyone with ED or have ED yourself and need help, seek it. Read my blog, other websites, get information, etc. And I am always here to help anyone - there is help, you just need to ask! God bless you all!

P.S. I dedicate this publication to my mom, dad, and sister - the people who were by my side every moment when I was ill. They encouraged me to push for recovery and they are the most supportive people I know. I love you guys! Thank you for bringing me this far - this post is dedicated to you, the people who loved me no matter what and strengthened me along recovery. I wish all caregivers for people with ED were like you!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Challening Myself

Recovering from ED means that I have to feed myself. There is no way around it - I need to eat. But one of the hardest things for me to do now is to ask for food or to admit that I actually liked eating something.

It may sound silly to you, but for ED, this is a big issue. Asking my mom to go but me groceries or to pick up a meal for me on her way home feels so....weird. I feel guilty for asking for food. I feel as though I have no right to ask for food. I feel as if I am being a pig if I admit that I enjoyed eating a certain meal.

The other day I decided to challenge myself - I would eat something that ED would not like. You see, ED makes you hate food. He makes you look at food as if it is the enemy. So asking for something was a big challenge. Anyways, I bought the food that I had not eaten in years - maybe about seven years. And I looked at it and froze. Now what? Did I have the courage to eat it? Would ED be screaming at me because I was eating this 'forbidden' food?

I ate it. And I liked it. But after I finished eating, I felt terrible. How could I have eaten that? How could I be such a pig?! ED was mad! It was the first time in seven years that I ate that food - and now I was actually enjoying it? What a bad girl! Foolish, fat girl!

I felt awful for the entire day. I felt far, ugly, bloated, and guilty. I felt huge. I was grumpy and sad. ED was not happy. I committed two great evils in ED's mind: asking for a food that I wanted, and even enjoying eating it.

But part of recovery means that I challenge myself. Of course, I could still recover without doing this. But it makes recovery more worth it. Trying a food I hadn't eaten in years meant that I was strong enough to fight ED. I was brave enough to go against him and to challenge his rules. I did it. And then the next week, I did it again. And I will keep doing it until I have mastered this and am no longer scared or ashamed of eating and enjoying what I eat. Because part of recovery - to me - means that I can expose myself to foods that I used to enjoy and admit that I like them.  To me, this means that I am getting somewhere in recovery.

It might seem insignificant, but this was a huge accomplishment for me. I asked for food, I ate it, and I even enjoyed it. And I will do it again to keep practicing. I am asking for prayers and support because I need the encouragement to keep fighting ED. It is very difficult and I often wonder why I am even working do hard. But then I read all the comments on my blog and I realize that this is why I am working hard - recovery is worth all the work and pain. And the love I get from others strengthens me to carry on.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Getting Help

I am the type of person who likes to be independent. If I can do it on my own, I will. I am organized and efficient, so getting things done is easy. But when it came to ED, I could not be so independent...

ED took away everything from me. My life, my health, my smile, my was all gone. I could not get help, even if I wanted to. There were many days when I would be in my bed, hearing my stomach rumble and grumble. Feeling the pain all over my body because I was so hungry - but could not eat. No matter how much I wanted to eat, I simply COULD NOT. My brain said that I should eat - even something small. What would a small apple do? Could I really gain too much weight if I ate a light lunch? Would one spoonful of rice make me fat?

Rationally, I knew that this was not possible. But ED was so strong - too powerful. He convinced me that anything I ate would be converted to fat. I remember crying on some nights because I knew that I was falling deeper and deeper into ED, but I could not stop. I could not make myself eat anything because I was too scared. Scared to eat, to gain weight, to become fat.

I could not admit (out loud) that I needed help. I did decide to see someone to listen to me and give me advice, but it was still difficult. Recovering is somewhat different - and the same in some ways.

Recovery means that I have decided to recover for myself. Not because I am scared of what others can do to me, not because I want to be a hero...but because I want to LIVE. I want to get rid of ED and live the life that I lost for so many years. This sounds fine and lovely, but it is a real challenge.

The first step was admitting that I had a problem. YES. I have anorexia nervosa. I am not ashamed of it. But at the same time, I realize that recovery takes a lot of work. And I cannot do it all on my own. I am the only person who can feed myself and make myself eat. I am the only one who can choose to eat or not to eat. I am the only one who can decide to ignore ED and choose recovery.

But I can't do this without support. I DO need help. I need the love and support from my family. I need the care of my community. I need the encouragment from my friends and readers of my blog. I need the strength from my God. I need the hope that things get better. I need the faith that recovery is possible.

We all need help sometimes. It is often hard for us to admit that we need it - whatever you may be doing or whatever situation you are in. But sometimes it is alright to ask for help. The important thing is to remember that we need help with certain things. Maybe your family cannot complete your homework for you, but they can make you laugh when you are stressed. Maybe your spouse cannot cook for you, but perhaps they can help you clean. Maybe your friends cannot understand what you are going through, but maybe they can lend a listening ear.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

February is ED awareness month!

Many people are unaware of the fact that February is eating disorder awareness month. Although we need to think about how to help those with ED all year round, this month is especially dedicated to eating disorders.

In honour of this month, I want to share some things with those who are suffering from an eating disorder. Regardless of what type of eating disorder you have, these top ten ‘tips’ are worth reading.

1) ED is NOT you fault. Maybe you started off by dieting, but you did not mean for it to go this far. Or maybe you were just a little hungry and sad and decided to eat too much. Perhaps the hype with weight loss got to you. Maybe your peers or family teased you because of your weight. Whatever the reason, this does not mean that you ‘made’ yourself have an eating disorder. Know this one thing: you should not be blaming yourself for this illness.

 2) ED is a MENTAL illness. No one chooses to have a mental illness, but when you have it, it needs treatment. Do not ignore your symptoms because you feel as though you are not ‘sick enough’ or do not quite meet the criteria to be formally diagnosed with an eating disorder. It is a mental condition, like many other issues. Therefore, you should not feel ashamed of it, nor should others ever criticize you for your illness. Ignore the stigma behind mental illnesses – people who stigmatize are uninformed.

 3) You deserve HELP. All people with ED, no matter what kind, deserve to get treatment. You have the right to get help – whatever that may mean to you. Perhaps you need a dietician to help meal plan, or maybe you simply need to speak to a therapist. Maybe you need to see a doctor who specializes in eating disorders. Regardless of what you need, know that you deserve to get the help that will make you feel better. It is available – you just need to search for it.

 4) RELAPSES happen. We aren’t perfect. While a relapse may seem .like the end of the world, it really isn’t. Recovering from an eating disorder is a lot of work – so expect to be challenged along the way. But know that if you make a mistake or go back to ED, it does not mean that you have failed. It simply means that you need to get yourself back up and keep pushing. Fighting an eating disorder is truly difficult; thus, do not be angry when you slip up. Acknowledge that you are human and learn from your mistake. It will make you stronger.

 5) Some of it really is about the FOOD. Although not all parts of the eating disorder is about the food, a great portion of it is. Whether you are fighting with bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating disorder, food does play an important role. Perhaps you are eating too little – or maybe too much. Regardless, you do need to solve the issues with the food. We all need food to survive – and it is good! Wherever the issue with food is, be sure to resolve it. If you need to eat more (ex. anorexia), start out small but be sure to increase. If you are eating too much (binge), try to distract yourself from mindlessly eating and learn why it is that you eat this way.

 6) Love your BODY. Your body is special. Your heart pumps for you to live, your lungs provide you with clean oxygen, your kidneys remove wastes, your stomach digests food, etc. Eating disorders can cause us to view our bodies differently – often in a very negative way. Recovering from an eating disorder means that you also need to start seeing your body as being a gift. Some of us are naturally bigger than others, and some of us are shorter than others. No matter how you look, learn to appreciate your body the way it is supposed to be – healthy.

 7) There might be other ISSUES you need to work on. Often people with ED struggle with other comorbidities like depression, anxiety, OCD, cutting, etc. If you do have any other problems, seek help for them as well! Like the eating disorder, these problems need to be resolved as well. Perhaps you need medication for depression. Or maybe you need to talk to a therapist about some traumatic problems. Whatever it is, know that this too deserves attention.

8) Eating disorders can be DEADLY. You might not think that the ED is serious, but it really can be. ED can turn into a big problem if it is left for too long – in other words, it can cause serious damage to your body and can threaten your life. You might feel fine and healthy now, but your body may be suffering a lot. One day, you might just crash. Do not prolong getting help until you are too sick to get better. Know that ED can really be fatal – and then seek the help that you need.

9) Recovery is POSSIBLE. Yes, recovery is very hard work. But it is possible – and worth all the struggles. It is definitely not fun fighting ED, but your body will thank you for it. And you will feel happier, stronger, and more alive. Recovery might feel too hard, too tough, and too painful. That is because it is. But once you start seeing the benefits of recovery, you will never turn back.

10) You are not ALONE. There are many people with ED, and there are many people without ED who are willing to help. Talk to someone – your family, friends, teachers, therapists, doctors, etc. There are many resources and people who can be of great help to you during recovery. Seek the help and support you need. You cannot do this without enough love, strength, and power. Ask people you trust to help you.
Well, that about wraps it up! I pray that these ten points remain with you as you recover from ED or seek to help someone in doing so. During the month of February (and all year round!), remember these ten things and keep in mind all those suffering with ED. If you are caring for someone with ED, my heart and prayers are with you. If you are recovering, I give you all my support and admiration.