21 QUESTIONS: INTERVIEW WITH CASSIE

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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 Cassie:

Q: How old are you?
A: I am 28 years young.
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Q: Male or female?
A: Female
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Q: How long have you had/did you have an eating disorder?
A: Officially diagnosed and on record? Since April 2013. Informal off-record treatment? Freshman year of college, Fall 2004-Spring 2005. After in-depth assessment with my current therapist? All my life. I have been displaying signs, symptoms, fears, compulsions and obsessions since I was 2. Life-threatening cases were when I was 18 and again in 2013 (multi-organ failure).
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Q: Which one do/did you have, or has it been more than one (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, EDNOS, compulsive exercising)?
A: Initial diagnosis was anorexia/bulimia with hypergymnasia. They really were not sure what to put as my diagnosis or how to approach me. As of April 2013, I am EDNOS. I meet all the criterion for anorexia except for the weight.
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Q: Who in your life knows about your eating disorder?
A: “Knows” is such a relative term. I have told my parents, two of my sisters, my brother, my closest friends, my aunt and cousin, a family friend and some of the men I dated. My parents and sister seem to deny it and think I am making it up. Some of my closest friends, one of my sisters, and my brother all bounced when I told them. Some of it was denial, some of it I’m not sure. I want to tell the world that I struggle with it, but there is SO much judgment involved in stereotyping that I am not able to. I fear telling the men I date because no one understands eating disorders – just the stereotypes.
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Q: What person in your life was the most helpful and supportive during both sickness and recovery?
A: In the beginning of this recovery session, two of my best friends.They were the ones who were on to me not doing well and were really concerned. They pushed and pushed me to get help. They were great the first six months. Then one had a baby and fell off. Another two close friends are helpful but do not really talk to me about it. I think the most supportive in all of this has been my therapist and my group therapist. They are the only two consistent people who understand when I struggle, and are helpful. They also refuse to give up on me.
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Q: What person that you might have wanted or expected more from was the least helpful and supportive?
A: Not sure. My parents but yet I honestly did not expect it. They are still convinced I “flunked out of college” instead of being told by my therapist I needed to return home to a more supportive environment. Also, my best friends. I thought they would have been consistent but they were not. I know I am a burden, but just acting like I fell off the earth really added to the worthless and hopeless feelings I had.
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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 had a nutritionist in college. I [initially] withheld my struggle with anorexia from my doctors. I had a full blown panic attack in the doctors’ offices, and was in the midst of multi-organ failure. I realized I had a problem. They also threatened [me with] a 5150. From there, I had an intake appointment with a therapist. I met with a psychiatrist and started medication therapy mainly for control of the anxiety. My group therapist is specialized in eating disorders. I have therapy three days a week. I am still in intensive PHP. I outright refused a nutritionist and inpatient treatment unless they committed me. Even then, I probably would still refuse, hahaha.
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Q: What was most helpful to you about the help you got?
A: For once in my life, I was validated. Someone listened to me and my problems. Someone actually cared and was concerned. She did not give up on me when I had given up on myself. She empowered me.
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Q: What issue(s) do you feel affected or influenced developing an eating disorder?

A: Invalidating environment, fear of judgment, increased moments of anxiety, loss of control, having braces for thirteen years (encouraging me to limit my dietary intake), and people just not caring. I was a competitive dancer, but I am not sure if that really contributed as much as people stereotype. Going to a high school that was predominantly Asian, while I was Caucasian with an hour glass body. I was told I was fat by the boys all the time. There was also a lot of death in my life. Being Jewish, I also loved the holidays where we were starving ourselves.

My doctors all missed it. I stopped getting my period and [my doctor] told me to lose more weight. They instilled the fear of diabetes and being fat in me. My doctors exacerbated my eating disorder.
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Q: Besides yourself, who in your life do you think is/was most affected by how your eating disorder hurt you?
A: No one. My parents claimed they were embarrassed by my eating habits and would mock me in front of others. But I have always made it my problem. I internalized it. I would only eat in front of others and then starve on my own so no one saw how they hurt me. Maybe my therapist? I know she struggled a lot in the beginning and sometimes I feel like I let her down because I am not recovered yet. I always fear letting her down the most. She has put so much into me. That is why I did not kill myself a few months ago. I felt like I would destroy her and she would resent me.
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Q: What was the first major breakthrough you had in recovery?
A: Maybe six months ago when I was stronger and able to eat new foods I had avoided for years and never eaten. Again when I realized that I grew up in an invalidating environment and have a toxic job with a lack of appreciation. That my family has caused my fear of judgment. That was huge. It made me realize it was not my fault and you cannot change everyone. Being able to feel when I was relapsing. That was huge.
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Q: What is/was the hardest truth to accept about what you have to do in order to recover?
A: I have to eat. That is the ultimate hardest truth I face. I like not eating. And it would make sense that overweight people should cut calories to lose weight. For me, it is increase calories and to eat for weight loss to come about. That was and is still the hardest thing I have to constantly face. It is so easy to skip meals.
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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: I am not sure. This is a very difficult question. Part of me thinks go to a restaurant and not care. But I also do not want to go and eat. I also would want to go out in public and just not care what people think of me. Be free from the fears of my weight and the judgment. Not worry that men think I am too fat to be loved.
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Q: What one piece of advice would you give to someone new to admitting they have an eating disorder?
A: It is never easy. Ever. I am an example of what is and will be a life-long struggle, but not everyone has it as a life-long struggle. I envy those who can be fully recovered. You have to do it for yourself because no one else truly cares. They move on. They get bored. Hold on to whatever it is that makes you want to live and go for it. Mine was to help others.
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Q: What one suggestion would you give to a loved one trying to support someone with an eating disorder?
A: Do not give up on them. Believe them in their feelings. Validate their feelings. If you cannot understand, do not give up; just accept it. Keep supporting. It really sucks going at this alone. It makes the hopelessness and worthlessness stronger. It makes the point of living much more bearable if someone supports you.
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Q:  Do/did you seek support online?  If so, what kind of support and did it help you?
A: I created my own blog. I tried to stick with it regularly, but I gave up when I did not receive the followers I thought I would receive. I also used to obsessively research online information in high school. I found journal entries about it. Pinterest was also huge for my support. It allowed me to pin my deep, dark, gruesome thoughts and struggles. Some of the pro-ana stuff was detrimental in the beginning. It gave me strength. Now it gives me strength to not go back, at least to hold out and try.
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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: Oh, I straight up told my therapist I do not expect to live past 35 years of age. I am pretty sure I will be the statistic of death by anorexia. I am constantly relapsing and I’m not sure if it is a fear of doing so. The fear is being free of the eating disorder and being in this world without that single comfort.

My triggers? Men telling me I am not worthy of being loved because where I live, even uglies think they are entitled to skinny, fake tan, fake blonde bitches. I am none of those.  I always feel like I am not good enough. I am the perfect nurse and unable to obtain a job because it is so competitive. Some [interviewers] told me that while I would be the perfect nurse, I am “too fat” to be a nurse.
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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: I have always wanted to have children, but I have also known since I was in middle school I was never going to be pregnant. I am too fearful of being fat. Fearful of the fear that will cause me to starve and then starve my baby so it comes out destroyed. Fear of never losing that weight. Fear of being able to get the nutrition in that the baby needs. I am so fearful of being fat that I would throw myself down a flight of stairs to abort a baby. Ya, that bad.
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Q: Did you read books or workbooks to help with your recovery?  If so, are there any specific ones you recommend?
A: My therapist offered two that helped me help my loved ones. I recommend them. I cried a lot reading them because it gave me insight as well. “Help Your Teenager Beat an Eating Disorder” by James Lock. “The Eating Disorders Sourcebook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Causes, Treatments, and Prevention of Eating Disorders” by Carolyn Costin. “The Anorexia Workbook: How to Accept Yourself, Heal Your Suffering, and Reclaim Your Life” by Michelle Heffner. I think it is a great supplement.
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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: Honestly, EDM (electronic dance music) saved my life. It helped me be able to escape without utilizing substances, hurting myself, having excessive sex, etc. It had the ability to give me the same pleasure I used to get from sex; the orgasm and all. It allowed me to be sad if I needed it. It made me happy. It really encouraged my mood. It truly helped me feel like I escaped myself when I hated being me. It also gave me a community.

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 Mat Honan

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRACE ON THE MOON!

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Grace on the Moon is now celebrating our first birthday!  It’s been a great privilege to serve the eating disorder recovery community for the past year, and we look forward to the next year. We will be adding new articles, additional ways for the eating disorder community to express itself, a new forum for loved ones, and other exciting new things throughout the year. We are committed to continuing to help inspire and inform people with eating disorders, their loved ones, and professionals who treat them.

Grace on the Moon could not exist without the wonderful people who read and contribute, participate on the forums, interact with us on social media, and are part of the big conversation that takes place in person, via email and online.  Thank you for coming by the main site and the forums, as well as following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. We also are very grateful for the people who follow our blog!

If you haven’t explored all that Grace on the Moon has to offer, check out A Guide to Grace for helpful links. Thank you again for helping us reach a large audience, and we look forward to continuing to grow throughout 2015.

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

21 QUESTIONS: INTERVIEW WITH EMILY

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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 Emily:

Q: How old are you?
A: Twenty-two.
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Q: Male or female?
A: Female.
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Q: How long have you had/did you have an eating disorder?
A: First diagnosed with EDNOS at age 12 (ten years ago) and struggled with the thoughts ever since, despite being “recovered” and at a healthy weight for a lot of the time in between.

Q: Which one do/did you have, or has it been more than one (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, EDNOS, compulsive exercising)?
A: EDNOS.

Q: Who in your life knows about your eating disorder?
A: Just about everyone I know knows. It’s not a secret, and I’ve written some blogs/articles about my experiences and shared them on Facebook.
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Q: What person in your life was the most helpful and supportive during both sickness and recovery?

A: My mom. She’s always been my best friend, but through all of this recovery struggle, she’s been amazing and always there to talk or listen or whatever I need.

Q: What person that you might have wanted or expected more from was the least helpful and supportive?

A: I’ve been lucky – everyone I know has been very encouraging, and happy to know that I am finally taking steps to get better.

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: At age twelve I was admitted to the hospital and spent two months there, being monitored by a doctor and seeing a dietitian regularly.  I didn’t get any psychological therapy though, so nothing really got better at that time. Now, I am in an outpatient program, which includes doctor checkups, dietitian meetings, psychologist appointments, and group therapy.
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Q: What was most helpful to you about the help you got?

A: Group therapy has been incredibly helpful in my recovery.  Up until now I’d never had anyone to talk to that understood what I was going through, but I’ve met some of the most amazing people in my therapy groups, and we all are helping each other get through this.

Q: What issue(s) do you feel affected or influenced developing an eating disorder?
A: When I was younger (8/9) I was pretty overweight, and unhappy with how I looked. When I started losing weight it was the first time I received compliments and positive attention, and I wanted more of it. I kept losing weight, and kept getting compliments, until it got to be a big problem.
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Q:  Besides yourself, who in your life do you think is/was most affected by how your eating disorder hurt you?
A: My parents.  I know I’ve caused them a lot of worry and stress, and put a lot of strain on our family relationship.
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Q: What was the first major breakthrough you had in recovery?

A: I think it just hit me one day that there isn’t really an alternative to recovery. I can get better and get rid of my eating disorder, or I can let it kill me. Harsh, but that might have been what it took to scare me into recovery-mode.

Q: What is/was the hardest truth to accept about what you have to do in order to recover?

A: Having to gain weight. I’ve been in therapy for about four months now, and the thought of gaining weight still terrifies me.

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: I have no idea- I’ve had an eating disorder for so long I don’t know what life’s like without one, so I can’t really think of what I’d do differently.
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Q: What one piece of advice would you give to someone new to admitting they have an eating disorder?

A: Recovery is really, really, really hard, but it’s worth it. I’m nowhere near fully recovered, but I’ve already had little tastes of how much better life is without an eating disorder, and it’s worth every day of fighting.

Q: What one suggestion would you give to a loved one trying to support someone with an eating disorder?
A: Don’t be the food police. Your job is not to be a dietitian and question everything they eat, and it will just cause tension and fighting!

Q:  Do/did you seek support online?  If so, what kind of support and did it help you?

A: I do. I have started writing a recovery blog, and I’ve been reading and commenting on other similar blogs. I find that the online recovery community is very supportive and positive.

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 think right now, where I’m still in the relatively early stage of recovery, it’d be really easy to slip into a relapse. I don’t really know whether I will definitely be healthy from now on, or if I will relapse a dozen times.  Right now I can just take it a day at a time and try my best.

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: When I have kids I really want to focus on things other than looks. I don’t want my future daughters to think being pretty and thin is the most important thing in life. Also, I want to make healthy eating habits something my kids grow up with.
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Q: Did you read books or workbooks to help with your recovery?  If so, are there any specific ones you recommend?

A: Jenni Schaefer’s book “Life Without Ed” was the first thing I read that made me actually consider that recovery was possible. I still read it pretty often, and I find it helpful when I need to get my thinking back on track.

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 don’t know?

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 Mike Licht

Gobble Gobble: 4 Steps to Surviving Thanksgiving

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We’re less than two days away from the Turkey Day feast in the U.S., and that annual event is cause for many emotions.  There are many reactions that come up for people, often a mixture of both joyful and stressful. There can be the pleasure of seeing family members and friends, the joy of cooking, the nostalgia of returning home to their parents, or the pleasure of welcoming home their own grown children and grand kids.

For still others, Thanksgiving is mostly just a mind boink to endure. Traveling during this period, particularly when flying, is often stressful, and the crowds and the cold weather can take their toll on anyone.  There can also be reservations about putting up with a judgmental in-law or the Debbie Downer cousins. When you add an eating disorder into the mix, Thanksgiving can become a pretty tense time, for both sufferers and their loved ones.  The thing is not to assume every moment will be difficult, nor will every challenge be insurmountable.

Here are some ways to help take care of yourself during this holiday:

Set The Tone

If you are used to having family members or friends comment on what you’re eating or not eating, take a moment to pull them aside and make a declaration.  If you are in recovery, you can calmly say something like, “I know that you have seen me when I was pretty sick, and it’s understandable that you might want to comment on what I eat, but at this point it would just serve to be awkward and unhelpful.  I have made real progress in getting better, and I will do my best to anticipate when and what I want to eat.  I appreciate you letting that happen without making comments.”  You can even tell this to one designated person, and ask that they tell some of the others on your behalf.

If you are not in recovery, or you are still in the early days, you can also make a statement or request to people (though you may have less credence with your audience).  If you can say it and mean it, try something like, “I often have had trouble with holidays that are so focused on food, but I’m trying to make this year different.  If you see me struggling, I understand you will be concerned, but please do not make a public statement in front of others.  I promise to do my best to make some progress, and I’m more likely to accomplish that if I’m not worried about being monitored and commented on.”

Negotiate Your Moments With Food

If you typically struggle with binge eating, consider that rather than white-knuckling your way through each meal, you have the opportunity to experiment with some basic recovery techniques.  Binge eating often takes place in private, and it can make a person feel anxious to be around a lot of food and know they can’t use an active behavior with a dozen or more people around.  Take those moments to experiment with eating slowly and thoughtfully.  Give yourself the opportunity to rediscover true stomach hunger cues.  Tell yourself that if you don’t eat that second or third piece of pie now, it doesn’t mean it disappears.  Leftovers are just that: left over.

If you typically struggle with restricting food, you also have some learning opportunities.  If a particular dessert or side dish is normally on your list of No-No foods, make a commitment to put a small amount on a plate and not automatically judge yourself.  Be mindful of each bite, and tell yourself that you have as much right to enjoy the dish as anyone else.  Would you yell at your six-year-old niece not to eat the pie because she will get fat?  Of course not.  Tell yourself the same thing.  Would you slap the mashed potatoes bowl out of your grandfather’s hand and say, “Do you know how many calories are in that?!”.  You would not, and you don’t deserve to have that voice in your own head either.

Make Yourself a Care Package

Whether you’re crossing the state or the country, or the whole holiday takes place in your own home, pack a small bag for yourself.  Put things in it that promote small moments of peace, ways to center yourself, and reminders of your worth and your recovery.  It can include things like a printout of affirmations, a book you’re currently enjoying or want to start, a photo of someone you love and trust, a journal, a coloring book and crayons, or your iPod.

When you feel stress piling up on you, excuse yourself – even just for 5 or 10 minutes – and take something from your bag.  Lock yourself in the bathroom and listen to a favorite song or sit on the floor and color in your book.  Offer to make the last minute run to buy more paper plates, and use part of that time to sit in the car and read through your affirmations.  Excuse yourself to a private room and write in your journal or send a quick text to a friend.  Create moments in your day to take care of yourself.

Set The Timer

Even if people or situations seem to be going out of their way to be difficult and stressful, there is a time limit to it all.  Break down the day into chunks.  Give yourself credit for each section of the day (the morning, a particular meal, a visit to someone), or even mark off each hour as it passes (keep a tiny notebook handy).  You will see that time is indeed passing, and the end of the weekend is inevitable.

Remind yourself that you have resources, and Thanksgiving need not gobble you up.

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 Kim Seng

RECOVERY: YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY

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Recovery from an eating disorder is such a personal thing.  A metaphorical trip, really.  Moving from the point of being quite sick to being fully recovered takes time and covers a whole lot of ground.  Not everyone is leaving from the same point or arriving at the exact same place.  Not everyone will take the same route, nor complete it in just one set amount of time. Everyone isn’t using the same vehicle.

There are common events and emotions people with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and EDNOS experience when becoming whole again.  There are “Me, too!” moments when we hear someone else describe what they felt along the way in one moment or another.

But no one has the exact same recovery as someone else.

Because of that, people who are sharing the experience of recovery at the same time, or are now well and watching someone coming up behind them trying to achieve the same goal, or someone who is still sick and seeing someone else progress through their recovery journey ahead of them, have to allow for the individuality of each person’s trip.

Her journey may include an increased intake of food while yours doesn’t.  He may require less frequent therapy appointments than you.  She may go inpatient three times, while you went only once or not at all.

He may find it takes years to work through a really tough issue in therapy, and you don’t relate because it took you a lot less time.  It might be the opposite, and you find yourself flirting with resentment over still having to work on a similar issue while it appears as if the other person has wrapped it up in a short amount of time.  These comparisons get you nowhere.

Everyone has their own journey, just as you have yours.

This also applies to the loved ones watching a family member, friend, or romantic partner go through recovery.  They may be quick to point out that there are things they see more clearly than the person who is sick, and there are definitely times when that is very true.  A parent can watch a child losing or gaining an unhealthy amount of weight, when the child cannot see it themselves.  A boyfriend or girlfriend can see their beloved slipping into isolation and becoming less of themselves, when this isn’t clear at all to the person they love.

Yet it is not true that those outside the eating disorder understand everything better than the ill person they care about. They have less of a vantage point when they cannot truly relate to the feelings and mindset that accompany being sick with an eating disorder.  Loved ones often only have veiled reference points (or none at all) for what recovery for the person they care about is like.

The sufferer has insight into their own feelings, the origins of their illness, and what it is taking for them to recover, that are often things the loved one does not understand, often because it’s just not in their experience to understand it or they find it too painful to consider it.

Loved ones don’t know what the recovery journey of a family member, friend or romantic partner involves any more than the sufferer knows what the loved one’s journey of watching them go through an eating disorder is like.

When a person in recovery from an eating disorder makes a point of accepting that their journey is theirs, and everyone else’s is not theirs, it makes it easier to keep their eyes on the road ahead of them.

When a person who loves someone with an eating disorder accepts that they cannot truly dissect or fully direct that person’s recovery, it makes it easier to let go and let the person they love get where they’re going in a way that is best for them.

Too often, comparison is the passenger of an eating disorder.  “Am I bigger than her?”, “Am I smaller than him?”, “Am I pretty enough for the societal norm?’, “Am I worthy compared to someone else?”  Work on removing the comparison factor that often blocks the road for both the person in recovery and those who love them.

Look around, enjoy the scenery (it’s often beautiful), power through the storms, and don’t worry so much about what everyone else is doing and how you fear it may reflect on you.  Recovery is indeed a journey, and your mileage may vary.

 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 CasaDeQueso

OUR EARS ARE BIG. WANNA TALK TO US?

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Have you read Grace on the Moon‘s ground-breaking 21 Questions interview series?  If not, click the link and see what people are saying.

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.

This series includes perspectives from people from many different walks of life: single, married, with or without kids, different age groups, multiple nationalities, recovered and still sick.  The goal is to help those who have or had an eating disorder, as well as those who love them or professionally treat them, better understand the mindset of someone sick with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder or EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified).  Sufferers can feel less alone and be inspired by stories from the recovered, loved ones can gain insight into what the people they care about are thinking and feeling, and professionals can get a detailed understanding of what their clients go through.

The interviews take place via email, and you can be completely anonymous.  A first name only is used, and it can be your real name or a pseudonym that is chosen either by you or Grace on the MoonWe are particularly hoping to showcase some new interviews with people who are male, LGBT, a minority, older, or from a non-Christian religious background, as those viewpoints are often less heard than others, but we are open to people from all walks of life.  All interviewees are welcome!  If you are interested in being interviewed, please contact us.

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

Photo at top of blog is copyrighted to Moon,
Administrator of Grace on the Moon

21 QUESTIONS: INTERVIEW WITH DARCY

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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 Darcy:

Q: How old are you?
A: 31

Q: Male or female?
A: Female

Q. How long have/did you have an eating disorder?
A: 21 years
 
Q: Which one do/did you have, or has it been more than one (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, EDNOS, compulsive exercising)?
A: I started with anorexia for 2 years then graduated to bulimia. For many years I vacillated between the two; I starved all day and binged/purged all night. I have also been a compulsive exerciser for most of my life and am currently EDNOS (I still purge). I abused laxatives, diet pills and diuretics for years. 
 
Q: Who in your life knows about it?
A: Only a couple of close friends know the whole truth. My family, other friends and colleagues know some things from what they have observed or the few times I have alluded to an eating disorder.

Q: What person in your life was the most helpful and supportive during both sickness and recovery?
A: The couple of close friends that know the whole truth have been there for me whenever I needed them. It is hard for people to support you when they do not know you are suffering. 

Q: What person that you might have wanted or expected more from was the least helpful and supportive?
A: My mum. When I was younger, she was just so angry about my eating disorder. I felt like I couldn’t talk to her about it. As I got older and lived away from home, I hid so much from her because I know that that anger stemmed from hurt and despair. She didn’t know how to help me, and no one gave her the tools back then. I still wish I could sit down and tell her everything, but I know it would upset her. We are so close that it seems wrong to have such a big “secret” from her. 

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 was forced to go to a doctor when I was younger by my parents. As an adult I have sought professional help from my doctor who referred me to a nutritionist. I found the nutritionist didn’t help much and I could never follow a meal plan. I was also referred to a therapist. I found the therapist very helpful. She didn’t help my eating disorder to improve, but talking to someone was therapeutic and gave me a clearer understanding of myself. I have been to Overeaters Anonymous, and also did Freedom Sessions (a Christian 12-step program), which I did not complete because I found the food at the meetings too triggering. I am currently awaiting a referral to an out-patient program. 

Q: What was most helpful to you about that help?
A: I think the things that were hardest and that hurt – like digging up painful memories from my past – were most helpful. It was freeing to identify the things that contributed to my eating disorder from childhood, and to confront the pain that I have been numbing with an eating disorder for so long. I found doing inventories in the 12-step program was upsetting but necessary in identifying the hurt that I have buried for so long.

Q: What issue(s) do you feel affected or influenced developing an eating disorder?
A: My home environment when I was young: I needed control and being a perfectionist was encouraged. I always had a sense that nothing was ever good enough. I used my eating disorder to numb the anxiety I felt living with a controlling father and dealing with my parents’ unhappy marriage. 
Ballet: my chosen profession is a breeding ground for eating disorders, especially the aesthetic look that is hard to attain. My ballet teacher told me from the time I was ten that I needed to eat less and be thinner. 
My genetics: I am not naturally thin, which was hard when I was so obsessed with being a ballerina. Even now as a ballet teacher, I long to look a certain way that I can only achieve through extreme starvation. I have always had a naturally curvy body and thick legs. I hate it.

Q: Besides yourself, who in your life do you think is/was most affected by how your eating disorder hurt you?
A: Definitely my family, especially when I was younger and lived at home. Now I hide so much of it from them. Back then I know that it caused a lot of worry and hurt and I regret that. They had no idea what to do for me, and any efforts they made to help me were rebuffed because I didn’t want help. I was so selfish and didn’t think about how it was affecting them. It was all consuming. There was no room for worrying about other people and how it might hurt the people that loved me. 
 
Q: What was the first major breakthrough you had in recovery?
A: The realization that recovery was actually possible. For years I had told myself that recovery was not attainable for me. I believed that I would always live with an eating disorder, just to a lesser extent. I had never believed it was possible to be 100% free of it. I think it was a form of denial so that I could justify continuing to be sick.  I still believe it is possible to be healed even though I do not consider myself recovered right now. 

Q: What is/was the hardest truth to accept about what you have to do in order to recover?
A: I have to give up my eating disorder. It is a choice I have to make. 

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: I would not count calories. I would eat whatever I felt like and exercise if I wanted to rather than because I had too. I would enjoy more quality time with family and friends around meals without anxiety over what I was eating. I would use the time I spend binging, purging, starving, exercising, food prepping, calorie tracking, shopping for food and thinking about food to be more creative. I am often too tired to do things like be social or write more because I am suffering the side effects of my eating disorder. I have no energy to do the things I would like to do. I would read more books instead of reading eating disorder memoirs or watching eating disorder movies or reading eating disorder blogs. The list of things to do in a life free of an eating disorder seems endless to me. I would enjoy the taste of pasta with my family instead of eating rice cakes all alone. I would enjoy the pleasure of a piece of cake with a friend instead of the taste of guilt and the desperation to go purge rather than sit and enjoy myself. 
 
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to someone new to admitting they have an eating disorder?
A: It is a long, painful road ahead but you are worth it. You will relapse, I am almost certain of that. You will want to give up trying. It will almost definitely get worse before you get better. Do not quit. You deserve recovery. You deserve freedom. Life is too short to let your eating disorder steal one more day from you. Give it up. Let it go. Live. 

Q: What one suggestion would you give to a loved one trying to support someone with an eating disorder?
A: You will never understand what someone with an eating disorder is feeling or what the voice in their head sounds like. You need to educate yourself in order to help them. Logic and reason will never prevail. Don’t get frustrated. Don’t tell them to “just eat something”. They need love because they cannot love themselves. Sometimes the best thing you can say is nothing at all. 
 
Q:  Do/did you seek support online?  If so, what kind of support and did it help you?
A: Yes. Mostly I have found support in a community of bloggers who suffer the same. There is solidarity in reaching out to others, even though we cannot help ourselves. 

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: Stress is a trigger, whether it is in a relationship or at work. I have a lot of anxiety and use my eating disorder to feel control when it seems that my life is not under control. Weight is my biggest trigger. Eventually I return to the eating disorder because I cannot stand myself.
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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: My biggest fear is having a daughter who gets an eating disorder because of me. I would hope that I would be able to prevent it because of my own experience. I would hope that I was well enough to be a mother that could raise a daughter who loved herself and her body and had a healthy relationship with food. I fear being pregnant because I cannot deal with weight gain, and I am certain that after having a baby I would relapse because of it. 

Q:  Did you read books or workbooks to help with your recovery?  If so, are there any specific ones you recommend?
A: I have read every memoir that I can get my hands on. I found books like “Sensing The Self”, “Why Women Want,” and “Lying The Weight” to be helpful. I have tried a couple of workbooks, too, and they are good for creating awareness of moods, feelings, etc., and being able to map out patterns that trigger eating disorder behaviours. I enjoy workbooks because of the level of awareness that they create. I find it helpful to write things out. 
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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: As a Christian, God is my only hope for recovering from this. I listen to a lot of Christian music. It is inspirational and uplifting. I enjoy artists like Selah, Downhere, Hillsong and myriad other contemporary Christian artists. One of my favourite things to listen to is old hymns. “It Is Well With My Soul” is my anthem.
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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 Okiave

21 QUESTIONS: INTERVIEW WITH JANICE

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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.

Q:  How old are you?
A.  34
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Q: Male or female?
A.  Female
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Q:  How long have you had/did you have an eating disorder?
A.  I’ve had issues with food for as long as I can remember.
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Q:  Which one do/did you have, or has it been more than one (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, EDNOS, compulsive exercising)?
A.  Compulsive overeating, then bulimia, then exercise bulimia.  Somewhere in EDNOS category now.
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Q:  Who in your life knows about your eating disorder?
A.  Family, therapist, 2 close friends, masseuse.
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Q:  What person in your life was the most helpful and supportive during both sickness and recovery?
A.  I’m still recovering, but I’d have to say my therapist. She was originally my familly therapist, but then my therapist quit on me, and I was lost for a couple years.  When I found the strength to reach out again, I initially contacted her for references, but she offered to be my therapist and hasn’t looked back since. She puts up with my issues and fears of being abandoned and is helping me.
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Q:  What person that you might have wanted or expected more from was the least helpful and supportive?
A.  My old therapist. I didn’t expect her to quit on me after 7 years.  Also, my parents were really supportive surrounding the time I was really sick and got put inpatient, but it’s like they’ve forgotten I have issues with food or need support or role models for healthy eating. But it’s hard if they obviously have some of their own issues with food, too.
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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. Therapist, doctor(s), social worker, nutritionist, trainer, energy healer (two), family therapist.  Inpatient, which was a crappy, world-renowned program, which was only geared toward anorexics, and I think made me fester longer in developing unhealthier thoughts.
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Q:  What was most helpful to you about the help you got?
A.  Having the support at the day treatment place with all that staff after my inpatient stay.
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Q:  What issue(s) do you feel affected or influenced developing an eating disorder?
A.  Severe, chronic depression.  Feelings of unworthiness and not being good enough.
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Q:  Besides yourself, who in your life do you think is/was most affected by how your eating disorder hurt you?
A:  My parents?  I honestly don’t know or think that my eating disorder affected anyone.  I think the self-injury issues I struggled with scared the bejesus out of my parents.
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Q:  What was the first major breakthrough you had in recovery?
A:  Hard to pinpoint.  Probably when I started to see that the behaviors I was choosing to engage in weren’t satisfying to me any more, or I could rationally see that ‘doing XYZ is not going to fix what hurts’.
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Q:  What is/was the hardest truth to accept about what you have to do in order to recover?
A:  That I have to change the way I think, to see myself as worthy.
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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:  Not sure.
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Q:  What one piece of advice would you give to someone new to admitting they have an eating disorder?
A:  Don’t hide with it.  Be open.  Confide in people you trust.  Realize you deserve better.
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Q:  What one suggestion would you give to a loved one trying to support someone with an eating disorder?
A:  Just be there; don’t judge them.  Be open to what they need.  Don’t be critical.
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Q:  Do/did you seek support online?  If so, what kind of support and did it help you?
A:  I used to be active at an eating disorder site during college.  It helped so much to connect with people going through the same thing, and I met some great friends I still keep in touch with.
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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:  My triggers are all around.  I think I’m blindly thinking I’m further in recovery than I actually am, but I think I’ve just swapped back to my eating disorder roots, and it’s a trigger to see myself gain weight.
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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:  I don’t think anyone is ever going to find me attractive enough to date, so I’ll be alone for life.  But if I ever do find someone, I’m terrified to have kids.  I’m certain they’d be fucked up, and I’d be too scared to pass along things or scar them for life by doing/saying the wrong thing.
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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 don’t think reading eating disorder books helps recovery.
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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 like a lot of alternative music, like 30 Seconds to Mars, One Republic, Guster.  And then there’s show tunes.  Nothing is more empowering than blasting “Rent” or “Rock of Ages” and singing at the top of your lungs.

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

FORK YOU: PUBLIC FOOD SHAMING & HOW TO FIGHT BACK

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There are a lot of “shame” related phrases and hashtags floating around these days, including “fat shaming”, “body shaming”, and “slut shaming”.  One of the newest terms gaining momentum affects a lot of people, primarily women, and often takes place in public.

Food Shaming.

Food shaming is the act of making direct comments to or about a person that show the speaker’s disapproval of what that person is eating.  The food is often high in calorie or fat content (or perceived to be), and the message is that only thinner people have the “right” to eat it.  Sometimes it’s a friend accompanying you on a trip to the grocery store who criticizes an item you put in your cart, informing you that there are fat-free options available.  It might be your spouse sitting across from you at the breakfast table, telling you the food you’re about to enjoy is “bad”.

More and more these days, it’s a perfect stranger who believes she or he has been designated a valued member of the Food Shaming Police.  Women, in particular, are reporting in growing numbers that a passing individual or group of people feel it’s their place to verbally chastise the food choice the woman has made.  How sad is it that a person cannot enjoy an ice cream cone while standing on a street corner, lift a forkful of a luscious pasta dish in a restaurant, or take a free sample from a grocery store display without risking a member of the Food Shaming Police issuing them a verbal citation.

Public food shaming might come in the form of an obvious slur from some frat boy type who yells out to a woman that she is “fat enough”, and has no business enjoying dessert at a sidewalk cafe.  It might be an older person emitting a “tsk-tsk” when the person in front of her in line at a coffee house orders a drink with whole fat milk.  It might be a group of friends who make mooing noises, perhaps leaving their victim not even knowing which cretin belched out the insult.

Food Shaming in Social Media

Food shaming often takes place in social media, when some jerk thinks he’s dispensing bon mots by leaving derogatory comments for a picture of a person eating something besides a piece of lettuce.  People often feel comfortable snapping a quick picture of a stranger with their phone and posting it to Facebook or Instagram, all with the intention of ridiculing the subject of the photo and what she or he is eating.  Too often, people believe it’s their birth right to food shame others, and the trend seems to be growing.

Instagram now has a page called You Did Not Eat That, which features pictures of mostly models and celebrities posing with non-diet food.  The idea is that these people are presumed to have tossed that gooey slice of pizza or over-sized cookie into the trash once the photo shoot is over, and are merely pretending they eat like everyone else.  While eating disorders are prevalent in the entertainment industry, it’s rather presumptuous to assume no one in the photos could really eat the food they are posing with (even Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher don’t escape condemning comments left by followers).

One particular place that people – again, especially women – experience food shaming is on public transportation.  It’s become so prevalent that there is even a group addressing it on Facebook called Women Who Eat on Tubes (the “tube” is the London subway system).  Their goal is to “celebrate and encourage women eating food on tubes”, and not to marginalize them.  I can’t speak to how the women who are photographed might feel, since clearly many of the pictures seem to be taken without them knowing, but I appreciate that the group is trying to normalize what doesn’t need justification in the first place.

The Fork Whose Ass You’ll Want To Kick

Have you heard of the Food Shaming Fork (its creators prefer you call it by its official name – the HAPIfork)?  This new invention is a fork with attitude.  It measures how long you spend eating a meal, the amount of times you put the fork in your mouth, and how long between each mouthful.  The information is then digitally tracked via USB or Bluetooth to monitor if you are eating in a way that will help you lose weight.  The fork lights up and vibrates when it wants to let you, and anyone near you who must be wondering why your fork has taken on a life of its own, know you are being bad and need to correct the way you are eating (I cannot make this stuff up).  Jessica Roy wrote a funny article detailing her week of using the HAPIfork you can read here.

Fighting Back

Hollaback! is a non-profit organization, with groups in 79 cities and 26 countries, that offers ideas and support in helping people deal with street harassment.  The group defines such harassment as pertaining to things like sexist, racist, homophobic and transphobic comments and actions, but also includes those who are “sizeist”, which is discrimination against people based on the size of their bodies.  The Boston branch of Hollaback! was showcased in a CBS news feature about food shaming, and encourages anyone who is a victim to stand up for themselves through a variety of channels.

In a Huffington Post article about public food shaming, nutritional coach Isabel Foxen Duke attributes the reason behind this phenomenon as being related to women’s perceived traditional societal and gender obligations: “Women are supposed to be trying to lose weight or maintain their figures at all times. So if you’re [eating in public], you’re basically saying, ‘Hey, I have a right not to diet,’ and you’re going to get backlash. At the end of the day, not trying to lose weight is counter-cultural for women.”

Sometimes fighting yet another attempt to shame us as individuals is tiring, but it’s beneficial to take a stand both outwardly to others and within your own head. Talk to your friends about why it’s important to combat food shaming.  Take a stand on social media, when you see someone in public being victimized, and if you find yourself under attack. Don’t offer excuses for what you’re eating and end up food shaming yourself. Food is not deserving of shame, and neither is anyone who consumes it.

 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 Sylvar.

 

DO YOU BELONG TO A PRO-EATING DISORDER WEBSITE? SPEAK YOUR MIND.

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Grace on the Moon is looking for people who participate (or did in the past) in pro-eating disorder (pro-ana/mia) websites.  We are conducting interviews with current or former owners, moderators and members of pro-eating disorder sites, particularly those with forums.

The point of the article is not to judge anyone, or focus on any perceived dangers of such sites, but rather to better understand what attracts a person to these sites, how they participate, and what benefits they feel they get from them.   We are hoping to speak to a mix of people, including those who defend their participation in such sites, as well as those who have mixed feelings or regrets.

All interviews will take place via email, and first names only will be used (or an alias if preferrred).  If you would like to express your opinions and thoughts about what you get or used to get out of being involved with a pro-eating disorder website, please contact us.

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 williamhartz