So tonight I admitted something to a friend of mine that I have never admitted to anyone…not even really myself. You see I realized something was still holding me back. Some invisible wall is still standing in the way of me breaking through to true recovery. By the end of our conversation I think I found that thing. But it started with my honesty.
Here was the secret I shared. I know how far I have slipped in my disorder and it scares me. Because I feel like two and a half years ago when I left Renfrew residential treatment I felt free. I felt I could eat food. I was living on cloud nine, living in freedom. I feel like I blinked and somehow got to where I am now. At my lowest BMI and more scared of food than I have ever been. More obsessed with movement than ever before. And I have no clue how it happened.
I didn’t restrict to x amount of calories or go to the gym x amount of hours or run x amount of miles…so I don’t feel I can say that I am anorexic again…but under all diagnostic criteria I am. I still do restrict because I don’t meet meal plan and I still do overexercise because I do more movement than approved to. But still…that’s all I’ve done so I don’t know how I got this thin? How I got this sick (mentally and physically)? Because in my eyes….I don’t have my anorexia to blame. And it just confuses and scares me.
I feel I have lost control of my mind. Back when I full-blown relapsed I could say my mind was so obsessed because I was anorexic and starved and all that. Now though….I don’t feel I full-blown relapsed and it scares me that while my actions weren’t as severe…the consequences of them were worse than ever before. Here I am at my lowest BMI and my most unstable mind and all I did was dabble in my anorexia…and that scares me.
I also admitted to her that I am scared I might die. There are nights I got to sleep and am afraid I won’t wake up. These are the nights I go to sleep knowing I didn’t fully meet my meal plan. That I restricted portions. That I was too active. So as much as I say I don’t like my meal plan and think its too much….part of me knows it is all that is keeping me alive. And that….that scares me.
Then my friend asked me some questions no one has ever asked me. Probably because she is recovered and thus she understands my mind. First question: when you went to treatment did part of you feel excited because you could eat again? I answered this a little bit in my earlier post, but the answer was a resounding: YES! Finally, someone understood and said she (and many others) felt the same when they went to treatment. It’s like finally…after all this suffering, people were going to force you to eat again and you knew you would do it. And though I would put the face on that I didn’t want to….so much of me was excited to sit down at the meal and be forced to eat. I was never one of the patients who struggled to get through the first meal….I “put on” a struggle…but inside….I was so hungry not just for food but for freedom…that eating the meal was easy.
Her next question was one I only ever had one other person ask me and that was my best friend in treatment: when you left treatment how did you feel? I was completely honest. I let the walls fall down. I’ve never told anyone this but when I got discharged from treatment this last time….I broke down. I literally couldn’t stop crying and no one knew why. Everyone was expecting me to be excited and there I was crying. When people asked why…I lied. I told them it was just scared what people would think of me. Or that I was sad to leave. Or whatever excuse I made in that moment.
The truth: the honest truth. I was sad to leave but not because of the people I was leaving behind. But because I knew when I got back home, back to reality….well nothing would be different. I would go back to restricting and watching calories. I wouldn’t be allowed to eat what I did in treatment. Desserts….those would go back to being a curse word. Fats….those would be meticulously counted and restricted. Measuring utensils…those would be back in an instant. Exercise….that would be ramped back up. And I broke down. I cried. Because I wanted that freedom to last….I wanted the joy I had been experiencing to stay forever….but I never accepted (and still haven’t) that that could be a reality for me. That food and happiness was something I could have on the outside of treatment.
Everything was good up to the point we got to the airport and I had to buy a snack. It all came back as I looked through all the calorie contents…..and I ran back to my old ways. Away from the freedom and back to captivity. And now I am realizing that fear that I couldn’t sustain recover in the real world…the fear that had me run back to nutrition panels…it’s what’s holding me back now.
I think I have to restrict and control my food for the rest of my life. I think it’s the only way to keep me safe. But safe from what? In my mind…it keeps me safe from my past. From ever going back to being overweight, let alone obese. In my mind, I escaped the torture and condemnation I had when I was that weight by restricting. By controlling my food I lost weight, the rude comments and forced diets stopped. There was no more pain. In fact….when I started restricting…that was the same time the boyfriend my mom had who abused me left. It’s the same time my brother stopped using drugs and hurting me. It’s when my mom broke through depression. My life improved a lot in this time. So I clung onto this idea that restricting is what kept me safe and ended all the pain.
But now it’s become what I have to do. That I have to control my food to control my weight and thus my life. And since I went through significantly more abuse when I was heavier than I have being underweight….it’s become the aim in my life to prevent myself from being overweight. In my mind this is only done through dieting and controlling food intake. But now I am stuck in the trap of feeling I have to control my intake and exercise more in order to not gain weight so that everything can be okay.
Well…here’s my reality now. I have to relinquish control of my food by accepting a meal plan I see as entirely too much. I am medically severely underweight and thus need to gain weight to live. I can’t medically withstand exercise beyond yoga. So what have I done…I’ve found other ways to control everything. I have restricted portions so I am still controlling my food intake and thus preventing weight gain. I have measured and torn breads and pre-package items to ensure I don’t get too much and gain weight. I have pushed myself to get the hardest yoga possible and to do 3 instead of my approved 2 times a week of it. I have made my triumph treats safe so as to avoid losing control and feeding my every desire. I have done exactly what I feel I need to do to stay safe and exactly what in reality I need to do if I want to die or at least be miserable the rest of my life.
But I am so scared to let control go, because I have never given myself the chance to do it. What if my fears are true? What if I start gaining weight rapidly and thus feel myself propelling closer and closer to obesity (though in reality I am just getting closer to healthy weight)? What if all the bad parts of life come flooding back? That scares me a lot. But I also know two things about this. One….I will never know till I try. Till I give recovery and my meal plan a shot. I will never know. And two….if that is the reality and I start gaining weight too fast….I can stop it. ED says I won’t be able to…but my track record of the past 6 years of my restrictive lifestyle says I can…and frequently do lose any weight I gain. I also have a dietitian that can stop it in a safer way as well….so this is nothing to fear.
Now what if the opposite happens. What if the reality I never let myself even think of happens? What if I see that I can eat and not gain weight rapidly? What if exactly what happened inpatient happens out here? What if I get full portions and snacks and meet my meal plan and don’t overexercise and I gain weight at a steady but not overwhelming pace? Then what if the crazy happens and I stop gaining weight and need even more as happened inpatient? What if I come to find I can trust my body and food? What if my life gets better? What if my dreams begin becoming realities? What if life is more beautiful that I can ever imagine? Well….that would be pretty nice.
So I have two roads I can take. I can either stay on this road I am on and sure….I will be protected from ever having to face the fear of weight gain and will probably continue to lose weight. Or I will gain a little weight then find a new way to restrict my meal plan. I will keep being afraid of food, but at least I won’t have to gain weight or change my ways or face the fear of the unknown. That is one option.
The other option. I commit to my N plan. She already knows of the restriction I do and all that and I have begged and pleaded that she decrease my exchanges so I can get back on track, but she won’t. Why? Because every time she does we get right back to this point. And she tells me this plan is the one I need. So I can commit to the plan she has for me now. I can get full portions and completely follow her guidance. This means gaining weight, it means the possibility of gaining too fast. It means all of the pain and bad things that happened could come back. But how long will I really let all the bad things last…like a week. And I can lose any weight I gain in a week really fast (I know..disordered thought but its helping me). But there is also the possibility of freedom on this path. That I will see I can trust my N and my plan and I can stop being so obsessed with portions and how much I need to restrict and can just eat in a semi-peace (we know ED will be screaming) and eventually in a full peace. That’s the other option….scarier because it’s the unknown…but it brings the possibility of hope.
In case you haven’t figured it out…I’m choosing Option B….following my N plan. Once I made this decision I got all my full portions and tomorrow…it’s gonna be full portions all day. And not of a safer plan that I decrease too, because that is not what my N says to do and that is still controlling my food instead of giving over the control. And the only reason I wouldn’t do this plan is because I think it is too much and all of the additions back in would increase cals too much and I would gain weight too fast. But here is how I am countering that.
- ED likes to do this thing of making me think I am restricting portions more than in reality I am. Really they aren’t that much less than I need and thus adding back in the portions can’t cause huge weight change as ED says because its not that much caloric difference. Now…mentally it is causing huge damage and thus undoing it does have the potential to make a significant impact into me having a better mental and emotional freedom.
- This plan is not more than 3500 calories, thus since I am eating all of it just with smaller portions I am not restricting more than 3500 calories. Since 3500 calories is a lb of weight I can’t possibly gain more than 2 lbs maximum over the next two days of this plan. Then Mon I can go screaming to my N with proof I need a decrease. Then we can decrease to a plan that my body needs to gain in a controlled manner and I will be able to get the full portions and work from there up as needed.
- I will most likely continue to use my scale and thus will know exactly what is happening. So I still have somewhat a sense of control. I will not let it impact what I do, but at least I will have instant knowledge (as in after doing plan all day Sat I will be able to know on Sun) of how it is impacting me. I will know pretty quickly what reality is.
So I am scared but I am starting this new path to a new me. In fact, I already have with my snacks tonight and it feels really good. Scary, but good. I feel more motivated, happier, and already more free than ever before. And kind of like that first day in treatment when I got permission to eat…I am excited about tomorrow and the permission I will be granting myself to be able to eat. Yes…I am scared how much weight gain this will entail, but I know my meal plan can adjust down if need be and that my metabolism can rev up to make up for it as has happened in treatment…so it will be okay. And really that is my only fear is the weight gain. But I think the possibility of this immense freedom….of never again having to control my food….that’s worth a possible two days of a lot of weight gain.
Don’t hear me wrong. Monday will not bring an end to doing my meal plan and getting portions, it will just bring the possibility of my meal plan lowering if it is too much. But I am not even going to think that way right now, because there is also the possibility that it is not too much and my N is right. Well…we won’t know till I try…and so that’s what I am going to do. That’s what I am already doing. I am scared, I am excited….I feel as though I am ready. Here is the start to a new journey…a new tomorrow…a new me.