Tag Archives: eating disorders

Working, eating, breathing, being

progress

Wow…time has flown by since I last wrote at the beginning of January.

I got a job. Not necessarily the ‘best’ job, or my ‘dream job’, but a job none the less. I’m thrilled and I’m terrified, because with this next step comes a bundle of anxieties that I recognise from every other job I’ve ever had, every other change I’ve ever made, every other challenge I’ve ever faced: You suck. You’re stupid, you’re incompetent, everybody thinks you’re an idiot. You can’t do it. You shouldn’t be here. Go kill yourself. Just, whoosh- all the negativity spewing forth from my head before I even signed the paperwork.

Well, fuck that. I can do it, in fact I *am* doing it, every day- yup, full time work, another scary concept for me. I’m learning, and sitting with the scariness of not knowing all the answers, and dealing with the social anxiety of meeting lots of new people. Trying to translate an honours degree in social work into the reality of social work, in a speciality that I know hardly anything about = really fucking scared. Two weeks in, I’m still running on adrenaline and fear but I’m functioning, non-one has told me I shouldn’t be there and the world has kept turning. So screw you, head noise.  

Working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week (with a really long commute on top of that) has forced my body into a decent eating routine- I’m managing breakfast, lunch (in front of work colleagues!!!) and a couple of snacks most weekdays. That’s more regular and ‘normal’ than I have been for YEARS. It’s not perfect because I’m not perfect, nobody is perfect, fuck being perfect. It’s still an achievement, and it’s good enough for now. Quick oats, toasted sanwiches, muesli bars and bulk cook-ups of soup are my recovery aides right now. Staying away from any sort of restrictive diet or notion of ‘clean eating’ is also helping my sanity levels. I’m doing what I can, the best way that I can, when I can. I am enough.

A counsellor from a previous therapy group (RIPE, check them out) is running very gentle, body-positive and restorative yoga that is really helping me to manage the head noise, if only for an hour a week. It was perfect timing, the kind of thing that makes me believe in the ‘workings of the universe’- start stressful job, win free place in yoga course- and the gentle reminders to breathe, be still and be kind are just what I need at the moment.

So- I’m doing well. I’m scared and I’m shaky and I’m feeling pushed but I’m managing. I’ll take that, thank you.

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Photos

I hate them. I hate having to look at my body, I hate that they record me at this weight, I hate that other people will see and (I think) judge them. I hate the noise it creates in my head every time I see a picture of myself. I hate how every occasion is ruined by looking back at photos, zeroing in on my body and instantly wishing I was dead. I hate being torn by wanting to celebrate things, wanting to be with friends, wanting to document another day in the world verses knowing how utterly shit it makes me feel to look at them.

So often I offer to be the one taking the photo, as a way of being out of the picture. That works well, mostly. It has left gaping holes in my history, though. The last picture of myself that I can look at and appreciate is when I was about 8, just before I was diagnosed with epilepsy, playing in the surf at Byron Bay. Then- nothing. I have about 30 photos from the ages of 12-21. I hate them, although I also have the double shame of looking at them and knowing how much more I weigh now, and thinking, ‘If I was fat then….’.

All I see is fat, awkwardness, sadness, eyes that never look straight, too many chins, bulging breasts…it goes on. On and on and ON and I just want to rip them all to tiny pieces and retreat from the world and never leave the hosue ever again. Being in the world and knowing, even more acutely, that people are looking at me and seeing my weight, nothing else. It makes my skin crawl with…what? Shame, embarrassment, loathing? I don’t quite know what to call it but it makes me feel like killing myself. Photos reduce me to only my external body, to the thing I hate most about myself.

I am trying harder now to suck it up and be in pictures, even though it makes me feel so fucking horrible right now. I want to be able to show my children pictures of myself when I was young. Fuck, I want them to be free of this awful self loathing, no matter what their size or shape.  But it is so. fucking. hard. to be visible in this way.

I am crying now as I write this. I have just had a wonderful weekend away with friends. We went camping in a beautiful secluded spot on the coast. Swimming, walking, talking, card games, fires. I didn’t feel out of place, or like people resented me, or like I was taking up too much space- I was free of all that day-to-day, normal life shit. But then- the photos. The photos that other people took to make memories of a great weekend, I am now crying over, grabbing at my excess flesh, desperate to purge, wanting to cut. I HATE MYSELF. I hate the way I look, I hate the way my disgustingness is captured. I hate it.

What is the solution to this? I hate the photos of myself at 12, 50 kilos lighter than now. I hate the group photos that I have been coerced into, hiding at the back, desperate to disguise as much as possible of my body. I hate how every year I blow on candles and wish to magically become ‘thin’, whatever the fuck that is, and as if it were as simple as that, as I say ‘No, no, let me take the photo’. I hate the knowledge that I will keep being in photos- my upcoming graduation comes to mind- and keep having to be reminded of what I look like.

I know that this most recent photo will send me into a spiral of starving and binging, purging, binging again. I know that I will come up with meticulous diet and exercise plans, promise myself that I will stick to them, this time. All the while also knowing that it will never change, if I keep doing it this way. ‘Mad is he who repeats the same process while expecting a different outcome’.

There’s no neat ending to this post. What can I say to male myself feel better, with this most recent image burnt onto my brain, with the voice in my head loud and on repeat, you disgusting pice of shit. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

 

 

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On Feeding Myself

I just bought ingredients, made a meal and ate it. Part of me knows this shouldn’t be a big deal, not worthy of a blog post, but actually, it is. For the ‘me’ who is living with disordered eating, for all those meals on all those days where I have let the Negative Voice take over and either starved or binged: marking occasions where exceptions occur is really important. I gathered, I cooked, I ate. The world did not stop spinning.

The meal itself was pasta with tuna and pesto, and a side of broccoli. It was walking through the early night under a dark blue sky to the supermarket. It was feeling the anxiety rise inside me every time I saw people approaching, for we are reminded over and over again, this part of the world is not a place where women should walk alone . It was saying to myself, well fuck that shit, I have every right to walk these streets and why don’t they ever write about the place where most of the violence really happens, the home, in every suburb?

In the supermarket, people gather alcohol, chips, dips- things to take to parties. The AFL grand final has just been played, the streets are colourful with the paraphernalia of opposing teams.  People are gathering in celebration or just because it’s what we do, as Melbournians, on this day in September. I am not going to a party but I don’t care. I am going to cook, and eat. I have every right to eat. 

On the way home the Negative Voice berates me over food choices. Pesto is full of oil, pasta is carbohydrates, carbohydrates are bad, fishing for tuna kills dolphins…She is desperate, grasping at straws, trying to rise against this unfamiler experience of me taking care of myself. I picked the can of tuna where the label says ‘responsibly caught’ but that is not the point: I have every right to eat.  

I’ve been thinking a lot about nurture lately, about my experiences as a kid but mostly about now, as an adult, how I can chose to care for myself. If that little girl  was standing in front of me, the one who needed love and protection and reassurance that she was absolutely not as hideous as she thought she was, what would I say? What would I do? Would I tell her she wasn’t allowed to eat?

The pasta water bubbles and I chop and grate and stir, and there it is, simple, a one pot dish. This is not hard to do and yet society makes it out to be. You must eat this food, or these ones, at this time only, cooked in this way, you’re doing it wrong, buy this magazine, watch this show. Maybe all those people on Instagram with their carefully crafted pictures just want acknowledgement that they too have managed, today, to feed themselves.

I eat the food, quickly, as though somebody might take it away from me at any moment. I eat it secretly, in my room, as I have been doing for years. I enjoy it though, and I enjoy the feeling of having made it myself. I won this round, Negative Voice. I have every right to eat. 

 

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Plodding On

orange man

 

I had a relatively good day, food wise, yesterday- breakfast, morning tea, afternoon tea, dinner, supper, binge, no vomiting. Ate in public, lots of fluids, listened to the hunger and stopped when I was full. The binge on salty foods was more habit than hunger, and I noticed this, and I stopped.Today was lost to sleeping and  involved an apple, an attempt at dinner and a large (but not a binge) quantity of out-of-a-box  brownies.

It’s so hard to appreciate the things I did well, and block out the, ‘it wasn’t perfect so you failed’ mentality.  Eating disorders love black and white thinking. The Negative Voice loves screaming at me about all the things I do wrong. It’s far harder to tune into the sensible part of me that knows about trying, about creating new pathways and who allows for mistakes and grey areas. It’s OK. Keep going. 

We had a training session on mental health (as it relates to our particular client group) at placement this evening. It was really freaking triggering. I wasn’t prepared for how much it made me feel like screaming and getting out of the room. It was presented by a psychiatrist and was very much a ‘medical model’ presentation. That surprised me because the organisation in general is quite holistic but the tone of this session was very much about diagnostic labels and medication. It made me think a lot about my role as a social worker, trying to create space for other ways of working  and nurturing, and to advocate for a more well-rounded view of mental health/ mental wellness. So it was interesting in that sense, but in the end I walked away so annoyed, and dismayed, that a whole room of volunteer caseworkers who may not have had any other knowledge on supporting the emotional wellbeing of clients  have now been given information through such a narrow lens, and that it was presented as ‘expert knowledge’ and therefore unable to be challenged. There’s so much wonderful consumer led/ informed work being done and yet none of that was incorporated. Was it ignorance, or an intentional position of ‘professionals know best’? Either way it was disappointing,

I’ve got three weeks left of placement and it feels good to have that end date in sight. Most of my theoretical work is done and ready to be submitted, and then I can have a break before uni starts up again in March. My final year- finally! This time next year I’ll be qualified and most likely in a full time social work position. Just gotta keep on keeping on.

 

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TwistED: Your Chance To Contribute

Exciting news to hand! Two of my favourite women on the Interwebz (eating disorder survivors and all-round heros June Alexander and Cate Sangster) are compiling a book. It’s a book about the language of eating disorders, particularly about how well-meaning comments from family/friends/professionals can be twisted by the ED Voice to make them seem harmful. Example:

Doctor: You say you’re purging 3 times a day, but your electrolytes are normal.

ED Voice: Excellent! You’re fooling them, and your body can handle the vomiting. So go harder until you get skinny, you lazy bitch.

And another one:

Daughter (weight restored) in early stages of recovery: I’m going part time at uni so I won’t be so stressed and tired.

Dad: That’s great, you’ll have more time to exercise and look after yourself.

ED Voice: He thinks you’ve gotten too fat. You are too fat. RESTRICT RESTRICT RESTRICT.

If you’re struggling with an ED, this book is a chance to let people around you know what it’s really like. If you’re caring for somebody with an ED, it’s a way to try and crack the code of what might be going on for them.

Submissions are open until March 30th, 2012 and you can get all the details by clicking through to June Alexander’s blog on the link above. So get thinking, and please spread the word!

 

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