21 QUESTIONS: INTERVIEW WITH KATHY

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21 Questions is a series of interviews with people who currently have an eating disorder or have recovered from one.  The same 21 questions are asked of each person.  Each interview sketches a picture of someone who has been in the depths of the reality of an eating disorder and is either still working on blazing a path out of it or has gone on to recover. Some of the names used have been changed at the request of the interviewee.   If you would like to be interviewed for this series, please contact us.

Interview with Kathy:

Q:  How old are you?
A:  47

Q:  Male or female?
A:  Female

Q:  How long have you had/did you have an eating disorder?
A:  I developed it when I was a kid. Food became a comfort to me when my family life was in turmoil.  I have since recovered.

Q:  Which one do/did you have, or has it been more than one (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, EDNOS, compulsive exercising)?
A:   Primarily binge eating disorder.  In my teens and part of my twenties, I used anorexic behaviors to compensate, but the primary diagnosis would be BED.

Q:  Who in your life knows about your eating disorder?
A:  When I was sick, no one had heard of binge eating disorder.  I didn’t even know I had an eating disorder until I was in my 30’s.  When I first realized what was really going on, I primarily talked about it with people on an online recovery forum.  Since I became more comfortable with it, I have talked to some people in real time about it.

Q:  What person in your life was the most helpful and supportive during both sickness and recovery?
A:  My best friend at the time.  She also was in recovery, and since we had known each other since we were little kids, it made it so easy to talk to her.  Also the small circle of friends I made in the online community were quite helpful.  We emailed, chatted and talked on the phone. It helped me lose the shame of what I was going through, and talk openly about my struggles and progress.

Q:  What person that you might have wanted or expected more from was the least helpful and supportive?
A:  There really wasn’t anyone that I could point to that disappointed me, but I also was careful with whom I shared what was going on.

Q: Do you or have you ever sought professional help, such as a therapist, psychiatrist, nutritionist, doctor, support group or inpatient treatment?  Specify which kind of help you had.
A: I saw a few different therapists at different times over several years.  The first two were 20-something years ago, and they both thought I just struggled with weight (times were quite different then), but they helped with the underlying issues.  The next therapist was the first one I saw when I knew that I had an eating disorder (I was in recovery by then), and it validated me greatly when she accepted what was going on and helped me with it.  I saw a nutritionist when I was in recovery, but she just gave me a no-carb diet plan and was no help.  I have never had inpatient treatment.

Q:  What was most helpful to you about the help you got?
A:  I could start putting pieces of the puzzle together.  I realized I had abandonment issues, for example.  That was huge; especially when I made the connection between how I had learned the sick lesson that food would never abandon me.  Seeing how one problem stemming from childhood had made it easier to develop an eating disorder behavior was mind-blowing to me.  Each therapist I saw helped me put more pieces of the puzzle together.  When I could see my past more clearly, and the payoff to why I had an eating disorder, I was able to really change up my mindset.

Q:  What issue(s) do you feel affected or influenced developing an eating disorder?
A:  My really early childhood was pretty normal, but eventually my parents’ marriage imploded, which made for a very difficult home life.  As well, my brother had a ton of issues and acted out in ways that deeply hurt me.  He was a bully under my own roof, and the help available for what all was wrong with him was limited at the time.  My parents split up, which was very hard, and then got back together, which was hard, too, because they had solved nothing in terms of their marriage.  All of this made it tempting to indulge in food as comfort, and then extreme dieting to try to control something and feel better about myself and my life.

Q:  Besides yourself, who in your life do you think is/was most affected by how your eating disorder hurt you?
A: Probably my mom.  She never understood what was going on, but she tried to be helpful when I finally realized I had an eating disorder.  I know she worried about me knowing something was wrong.

Q:  What was the first major breakthrough you had in recovery?
A:  That when I was binge eating, I was doing so mindlessly.  It was eating with my brain in the ‘off position’.  I began to challenge myself to be fully aware and in the moment, so my eating wasn’t so robotic.  I also had to work on learning when I had true stomach hunger and when I was eating out of boredom or for emotional reasons.  Those two lessons formed the foundation of my recovery.

Q:  What is/was the hardest truth to accept about what you have to do in order to recover?
A:  That ultimately I was the only one who could pull myself out of it.  No matter how much therapy and introspection I learned to have, no one was going to rescue me from myself.  I had to do things I did not want to do.  I had to feel emotions I did not want to feel.  I had to retrain my thought patterns, even when it was the last damn thing I wanted to do at any given time.

Q:  If you could be eating disorder-free for a day, what things would you do?/If you are recovered, what things do you do now that were very difficult when you were still sick?
A:  As a recovered person, two things come to mind.  The first is physical:  I can buy something like a bag of cookies or a cake and not feel like I have to/will just inhale it.  I can eat healthier portions and be satisfied.  Food isn’t a ‘friend’ any more, and I not only can trust myself around former trigger foods, but several times I have forgotten I bought them.  There’s that moment of “Hey, I have brownies!”, when before I would’ve obsessed over when I could be alone to binge on them.  There was no way I would forget what was basically a binge supply.

The other thing is emotional.  I have learned to set boundaries and be comfortable with them.  I can assess a lot of situations much more quickly now, and be able to say something like “I’m not getting involved in that” or “I don’t owe that person an explanation” or “They can go be crazy over there, but I will make sure they stay out of my yard”.  Learning to set boundaries is not only healthy but it’s a time saver!  I can look at certain situations and think about how if I didn’t know better now, I would’ve wasted days or weeks or years with a person or a situation, and it still would not have worked out or it would’ve blown up in my face.  Boundaries free you up in many ways.

Q:  What one piece of advice would you give to someone new to admitting they have an eating disorder?
A:  That it’s hard as hell to start recovery, but it gets easier.  The more time you spend learning to take care of yourself and face your demons, the easier the journey gets.

Q:  What one suggestion would you give to a loved one trying to support someone with an eating disorder?
A:  Throw out what you think you know about eating disorders.  Educate yourself.  Buy books, research online, join a support group.  Don’t assume that what feels right and like the obvious thing to say is actually helpful.

Q:  Do/did you seek support online?  If so, what kind of support and did it help you?
A:  I belonged to a forum that helped me tremendously.  Interacting with others who knew exactly what I felt was eye-opening.  I also learned that when I was writing compassionate, encouraging replies to members, not only could I apply that same compassion to myself, but I deserved it.  That was huge.

Q:  If you are sure you will not go back to your eating disorder, what gives you that confidence?/If you are scared you will relapse, what is your biggest trigger?
A:  It’s hard to explain if you’ve never felt it, but there just comes a point where you *know* you are done with the eating disorder. The idea of trying to solve a problem or comfort myself by buying a box of diet pills or starving myself or doing a shameful drive for a box of donuts that won’t make it past the next morning is completely foreign to me.  I know too much to ever go back.  I could go bang my head against a wall for hours and get the same result that going back to an eating disorder would give me:  I just put myself through unnecessary pain and the problem doesn’t change one bit.

Q:  If you have children or plan to in the future, are you concerned about how your eating disorder may affect them?  If you recovered before you had kids, do you think your experience will help you to better guide your child away from developing one?
A:  I do not have kids, but I did think about what I might pass on to children if I had them while I was still sick.  I watch my friends who are in recovery or recovered and how they raise their kids, and I see a wide range of approaches.  I also see friends who don’t have an eating disorder but have unhealthy body images and no idea of how their talk affects their kids, and it makes me sad.

Q:  Did you read books or workbooks to help with your recovery?  If so, are there any specific ones you recommend?
A:  I recommend Geneen Roth books.  Some people think they are mostly geared towards people who are not anorexic, but I found the message translates to all eating disorders.  I also am a big fan of “When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies” (Hirschmann & Munter) and “Eating by the Light of the Moon” (Anita Johnston)

Q:  What song, album or musical artist comes to mind when you think of good music to listen to while trying to make positive changes in your life?
A:  There isn’t a particular artist I relied on, but I found it was important to be aware of my mood and play music that suited it.  If I needed something more uplifting for a tough time I was going through, I might pick Sarah McLachlan, for example.  If I needed something life-affirming, I was careful not to put on something that just kept my mood down. Sometimes sad songs are great, but sometimes they just compound the down mood.  That’s not to say it’s not helpful to crank up a Disturbed c.d. (it is!), but it was helpful to me to become aware of what to listen to when I was in a funk or going through something challenging.  

 

Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery: http://www.graceonthemoon.com

Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account of ro_buk

SHAME ON YOU

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Every New Years Day, the advertising starts up again. A campaign of commercials and print ads meant to speak to the person who made (yet another) resolution to lose weight. I call it the January Conversation.

The words blare from your television and your radio, and off the magazine pages. Choose THIS gym and you won’t regret it! Choose THIS diet plan and watch the pounds just fall right off!   Whatever you do, don’t choose THOSE guys over there, because our solution is the only one that will work! Soon, people are getting out their debit cards and their dollar bills, buying into the mania and myriad of options out there designed to make the average buyer lose much more money than actual weight.

We are now knee-deep in the annual sequel to the January Conversation. It’s the dreaded Swimsuit Season Shaming.

We all know how it goes. We are reminded time and time again that it’s time to strip down to our swimwear and hit the pool and the beach. Only, hey, wait – you, over there!   You aren’t swimsuit ready. You weren’t really thinking of wearing a bikini in public were you? You weren’t even going to settle for a one-piece or men’s swim trunks, right?

Whatever size you are, the message is you can be less. The other message is that Swimsuit Shaming is ok. It’s what happens every year, and this year is no different.

Or is it?

This can be the year you stop and tell yourself that you will no longer buy into the shaming.

This year you will embrace the fact that most people have at least a little cellulite, even if it has to be air-brushed out of magazine covers, gym and diet ads.

This year you will stop assuming that when you arrive on the scene, everyone will stop what they’re doing in order to nitpick your body and all its flaws, real or perceived.

The beauty is that anyone can join in on this revolution. Those who are sick or in recovery can take steps to relieve themselves of their body shame.  Even people who do not have an eating disorder are not immune to the lure of these shaming ads, and can take a stand, too.

Don’t fall for the special gym memberships that focus on your ‘problem’ areas. Your problem area is about how you see yourself, not how the gym companies want you to see yourself.

Don’t fall for the diet plans that make you think the ‘After’ picture is the only one with rights. The ‘Before’ pictures deserve to dive in the pool or sunbathe on the beach just as much.

Don’t fall for the Swimsuit Shaming voice in your own head. Whether or not a person really is overweight or morbidly obese should not impact their inalienable right to put on a swimsuit and go out in their backyard, to their neighborhood pool, or any beach of their choosing.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to choose a swimsuit that you feel flatters you, regardless of what size you are. Just remember that there is no such thing as a person who is undeserving of wearing one at all. Do not give any power to people who judge others, or encourage you to judge yourself.

Shame on them, not you.

 

Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery: http://www.graceonthemoon.com

EVERYONE WITH AN EATING DISORDER IS SKINNY & NEEDS TO GAIN WEIGHT

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There are many things that all sufferers of an eating disorder have in common, whether they deal primarily with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, or EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified).   Many a book, lecture and website has been filled with a detailing of the commonalities, such as low self-esteem, bad body image, a history of painful life events, a lack of healthy coping skills, and not knowing how to get help.

As well, virtually all approaches to recovery from an eating disorder have things in common.  Therapists, doctors, inpatient professionals, nutritionists, co-sufferers and others usually recognize that everyone who wants to recover must address their fears, assumptions, and painful emotions.  They must challenge beliefs that have held them down for a long time.  They must show up to their treatment appointments and do the homework it takes to apply those lessons to their lives.  They must take stock of their physical health and work on improving it.

And they must all gain weight.  Because everyone with an eating disorder is skinny and needs to gain weight.

Wait, they’re not?  Doh!  Now why would the average person think that?  Because that is the stereotype that is out there.  The general public, which often includes the family members, friends, co-workers, fellow students, and others who know someone with an eating disorder, typically believes that eating disorders are about skeletal people who must gain weight in order to heal.

For millions, this is true.  They are at a weight that is not healthy for them, and they have to put in a lot of hard work, emotional upheaval, and dedication in order to adapt to a meal plan, change their average caloric intake, and restore weight.

For millions of others, they also need to restore weight.  But they do not need to gain weight.  They need to restore going down the scale, not up.

For them, this also includes a lot of hard work, emotional upheaval, and dedication in order to adapt to a meal plan, change their average caloric intake, and restore weight.

Sadly, this is news to many people.  As a society, we are so programmed to believe that needing to gain weight when sick with an eating disorder means the person really IS sick.  When someone needs to lose weight when sick with an eating disorder, eyebrows are raised and questions are asked.

The reality is that many people become overweight or morbidly obese due to their eating disorder.  Too often, the average non-sufferer assumes a good diet will cure all.  They believe that a person who has gone up the scale to a number that is unhealthy for them can separate out the actual eating disorder and address it with the usual approach (therapy, etc.), but then just go on a diet to address any physical health issues.

These people mean well when they suggest a sufferer try Weight Watchers, although WW itself will tell you they are not a program that anyone with an eating disorder should use.  They are honestly trying to help when they tell you they know someone who had success with Jenny Craig, even though this program is known for the yo-yo “success” many of its spokespeople have had.  They don’t know any better when they give you advice about which food groups to cut out and calorie amounts to aim for, as if the sufferer doesn’t already have a long history of trying diet after diet, often including very questionable ones.

In some ways, what is even sadder to me is that some of the misunderstanding of those who need to restore weight down the scale comes from within the eating disorder community itself.  While plenty of sufferers who are underweight or at a healthy weight DO get it, and do not question or judge those who need to lose weight in order to improve their health, it still is a subject that needs to be better understood.

I have been a moderator and administrator of two different eating disorder websites, with a total of 12 years doing those jobs, and I remember vividly an argument that broke out years ago when the subject of restoring weight down the scale came up on a forum.  Some people considered it taboo to even bring up the subject.  A point of order coming from one side of the discussion was that no one should be allowed to discuss losing weight on the forum, since that was just basically going on a diet, and any health concerns from being overweight or morbidly obese should be kept private between the doctors/therapists and the person.

Yet these same people argued that people who need to gain weight for health reasons should be allowed to discuss that on the forum, as they needed support for that.

I was saddened to see such a division among people who –  more so than any other members of the population – should be able to understand each other and support the different journeys each person has to becoming recovered.  The point was made over and over by myself and other members that restoring weight is often necessary, regardless of whether you are going UP or DOWN the scale.  Anorexics do not get the ‘right’ to talk about meal plans, fear of changing the size of their bodies, and what the weight really represents to them, while people who deal with binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating do not get that same right.  These people also need to talk about their meal plans, fear of changing the size of their bodies, and what the weight really represents to them.

The details of any meal plan on both sites I’ve worked on were not allowed, such as calories, amount of weight gained or lost, and specific food plans.  Those things can trigger others and need to be kept in real time with people who understand the physical needs of each individual they treat.  But the expression of emotions and the asking for support related to restoring weight going down the scale were/are definitely allowed, just the same as they are for folks going up the scale.

Many people who have lived for a long time in a body that is too heavy for them and that they reached by having an active eating disorder deal with a fear of losing weight.  That fact alone is shocking to many people.  Those who don’t understand eating disorders think an overweight person who loses weight will feel nothing but joy and pride.  Those who have an eating disorder but have not experienced needing to restore weight going down the scale sometimes feel the same, and feel jealousy because that person “gets” to go on diet.

Neither group has a full understanding of how difficult a meal plan can be, regardless of if it’s more calories than you’re used to or less calories.  Factor in how many people use extra weight as a type of armor, and there’s a whole ‘nuther reason people need support.

Many a person gains a lot of weight through their eating disorder in a conscious or subconscious attempt to avoid sexual or romantic attention, due to molestation or rape that has occurred or is still occurring in their lives, or due to a fear of becoming involved in a sexual or romantic life in general.  Many people also deal with a fear of success, and to them reaching a healthy goal weight will mean success, so they self-sabotage.

Many people put off starting their lives over or making big changes or being happy at all until they reach a goal weight.  When they have a deep-rooted fear of having to actually start their lives over, make big changes or be happy, that makes for a lot of start-and-stops on meal plans.  For these reasons and many others, people who need to restore weight down the scale deserve to be understood and supported by their loved ones, treatment providers, and their fellow sufferers.

Not everyone with an eating disorder is skinny and needs to gain weight.

Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery: http://www.graceonthemoon.com

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Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account of saxarocks

 

AN EATING DISORDER DOES NOT EXIST IN A VACUUM

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Today’s blog is a guest blog written by Elizabeth.  She has been fully recovered from her eating disorder for several years now.
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“An eating disorder does not exist in a vacuum.”
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These are words I heard over and over again from my therapist. I was convinced that I kept my eating disorder contained.  I worked, volunteered, and attended all of my sons’ school and sporting functions, so how could what I ate or did not eat have any effect on my family?
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What I could not see in the depths of my illness was how, even though I was there physically for my family, mentally I was checked out.  I could sit in the bleachers of a ball game and cheer on my son while in my head I was going over what I had eaten that day, what I would eat the remainder of the day, or what excuse I would use to avoid eating.  That was my life: a walking shell that appeared to be doing and saying all the right things, while living an alternate reality in my head that consisted of an endless stream of numbers.  How many calories did I eat?  How long could I get away without eating?  What did I weigh this morning?  What will I weigh this evening?
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Then one day my honor student, star athlete son began to withdraw.  I noticed.  I asked if all was okay.  He would assure me that it was and despite the feeling of dread that sat in the pit of my stomach, my mind would turn back to the numbers.  This continued for months – my son withdrawing, my reaching out but then withdrawing myself.
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Looking back I should not have been surprised.  I had taught my son how to not deal with his problems.  How to not reach out. How to not talk about what was really going on and brush off any questions of concern, and in the end he and I imploded.  He treated his depression with alcohol, I treated my depression with starvation.  Both equally numbing and both equally self-destructive.
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It is hard to convince someone who is consumed by an eating disorder that what they do has a ripple effect. They can believe it of a drug addict, an alcoholic or other self-medicating, self-destructive behaviors, but when it comes to an eating disorder, it seems harder to take in.  When there are no other females in the household, it seems even harder to accept.  But the truth is my therapist was spot on: an eating disorder does not exist in a vacuum, and the sooner we and those around us acknowledge that, the sooner healing can hopefully begin.
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After my son’s implosion, I sought help while insisting he get help, and that is when I first heard those words.  I wish I could say that I was instantly swayed, that what had happened with my son shook me to my senses, but that is not how recovery works, and it took several years of intensive therapy to free me from the chains of the eating disorder.  What I found was my recovery did not happen in a vacuum either.  As I grew healthier and stronger, so did my son, and today we both have lives that are completely free of the insidious behaviors that ruled our lives a decade ago.
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There are many books available that help families deal with having a daughter with an eating disorder.  There are less available for those with sons or a parent with an eating disorder. The truth is an eating disorder is not just a young woman’s illness.  There are many women in their thirties, forties, fifties and even sixties still battling anorexia, bulimia and other associated eating disorders.
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Many, if not most, have tried to raise families while hiding a disease that has ruled their lives for decades, and believing they did so successfully.  They hide out of shame because they feel too old to still be battling this disease, they hide out of fear of what their family will think of them, they hide because they mistakenly believe at their age there is no hope for recovery. They tell themselves that what they do to their bodies in private, what they do or do not eat, has no effect on those around them because too often they do not realize or see the deeper effect of the eating disorder.   They do not realize an eating disorder does not exist in a vacuum and the ripple effect can often be felt long before it is seen.
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Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery: http://www.graceonthemoon.com

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Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account of Ali T.

 

21 QUESTIONS: INTERVIEW WITH JILL

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21 Questions is a series of interviews with people who currently have an eating disorder or have recovered from one.  The same 21 questions are asked of each person.  Each interview sketches a picture of someone who has been in the depths of the reality of an eating disorder, and is either still working on blazing a path out of it or has gone on to recover. Some of the names used have been changed at the request of the interviewee.   If you would like to be interviewed for this series, please contact us.
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Interview with Jill:

Q:  How old are you?
A:  24

Q: Male or female?
A: Female

Q:  How long have you had/did you have an eating disorder?
A:  I have had an official diagnosis for almost a year, but I have had eating disorder behaviors and thoughts for more like 12 years.

Q:  Which one do/did you have, or has it been more than one (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, EDNOS, compulsive exercising)?
A:  When I was a teen, I had probably some form of bulimia as I would go on binge/starve cycles, although I never purged, so it would have been considered EDNOS.  Then it morphed into anorexia as I stopped binging and just restricted, but I began purging through compulsive exercising, so technically that would be EDNOS, as well. But as far as identifying what I have and how I treat it, I say that currently I have anorexia.

Q:  Who in your life knows about your eating disorder?
A:  At this point, pretty well everyone in my life.  I was very, very secretive about it at first, though.  No one knew when I was a teen about the binging.  Some of my friends knew about the restricting, but they didn’t really understand what I was doing, and honestly, neither did I.  After I was diagnosed, my husband and immediate family knew, as well as a close friend and her husband. For New Years in 2014, I made the resolution to tell everyone, so I did!  Now pretty well everyone knows and I don’t hide it.  I talk about it with new people that I meet and help teach people about it.

Q:  What person in your life was the most helpful and supportive during both sickness and recovery?
A:  Definitely my husband.  He has been through hell and back with me in the last couple of years, and has been the most caring and supportive person imaginable!

Q:  What person that you might have wanted or expected more from was the least helpful and supportive?
A:  Probably my best friend.  I don’t think she really understood what was happening, and didn’t really seem all that interested in learning.  That is her personality, though; she has a hard time seeing other people’s pain sometimes.  It’s sad, though, because it has really damaged our friendship.

Q:  Do you or have you ever sought professional help, such as a therapist, psychiatrist, nutritionist, doctor, support group or inpatient treatment?  Specify which kind of help you had.
A:  I have a whole team of professionals!  I see a psychiatrist, psychologist, dietician and doctor, as well as a support group.

Q:  What was most helpful to you about the help you got?
A:  Definitely my psychologist.  I have learned so much from her, and she has helped me in so many ways – not just with eating disorder stuff, but with everything.  Eating disorders almost always come with some other kind of mental hiccup, like depression or anxiety or bipolar, for example, and she has helped me with the other mental disorders I suffer from, as well as the anorexia.

She taught me skills to use to keep behavior urges at bay, helped me understand where this came from and why, reminded me (and continues to remind me) over and over again that my weight is not what is important, and that I have many other qualities to offer that have nothing to do with my body shape.  She has saved my life!

Q:  What issue(s) do you feel affected or influenced developing an eating disorder?
A:  I have pretty bad depression and PTSD, so that definitely contributed. I was abused and severely bullied as a kid, so food became a way of coping. Then I started gaining weight, and that’s when the restricting started.  I would punish myself with not eating. Then when I was about 20, I decided to lose all the weight, and that apparently tipped my brain overboard.  The healthy diet and exercise regime morphed into anorexia.

Suddenly I felt good about myself, for the first time in years, and I didn’t have people telling me that I was a failure anymore (besides myself, of course), so I just kept going.  I couldn’t stop. And all the years of “you’re not good enough, try harder, you’re useless” that I had been dealing with pushed me to keep losing more and more.

Q:  Besides yourself, who in your life do you think is/was most affected by how your eating disorder hurt you?
A:  Probably my husband. He has been to hell and back with me through this whole process. But he’s also been the most supportive, and he has learned a lot about himself and grown as well, so it’s not all bad. Besides my husband, my uncle probably was affected the hardest. After I told him what was going on, he called me every single day to make sure I had eaten, almost to the point of being annoying! But it was out of love and worry, so I don’t mind.

Q:  What was the first major breakthrough you had in recovery?
A:  That’s a tough one.  I think I actually had two that are tied for first, because they happened around the same time.  One was when I joined a support group (it is now gone, sadly), and I realized that all of these people think, feel, and do the same things I do, and they all have eating disorders, so clearly I must, too.  I can’t keep pretending this isn’t real.

The other one – I think it was the same day – was when I realized that I was being selfish, and this isn’t just about me.  I was having a meltdown about something my husband was trying to get me to eat, and I realized he was crying.  That’s when I understood that as hard as it is for me to eat these foods, it is way harder for him to make me eat it, to sit there and force-feed me and watch me cry like I was, to have to hurt the woman he loves.  That was the turning point when I made the choice to push myself to get over this, because I can’t keep hurting him like I had been.

Q:  What is/was the hardest truth to accept about what you have to do in order to recover?
A:  Gain weight. Hands down, that is the hardest part. But not just the weight gain itself; the understanding that my weight is going to settle where it is going to settle.  I think I know where that is and it scares me, and there really isn’t anything I can do about it. Well, I can, but that’s how I ended up here in the first place. It terrifies me to know that if I eat a normal, healthy diet and do normal, healthy amounts of exercise, my weight is going to fall where it is going to fall, and I have to be okay with that. But it is getting easier. The more I gain, while I hate the way my body looks, the better I feel physically, and my mood stabilizes when I’m not crazy hungry!

Q:  If you could be eating disorder-free for a day, what things would you do?/If you are recovered, what things do you do now that were very difficult when you were still sick?
A:  If I could be eating disorder-free for one day, I’d go swimming in a two-piece bathing suit. Or wear shorts. If I could have one day without hating my body and just living a normal life, that’s what I’d do. Everyone else does it, but I’m so ashamed of my body that I’m terrified to wear “revealing” clothes.

Q:  What one piece of advice would you give to someone new to admitting they have an eating disorder?
A:  Don’t blame yourself. This is not your fault and you did nothing wrong. You are not weak, you are not a failure, you are not what your brain tells you you are. You are someone who probably has had some pretty rough times, and this just happens to be how your pain manifests itself. You are not alone. Go easy on yourself and you will get through it.

Q:  What one suggestion would you give to a loved one trying to support someone with an eating disorder?
A: Be understanding. Don’t blame them, don’t tell them it’s their fault, and don’t try to diminish their pain. It might sound silly to be afraid of something you eat every day, but to the person suffering, it is terrifying. And for the love of God, “Just eat/Just stop eating” is the worst thing you could ever possibly say!

Q:  Do/did you seek support online?  If so, what kind of support, and did it help you?
A:   I found Something Fishy when I was googling symptoms of eating disorders, because I didn’t believe my diagnosis. I joined the site and realized that this is real. And it was incredibly helpful. Suddenly I was surrounded by people that understood. I didn’t have to explain why I felt the way I did, or even explain the feeling itself. They just got it. And they were able to help me understand what was going on, supported me through every crisis, and celebrated my victories with me. They also held me accountable and kicked my butt when needed!

But it also gave me the chance to support others as well, which helped me probably more than being supported. I realized that I give great advice, but then I don’t follow it. People would post something that I do or feel all the time, and I would give them advice and support, and then not listen to that advice and support myself. It really helped me understand that I have the skills to get through this if I just allow myself to see it. After SF, I moved over to this site (Grace on the Moon), and it has been equally as helpful (plus most of the members are the same!).

Q:  If you are sure you will not go back to your eating disorder, what gives you that confidence?/If you are scared you will relapse, what is your biggest trigger?
A:  I am always afraid of relapse. I am certainly nowhere near recovered yet, but always closer than I was yesterday! My biggest trigger is exercise. Seeing people exercising, walking past a gym, hearing people talk about it. Even something as simple as having a sore muscle from carrying something or walking funny will trigger the desire to exercise because of the way the sore muscle feels. There are lots of triggers (things that remind me of my dad, certain foods, certain locations, bad marks, etc.), but exercise is probably the worst.

Q:  If you have children or plan to in the future, are you concerned about how your eating disorder may affect them? If you recovered before you had kids, do you think your experience with the eating disorder will help you to better guide your child away from developing one?
A:  This is one of my greatest fears. I think I mention this to my husband literally once a week. I do eventually plan on having kids, and I want to be good and recovered before then. But I’m terrified that I’m going to pass the “depression gene” on to them, or that my insanity surrounding food will rub off on them. I so badly don’t want my kids to grow up overweight like I did, because of the bullying and pain that goes with being overweight, that I’m afraid I will give my kids eating disorders by demonizing “unhealthy” foods. Luckily, my hubby will not let that happen.

And then I’m afraid of whether or not I tell them. On one hand, I don’t want to hide things from my kids. On the other hand, I certainly don’t want them to think that eating disorders are okay. But I think that with my husband in the picture, it should turn out fine. And we both know what to watch for. My parents didn’t know anything about eating disorders when I was a teen, so of course they didn’t pick up on what was going on, and I didn’t realize that what I was doing wasn’t normal. But my husband and I both know the signs and symptoms, so we can keep an eye out for it and as soon as our kids show any symptoms, we can nip it in the bud!

Q:  Did you read books or workbooks to help with your recovery?  If so, are there any specific ones you recommend?
A:  Not really. I had the “Body Image Workbook”, which was great for getting the feelings out and helping me understand body image in general, but it’s not designed for eating disorders (it says right in the foreword that those with eating disorders or body dysmorphia need professional help that this book can’t really work with). I do, however, use the Recovery Record app, which I would highly recommend for anyone with an eating disorder!

Q:  What song, album or musical artist comes to mind when you think of good music to listen to while trying to make positive changes in your life?
A:  I have an entire playlist! The one that works the best for me is “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato. Also on the list are songs like “No Reins” and “Stand” by Rascal Flatts, “Brave” by Sara Bareilles, “Break Free” by Queen, “Defying Gravity” from the musical “Wicked”, “We are Never Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift, and lots of others. Pretty much anything that is empowering or break-ups (as in, breaking up with my eating disorder).

Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating disorders information and recovery: http://www.graceonthemoon.com

Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account of der bobbel licensed for use with attribution via Creative Commons.

 

 

 

Would You Like to Contribute to Grace on the Moon?

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Grace on the Moon is continuing to look for people who are interested in expressing themselves and adding to the conversation about eating disorders via several opportunities:

21 Questions:
This is our popular series of interviews with people who have an eating disorder or have recovered from one.  The same 21 questions are asked of each person being interviewed.  Through these sketches of different people’s experiences, a collage is created that helps those still suffering feel less alone, as well as assists their loved ones in better understanding the feelings, thoughts and viewpoint of someone with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and EDNOS.  The interviews are featured on this blog, as well as in our newsletter.

New Interview Series with Loved Ones:
Similar to the 21 Questions interview, I am beginning a new series that is a set of questions designed for the family & friends of someone who has or had an eating disorder.  Just as loved ones can learn from hearing the person they care about open up about their own views and experiences, people with an eating disorder can also benefit from seeing themselves and their illness through the eyes of someone who cares about them.  If you are a parent, partner, child, friend, or anyone else who knows someone who suffers from an eating disorder, or has gone on to recover, take this opportunity to use your voice and add to the conversation.  You can help the person you love, others like them, as well as those out there who understand what it is like to walk in your shoes.

CBT/DBT:
CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and DBT (Dialetical Behavioral Therapy) are sometimes used when treating people with eating disorders.  Have you used either in the past or are you currently using one of these methods?  I would love to hear your thoughts on how it worked, what experiences you had or are having with it, and if you recommend it to others.

Walking on the Moon:
If you’ve visited the busy Grace on the Moon forum, you’ve seen the eating disorder boards divided up into three categories.  “Walking on the Moon” is the section for people in advanced recovery or completely recovered.  I am looking for people who are fully recovered and want to tell their stories.  If you have been completely recovered, in terms of thoughts and behaviors, for at least one year, and do not have concerns that you will relapse, please consider sharing your story to inspire others.  When a person is in the midst of an eating disorder, knowing there are others out there who have ‘landed’, in moon-speak, gives great hope.  Details about how you helped yourself and what you recommend to others can give those who are struggling a new step to take or inspiration that will make a difference in their journeys.

Guest Blog:
If you would like to be considered for a guest blog, please let me know.  Viewpoints from sufferers, people who are recovered, loved ones, and treatment professionals are all welcome.  Let me know if you have a topic in mind.  It’s not necessary to have previous writing experience, but if you have a  blog or other place you write, let me know.

If you are interested in becoming involved with any of the above opportunities (you don’t have to limit yourself to just one!), please contact me.

Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating disorders information and recovery: http://www.graceonthemoon.com

LIFE LESSONS FROM A MUSICIAN, A BLOGGER & A QUEER EYE

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The last several months of my life have brought about a wagon load of change.  I was laid off from a job I held and loved for seven years.  The loss of the work I did and the ending of an income were both very painful.  The way the whole thing played out online (I was the Administrator for a popular website on eating disorders) made it that much more surreal.

I could conclude with how it was the impetus to start my own website, something I had long toyed with the idea of doing, and how I’m now following my dream, but that would mean leaving out a whole lot of stressed out days, sleepless nights, anxiety, sorrow, and fear.  It would omit the times I would be seized with the idea that I need to pick out an outfit to wear when I become penniless and pushing a shopping cart down the street.

All of those emotions and thoughts have happened.  Sometimes all in one day.  And they are all valid and expected.  Had the job not meant anything to me, I would not have cared so much.  Had I been in a position to rely on a husband’s income while I sorted things out, or had the option/desire to stop working, I would not have gone through the fear of the future that I’ve been through.  Had I not decided to pull the trigger on building a new website from scratch, I would not have played the game of thinking of all the ways this plan will not work out.

This isn’t to say I have not had wonderful, positive times, too.  There are many, many times when I sit here building up Grace on the Moon and just know that this is the right path for me.  I also now finally have health insurance again, thanks to the Affordable Health Care Act, and I have leads on freelance writing jobs.

I am also fortunate enough to have people in my life who love me and cheer me on, reminding me I’m where I’m supposed to be, and insisting that trying to build a successful, genuine website is an attainable goal.  My mantra is that if the site does not succeed in the way I envision it, it won’t be because I didn’t try.

Still, the dark times have been there.  The moment when my eyes fly open in bed and a little voice wonders what I’ve done to deserve this.  The times when a nagging thought pops into my head as I’m watching tv, wondering if I will never again have the things I so treasured about my career and income, and will always look back at them as “the good old days”.  The time spent hunched over my green spiral notebook with a calculator, trying to be as judicious as I can with my dwindling savings and bare minimum bills.

When you factor in other things that have made the past several months often difficult, including the declining health of a parent that is breaking my heart, I do feel I’m being tested.

I don’t mean in some ‘God is speaking to me from a burning bush’ way.  I believe we are often tested simply by things that happen, and – no matter how much we want to stomp our feet and call into question the fairness of it – it’s always an opportunity to learn a life lesson.  After all those years of watching Oprah and Dr. Phil, and reading books and having conversations that address this concept, I am very much convinced that these lessons appear throughout our lifetimes, and if we do not learn them, they will be repeated over and over again.

I’ve been thinking about some of the lessons that may be in my latest curriculum, and found the following quotes rang a bell the size of the famous Liberty one in Philadelphia.

“Saying no: It can mean ‘I’m done’ or ‘I’m ready.’ No can be an act of fear or an act of love.” — Erin Blakemore (author of “The Heroine’s Bookshelf”)

This most recent blog post by Ms. Blakemore jumped off the virtual page at me.  She’s discussing learning to say “no”, and what it means to her.  Seeing it in the terms she described has helped me think of my own times of saying “no”.  I’ve said it many times over the past several months, and I’m looking at which times were “I’m done” and which were “I’m ready”.  When was it an act of fear and when was it an act of love.

I want to make sure I am saying no when it’s the right thing to do, and is a form of self-care or will move me closer to my goals.  I don’t want to be afraid of the consequences of saying no that may come from others or from my own fears and self-judgment.

 “Comfort can kill an impulse.” — Jack White (musician extraordinaire)

Mr. White is one of the most accomplished, prolific song writers and musicians out there (White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather, solo career), and I wrote down the above quote a long time ago.  He said it in regard to being creative, and how easily people can get comfortable in a routine, or even tell themselves they don’t need to take that step to create something artistic because they are so comfortable right now.  They are lying to themselves, and their so-called comfort is really just trying to avoid the fear of the discomfort of creating.

This rings true to me as I continue to want to write more creatively and to make plans to do it, but yet I keep staying rooted in that ‘comfort’.  I finally wrote a short story this year, which helped me so much in remembering the joy of writing for pleasure.  That then catapulted me into rethinking a rock musical I want to write, and I finally have the clearer vision of it I need to get started.

Those impulses I was killing are starting to get fewer and farther between.  It’s all a reminder that sometimes comfort is an illusion, and the discomfort we fear may actually end up being something that feels quite comfortable.

“The thing that I was so desperately looking for out there; I’m already that.  We’re already that which we are seeking.” — Kyan Douglas (“Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”)

Mr. Douglas had this revelation after spending a great deal of time traveling the world, studying yoga and spirituality, and trying to find himself.  After enough time doing that, he realized that instead of booking the next flight or signing up for the next class, he was already where and who he needed to be.

This made me think about how much of what I’m looking for is already in place.  How often do we struggle with the idea of trying to become something or achieve something, yet it’s already within us?  We just haven’t acknowledged it or accessed it yet.  It’s about building our confidence levels and trusting ourselves to handle the difficult times; both lessons I spent much time on over the past decade plus, but have needed a refresher course in.

My hope is that opening up about the difficulties of the changes I’ve been through in the past many months, and the value I’ve gotten from these quotes, will be inspiring to anyone else going through things that are testing them, too.

Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating disorders information and recovery: http://www.graceonthemoon.com