I have come to discover that my struggles with food have nothing to do with the food, but with emotions. If I'm mad, I punish myself by restricting or overexercising. Any fears get displaced onto food. Sadness makes me feel full and so I don't want to eat. This has been a pattern in my life so to me now it's easier and more normal to use food to cope instead of experiencing the emotion. I guess it comes from a childhood of not being allowed to feel and I used food to numb myself. And now I am just stuck in the habit and don't think I am allowed to feel emotions.
So what better to categorize the reasons for my issues yesterday than with emotions. Sorry this is so long, but you can come back and read the different sections at different times, I even put solutions of how I am pushing through today. There are three main emotions: fear, frustation, and guilt.
From the moment I woke up yesterday I was scared. Scared to be back on campus. Scared to have to go back to the dining hall and eat foods I didn't prepare myself. Scared of being away from the comfort, security, and control of home. Scared about the classes for the semester. Scared for my doc appointments. Just plain scared.
So no wonder I was scared to eat and that I wanted to calm the jitters by overexercising to exhaustion. I don't like fear and I didn't want to feel it at all. I just wanted to run away from it. Luckily in my fit of morning panic I had therapy where we dove straight into my fear of weight gain (taking care of my fear of the foods and of being away from home since they both tied to weight gain). We talked more about weight than I was comfortable with and you know what....it actually made it better.
It was difficult to though talking about weight, because for the first time ever my therapist made a weight goal for me. He is completely right in doing this, because gaining weight had become a joke for me. There was no pressure to really get it done. I didn't care about losing the doctor I lost last semester due to not gaining weight and I figured if I wasn't losing that was fine too. But now, with Iain making a goal for me and saying he might have to recommend hospitalization...well I feel like there is something I can lose. This is the first therapist I have honestly wanted to see and that I care about seeing. So the risk of losing him and having to go to the hospital scares me. But gaining weight scares me too. So this added to the fear in the fact that now I feel I need to gain weight which scares me, but I am also scared maybe I can't do this on my own and need inpatient. That will make me feel like an absolute failure which is probably why ED wants me to keep avoiding gaining so he can tell me I suck. Despite all this I still left feeling some peace.
Granted that lasted till the time when I walked into the dining hall and my fear was right in front of me. And beside me. And behind me....the freaking dining hall food. And there was no food scale or measuring cups to use to feel a sense of control. Just me, my plate, and the hunger and appetite I was telling myself wasn't there. I pushed through and ate lunch, but coped by tearing my food and restricting some portions....let me tell you that doesn't help the fear. In fact it made it a ton worse.
The fear spiked and was put straight on food. I started to wonder if doing what I am supposed to be doing would cause ballooning. IF eating the dining hall food would cause me to gain too much. And the fear of food intensified. So I tore a little more throughout the night and then you all read that blog post.
Solution: Well after posting that in my fit of fear I went to look up some youtube videos on anorexia recovery and stumbled across one that used DBT and it really helped. It was about opposite action and fear. Basically instead of running away like fear makes you feel you should, you have to face the fear and push on. This means if the food is scaring you (either finishing the full portion or trying a bite of a freedom food, whatever) you have to do. So with two snacks left I decided to try this method....and though it sucks so much to do....it actually works. Sure my anxiety spiked while I completed the two challenge snacks (microwave popcorn and Fat Free Fig Newtons) and didn't skimp portions...but unlike before the fear and anxiety didn't follow me. It's weird....it's like acting in my symptoms makes the fear persists, but facing the fear I guess almost scares it away. Either way..I am trying the method out today and so far its working...though I'm not enjoying the moments of pushing into the fear.
FrustrationSo my frustration came after I left my GI doctor and got a call from my PCP back at home....the one that almost sent me to the hospital. Despite my labs coming back completely normal he still wants me in a hospital...why....because of my low weight and failure to gain. This pissed me off.
Here I am and I've dug myself into a deep shithole. I am at such a low weight I literally have no "wiggle room" to lose any weight. So even though I want to learn to eat my freedom foods without them causing weight gain but I have to gain weight. In fact, I'm told my weight is so low I can't even maintain right now. I have to gain. But how can I trust food if it causes me to gain weight? Why can't I just maintain my weight and try to fix my behaviors. Why do I have to gain weight? Why can't people just leave me alone about it?
But I mean I am the one who got me to this low weight. It seemed so easy too to get here. So I am also frustrated by how hard it is for my brain to accept and let me gain weight. It's like my brain is still living in the world where I am the obese kid being told to lose weight, when in the real world I am the anorexic adult who needs to gain weight. My body is stuck in reality of the present and my mind is stuck in the torment of the past.
But again...in the moment the frustration didn't reveal what it was truly about. Instead it just went to food and became anger at myself for eating. The frustration with where this eating disorder has taken me which is tied to the fact that I think I allowed my ED to go too far and am frustrated with how bad its gotten....well it became anger at myself. This anger somehow got tied to food though and I decided I was mad at myself for eating and thus needed to stop eating in order to punish myself. But again....the original frustration wasn't with food.
Solution: This one I am still working on. I guess I just have to be pissed off and maybe try and use that to fight. The only way people will give me a chance to maintain or at least leave me alone about my damn weight is if I gain. I am going to have to just do the action without my mind getting on board. Maybe if I start to gain weight I will gain the mental function to accept weight gain and to accept food. I guess this losing/maintaining hasn't made me trust food anymore anyway...and the definition of insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results...so maybe I should give weight gain a try.
GuiltI didn't even realize I had this emotion till I woke up this morning and started reflecting on my struggles last night. I realized I feel really bad about slipping at home. I tried to write it off and say I did better than I expected....which is true, but the reality is I did restrict. I have tried to justify it by saying I wasn't doing the snack and exchanges correctly even when I was doing them....somehow in my mind that justifies not doing them at all. The healthy part of me knows though that I shouldn't have taken them away...and honestly that part of me yearns for them to come back.
So when I had to go to therapy and admit that I had slipped up. When I had to look Iain in the eyes (well actually I have issues making eye contact with people....but you get the idea) and tell him that I had slipped over break....frankly, it sucked. Then I got to thinking how I would have to do that with my nutritionist. With the woman I promised I would stick to my plan with. And the guilt really kicked in.
I guess it's because I care about my team. I don't wan to let Iain or Katherine down. I want to do recovery right....problem is I try and do it perfect and then when I slip I just give up and keep slipping....but that's another post for another day. Right now I just feel guilty. And knowing that I still have to see Katherine and basically tell her that I (once again) took the hard work she puts into making my meal plan and just tossed it. That I failed yet again. Basically the guilt became overbearing.
But in the moment....the guilt didn't take the form of its real source. Instead it came around food. I felt guilty for eating which turned into disgust for eating which went straight to the lovely emotion I always feel....anxiety. And you all read where that ended up.
Solution: Well...I guess the solution to this is that now that I realize the source of my guilt, I need to forgive myself for acting out over break and try to not act out in any further ways. I need to be open in my nutritionist session and take whatever decisions she makes as truth. I need to not fight her and work on accepting, and even if I don't accept it, following her plan. This is a lot harder than it sounds....but I just have to do it. And I guess I need to stop aiming to be perfect in recovery because it is what causes all this guilt. I need to realize slips will happen, forgive myself, and move forward. Again...this is easier than it sounds and I have a feeling will take a lot of practice.
In the EndI guess now I see none of my emotions really tied to food. The fear is of the weight gain and at both succeeding and failing in the weight gain goals I now have laid out. The fear was also just from starting this new semester and all the unknowns that brings. The frustration that turned into anger at myself for eating was based around the frustration that being at such a low weight has brought me. The guilt that became guilt over eating was actually tied to the restricting over break.
Writing this out summarized it kind of make sense and shows just how sneaky our ED is. I mean....obviously our ED doesn't want us to see that it is the culprit to our negative emotions. My fear and frustration are due to weight gain, but I wouldn't have to gain weight if I didn't have an ED. My frustration is due to acting out on my ED. So obviously it makes sense that the ED part of us deflects these emotions onto food. How else would we want to keep our ED around while feeling like absolute shit? We wouldn't.
So I guess the key to getting past these emotions and the struggles they brought is to push through them instead of running from them into my ED arms. Instead I need to push into fear, feel my frustration, and cope with my guilt. I mean I know it won't be easy, and it will be freaking uncomfortable....but if I want the emotions to go away or at least not to impede my life....I have to do this. We have to do this. And you know what....WE CAN! This is our year, our season, our lives....and I for one am done with feeling like shit by not feeling.