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Confrontation

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Something happened the other day that I am so proud of. I wanted to share it with you guys.

I’m not sure if anyone remembers but I have struggled with an eating disorder for almost 20 years. I have been trying really hard since my illness to stop being so uptight about what I eat.

As a result, I have gained a lot of weight. A lot. I actually am happier with my body than I have ever been. I would love to be thinner, but I am afraid to try to diet. I do exercise, but not obsessively.

Anyway, none of that is the point. The point is that since my illness and weight gain, my mother has made non-stop comments about my weight and size. It is incredibly hurtful to me and rude.

The final straw was when I called her for mother’s day. I mentioned going to a lunch meeting that I was super excited about. And meeting with the hospital where I had my surgeries. And then I mentioned that I was working out more and was even thinking of running again for a benefit.

And that’s when she proceeded to tell me that it would be great for me to run again as I really needed to lose weight. She has told me in the past that I get fatter and fatter every time she sees me (which is true). And that I would be happier if I weighed 150lbs (which is not true, I was miserable when I weighed 150).

In high school, when I was 100lbs thinner, my pediatrician told my mother and I that I needed to gain 20-50lbs because I was unhealthily underweight. My mother told him no, that I looked good. And the pediatrician told her that we were discussing my health, not my appearance.

The other issue is that I am one size larger than my brother, but every time she sees him she acts like he is one meal away from starving to death.

So, I called her the other day and told her I needed to talk with her. Then I told her off.

I told her that I didn’t appreciate her constantly putting me down. I told her that her rude comments were not helpful. I told her that my doctor, cardiologist, sex partners, and myself did not think I needed to lose weight. So why did she?

I also told her that she was my mother. If she loved me, then she needed to love me at any weight. And that if she didn’t love me, then I didn’t need her in my life.

She claimed that she had no idea she was hurting my feelings. She claimed that she was only trying to help me. She claimed that she thought I was trying to lose weight and she was trying to be encouraging.

But I know she and I have had this conversation in the past.

So I made it extra clear. I told her that I never wanted to hear a word about my weight again. Not if I lost weight. Not if I gained weight. I told her that if I ordered a salad, it would be because I wanted a salad (which I love) and not to lose weight. If I started running it would be because I love running (which I do and always have). If she buys me something that doesn’t fit, it’s because the clothes are not my size, not because I am too big.

It felt amazing. I felt so powerful. And I have decided to cut her out of my life if she doesn’t comply with my request. And I am trying to get my brother to confront her too as he hates her comments on his thinness.

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Past Lives

Today, someone asked me what I was like as a child. I had to think about it for a long time before answering. But it really depends on what age we’re discussing.

I did nothing but cry for the first 6 or 7 years. I was unhappy and morose. And suffering from PTSD from many physical, emotional and sexual abuses. Eventually my family punished me for crying enough that I stopped.

I spent the next few years like a wild animal backed into a corner. I had zero control over my emotions. I was angrier than I have ever felt in my entire life. My anger was like a separate being trying to violently claw it’s way out of me. This is when I began punching trees. A lot.

Finally, around 10, I completely shut down all my emotions. I began working out compulsively, reading obsessively. I had an eating disorder and began journaling. I was extremely secretive.

I had severe insomnia and depression. Some weeks I would sleep less than 5 hours the entire week. My life was kind of a fog of blankness. That is really the best way to describe it. It was like being on drugs that took away everything it was possible to feel. But I wasn’t on drugs.

All I ever felt was sadness, despair and anger. And the safest place to direct that anger was on myself. It led to getting into and staying in many abusive relationships; platonic, romantic, and familial. It also was the partial driver for some of the emotional/mental issues I have.

And that’s basically where I stayed until my health problems at 25. Like I was frozen in place. Frozen emotionally. And I was. I only allowed myself to feel the barest tip of what was wrong. Only the strongest, most persistent emotions came through.

It has taken a few years to even realize that things were wrong inside me. And it took a few years to get help. I have been in therapy for just over a year.

I am amazed when I look back on the changes I’ve been through this past year. It actually impresses me. People that have known me very well can hardly believe I am the same person. Neither can I.

I can’t believe the life I was accepting for myself all that time. I can’t believe those past people, those horrible past lives, were all me. I look back on how much I’ve changed this year. And I wonder how unrecognizable I’ll be to myself by this time next year.

Expansion Set

I feel like, growing up in the throes of my anxieties and eating disorder, and borderline compulsive behavior; my world was so small.

The vast majority of my time was spent thinking about the small things. My attention was hyper-focused on the tiniest details of myself.

I spent hours exercising, tidying my room, making my bed, cleaning the house, cooking. I would cook for my sister or my family. Not for me. I still don’t cook much for me. I didn’t have many hobbies at that time. Reading, writing, cleaning, exercising, not eating.

It surprising how much time, energy, and thought went into not eating. And also into not thinking about not eating. Every fiber of my being, every ounce of my spare concentration was so narrowly focused.

And for what? I have nothing to show for all that effort. Years of my life that I could have spent on other things are gone. I could have gotten better before now if I had had the room in my brain to think about it. But I didn’t.

And maybe that is the point. Maybe my eating disorder saved me in a way. Maybe it saved me from being destroyed by what was happening to me. I couldn’t focus on all the abuse because I was too busy not eating.

It has taken me 20 years to stop thinking about not eating and start thinking about all that other stuff. 20 years later. Now that I am safe and emotionally mature enough to deal with all that.

It’s so strange to have the space in my head available to start thinking about other things. I feel like my own mind was confining me for so long.

And now I feel like I’ve let myself get away. Sometimes my brain comes back to that confinement. My mind is kind of obsessed with tying itself up.

But now that my mind has opened up wider than it ever has been before; I suddenly have room to consider the strangest thoughts that never occurred to me before.

I feel like my life is expanding. And it feels so good.

Chicken Fried Hunger

Holy shit! Something amazing happened today. I was reading this book about appetite, eating disorders, and desires. I was reading it while eating lunch at work today.

I was having a kind of crappy, stressful day (most days at my work are extremely stressful). I was talking to a co-worker about KFC. I don’t like KFC but it made me really want to eat some fried chicken.

So I went to Popeye’s and ordered my favorite thing there (hint: it’s a lot of food). Since I started eating more like a non-disordered person I tend to eat a lot in one sitting. An unhealthy lot.

I was sitting there, eating fried chicken. And I got to this part in the book about eating your emotions. Eating as a way to sublimate desires of all types. Or (in my case) not eating to sublimate desires of all types. And I realized that for the past year, since I started eating again, I have been doing exactly that.

I got a more stressful job and instead of responding to that in a healthy way, I ate. Then some relationship stuff went down and it ended badly, and I ate even more. And that’s definitely why I’ve gained close to 40 lbs this year.

So, I was sitting there with my fried chicken. And I realized not only did I not want how much food I ordered. I didn’t even want what I had ordered. It didn’t taste good. It didn’t make me feel better.

All it ever made me feel was full. But not in a good and satisfying way. In an unhealthy “I hate myself. Why did I eat so much?” way.

In a weird way I can see how that feeling of fullness is comforting. But it’s really only as comforting as that feeling of emptiness was when I wasn’t eating. Now that I am starting to recognize it for what it really is; it doesn’t offer much comfort.

The hunger and the fullness is the exact same feeling. I feel like my hunger was consuming me all the time. It was filling me up and seemed to take up the same amount of space inside my body and my mind as the fullness does now.

I feel like today, for the first time in more than 20 years, I was listening to my body’s hunger cues instead of mindlessly eating nothing or everything.

I actually almost cried.

It makes me wonder if a few books on eating disorders (in combination with my therapy and journaling) can help me so much. Maybe I should read a few books on some of my other issues. It can’t hurt.

I read so many books about so many things I can’t help but wonder why I never picked one up on any of my emotional issues. It feels like I was being willfully ignorant. But I wasn’t. It was all subconscious.

But I don’t want to pretend this stuff never happened anymore. I want to face it and work through it and fix it and move past it all.

Self Absorbed

I have been thinking a lot lately about the concept of self. Maybe because of all these books I am reading about eating disorders. Or maybe just because.

I keep thinking about the difference between self-esteem, self-respect, self-worth, self-awareness and how all of those things relate to myself. I think about how related they should be to each other, and yet, how unrelated they all seem to be with me. It’s such a strange contradiction.

I have terrible self-esteem and self-confidence. I say and think things about myself that are horrifying. I would never let anyone else say that shit to me. Because I do, strangely, have self-respect. But I don’t respect myself. And I’m not sure how I can expect others to respect me when I so obviously don’t respect myself.

I definitely have body dysmorphia and poor self-image. Though my eating disorder didn’t start out that way. I still imagine myself to be the gangly awkward teenager I was instead of the person I am now. That self-image is stubbornly pervasive, even though I look nothing like that now.

I am trying to get better with my sense of self-worth. But it wasn’t always great in the past which is why I allowed people to behave abusively without leaving them immediately. And again I feel I need to demonstrate that I believe I have worth before others behave as though I do.

I know all of that is related to self-awareness. All the therapy I have done has given me new insight into my self-awareness. And yet, I still have not fully changed my behavior. How can I recognize that I have these issues but not be able to change or fix them?

I’ve never had a good sense of self. It’s partially why I don’t always recognize my feelings right away. I still get so caught up in what I should want or what I want myself to want. I sometimes lose track of what I actually do want.

Sometimes it is safer to not admit my feelings to myself. It saves me from being hurt when I don’t get what I want. It has saved me from abuse in the past by not allowing me to display anger when it was unsafe to do so. But that model of living is no longer relevant to my life. And recognizing my feelings is getting much easier.

I do love self-denial. Anything to prove how strong my willpower is. Because giving into something that I want is somehow weak. And I’m not allowed to be weak. I’m too busy trying (and failing) at being perfect.

My only sense of strength, power, or accomplishment came from denying myself something (or someone) that I wanted. Food is the perfect vehicle for this. I had three chances a day to prove how strong I was.

And that denial made me feel more powerful and superior than anything I have ever felt in my life. It is addictive. It felt like I was purifying myself. It’s no surprise to me that people go on religious fasts, or give up something for Lent. I am not a religious person, but the appeal is obvious. And dangerous.

I never imagined that I had an addictive personality. I have never been much for alcohol, never done drugs, or smoked or even gambled. But denial and self-punishment? That is my addiction. It is an addiction that is every bit as destructive as the other ones. And it is the same mixture of pleasure and misery.

Perfection

This book I read about anorexia not only linked extreme pickiness to eating disorders, but also extremely healthy eating and food exclusion. For example, only eating organic foods, raw food-ism, vegetarianism, vegan-ism. All of these things can be an expression of an eating disorder. And I’ve tried all of them.

I think food exclusion is a big one for me. It’s easy to practice until I am eating nothing but cereal and apples for weeks at a time. And it’s something I need to watch for. Nothing is so healthy that I should be eating it exclusively.

It’s strange how my food disorder doesn’t seem to be related to my weight. At least, it wasn’t back then. Maybe because I had always been thin I didn’t have to obsess over it. I could obsess over the control angle instead, which I’ll get to.

I never consciously remember wanting to be thin. In fact, I complained about it and acted like I didn’t know why I was so thin. I always claimed to want to gain weight. But I didn’t eat, or behave in a way that would have allowed that to happen.

But now that I have gained weight I am obsessed with being thin again. And, in my own mind, a thin woman is judged much more leniently than overweight women. Not just in regards to appearance, either.

I can really see the connection between eating disorders, control, and perfectionism. I feel like I can never forgive myself for not being perfect. I beat myself up over every detail of every thing I have failed every single day.

I do the same thing to other people in my life too. I expect perfection from myself and others. Even while I am saying I don’t. I do. I have such a hard time forgiving people for disappointing me. For not living up to my expectations. For not being perfect. Myself included.

It’s exhausting. I don’t want to spend my nights going over my mistakes in minute detail. I don’t know why it’s so hard to be compassionate towards myself. I still think perfection is attainable by me.

I can also see that I haven’t made much progress of the control aspect of all this. I only feel safe if I am in control of everything. I want to be able to relax. But I can’t. I want to not care about everything so much. But I do. I want to be able to trust someone to do as good as job as I think I do. But I don’t.

I still think my way is the best way. The right way.

Anorexia

I am reading this book about anorexia. And I am so glad I am. I can’t believe I have never read anything about it before. But then, I never thought I had a problem the way I know I do now.

I feel like I was destined to develop an eating disorder. It would have been somehow shocking or impossible for me to have not had one.

Apparently there is a genetic marker that is related to depression, alcoholism, and mental disorders. And having those things in my family predisposes me to getting an eating disorder. Studies have shown that anorexia is a combination of genetics, personality, and upbringing.

Other things that can predict an eating disorder: either parent having one, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, growing up in a chaotic household, perfectionism, self-esteem issues, intelligence, being an overachiever, feeling guilt or obligation to your parents, being neat and well behaved.

I have been working on a photo-journal of everything I eat every day. They say you are supposed to write down everything you eat to keep you mindful of it. But taking pictures works just as well.