Disordered Eating and How I’m slowly Claiming My Life Back

Disordered Eating and How I’m slowly Claiming My Life Back

Trigger warning: Eating Disorders, Binge Eating, Mental Health

I remember very clearly aged sixteen writing down things I was grateful for. It was probably part of some exercise in Religion or SPHE class where they tried to teach us about mental health and spirituality (but in the Church-approved way). One thing I wrote was “I’m grateful I don’t obsess about my weight”. 

At the time, that felt like a real achievement. I’d spent many PE lessons in the gym changing rooms listening to girls compare their bodies, pointing out “fat”, remarking on flat stomachs and skinny thighs, talking about what diets they were on. It sounded like a different language to me and one I felt I couldn’t engage in. I’d felt superior in thinking that these things were trivial, they didn’t matter to me, they didn’t affect who I was and what grades I got. More important things mattered like cakey makeup and going to Penney’s with my friends.

By the time I was 18, I’d begun to feel a little self conscious about my body, particularly my legs and arms and by the time I was graduating school, an inferiority complex began to edge in. I criticised my body in every reflection in a glass door as I walked to class. I hated what I wore to my class graduation that I refused to have photos taken of me. I ruminated over our informal end of year photos highlighting the things that other girls had that I admired and didn’t have. I skipped end of year events because I didn’t look good enough. I began to hate my body but I thought hating your body was normal – that’s what society and the media were telling me – so I didn’t think much more of it.

Life then took over. I sat my Leaving Cert, I dyed my hair (hardly anyone noticed and for that I’m glad), and I got into college. I met someone who believed that I was perfect and my weight issues took a back seat. Things were fine for a while. And then I got sick.

My mental health had been deteriorating from early 2012 but it wasn’t until a year later that it took a very bad turn. I’ve written extensively on OCD/Depression/Anxiety before so I won’t rehash what has been said other than it sucked the life out of me. I could barely function. I was a shell of who I had been. And I dropped a lot of weight.

I wasn’t eating adequately, I was spending mornings and evenings ruminating, engaging in compulsions, driving my poor boyfriend mad. But looking back on it, that wasn’t the worst part, it was then that I began to get praise for what I looked like. I don’t like to discuss sizes but to illustrate my point, I’ll make an exception. I dropped from a size 14/16 to a size 8 in six weeks.

That’s really fucking dangerous.

But in spite of the shit that brought me to that point, I celebrated it. I was happy with my sudden weight loss. I was finally “thin”. I could wear nice clothes and have boys look at me in a way they didn’t before. I felt worthy for the first time in my life, not to myself, but to others. I remember, being in the grips of a bad episode in a Marks and Spencer’s trying on a parka and being overjoyed that a size eight fitted me. I was so sick and all I cared about was that the reflection in the shop mirror made me happy. That should have been the first clue that something other than OCD was wrong. 

By the end of 2014, I had gone through a breakup and began exercising routinely. I somewhat got back on track with my food and began to eat foods that would fuel me and for a while, I felt good, I felt strong and I began to feel worthy to myself.

In 2015, I went on a J1 to Berkeley. The balcony collapse happened three blocks away from us and I dealt with it badly. I began to comfort eat and before I knew it, I began a binge-restrict cycle that lasted nearly six years. 

A binge-restrict cycle is pretty much self explanatory. I’d binge eat whatever I wanted and then I’d feel guilt or shame for what I did. I’d then try and restrict my food intake, leaving me hungry and even more ashamed, starting the binge cycle again. It had become so normalised in the media that I assumed this was what we as humans were supposed to do. 

Most of the time, I’d hide my food to eat it away from other people so I wouldn’t be judged. I’d  often feel a total lack of control over what I was eating, eating rapidly and eating for the sake of it. I’d enjoy nothing. I’d excessively comfort eat which were exacerbated feelings of low self esteem and value. Sometimes instead of restrictive eating, I’d enter into excessive exercise which I wasn’t fit enough for or capable of doing, causing more shame, guilt and hatred of myself. 

I began to blame my body for everything: for being ghosted, for not doing well at work, for bad behaviour and for failing at things I didn’t even try to do. 

I would strictly prohibit myself from buy nice clothes. I told myself I couldn’t pursue a career in the arts as I was too disgusting, too awful and too terrible to be anyway wanted or worthy. I blamed every failed relationship on my hips, my tummy, my thighs. 

I punished myself constantly for existing. There are no words to describe how much I hated myself. I’d wake up in the morning and feel as though my hips, my thighs, my stomach were expanding. I was embarrassed to strip down into anything less than a shirt and shorts. 

I hated anything that forced me to do anything with my body. I began to hate performing, the one thing in my life that gave me a sense of belonging became a threat. I began to resent other people and project my hatred for myself onto them. I’d bail on plans because I hated being in public, I felt like everyone was looking at me, judging me. I was scared of how far shaming myself would push me and yet I didn’t stop and in a way, I stopped living.

My mind only had one use which was to punish me and keep me on the binge-restrict cycle. It killed my social life, my interest in bettering myself and my career path. And could possibly kill me.

The pandemic hit and I knew that I couldn’t take it anymore. Being at home 24/7 opened my eyes to how sick I was of the rhetoric in my head, the hatred I spewed at myself every day, the rules I’d made up in my head of things I could (not many) and couldn’t (lots) do. I was tired of comparing myself to every single person I saw, trying to guess their clothes size just by looking at them, trying to hide coats and jackets so that people couldn’t see the labels.

I finally admitted this to my therapist, who thankfully not only deals with the side of mental health battle with but also with eating disorders. I didn’t think I had an ED. I hated saying the words ‘eating disorder’ because I felt they didn’t apply to me. How different was I from other people? Not much, my therapist said, but just because it’s common doesn’t make it any less of an eating disorder. 

I felt (and sometimes still feel) uncomfortable to say “I have an eating disorder” because there are some horrendous EDs out there between anorexia and bulimia. I’m always afraid of being accused of attention seeking so for ages, I kept my mouth shut. But no problem gets solved by staying silent. I know many people out there are experiencing a binge-restrict cycle and maybe aren’t even aware of it. I hope this helps them.

Right now, I’m working on my relationship with food, viewing it as a need, not a choice. Food is something we need to keep us alive. No food is inherently good or bad. Balance and moderation is key. Restrictive eating leads to binge, giving yourself permission to eat freely is the only true way of breaking away from the rules that this eating disorder has laid down. I have had to learn to slow down and be alert when I have urges to binge – I have to ask myself why, what am I actually feeling here, is it shame? Inadequacy? I still fall into the trap now and again and I’m learning to forgive myself for that, to not beat myself up for eating more over Christmas or allowing myself to eat a little more after a long hike or exercise. Your body needs fuel.

I’m not an expert at all and nothing about this recovery is easy. Even as I write this I can recognise binge and restrict patterns cropping up in my head. But if anything, I know that it’s possible to get away from it. Life doesn’t have to be dictated by food, how you feel about yourself doesn’t have to be dictated by food and your self worth should never be dictated by food.

And once you realise that, you’re already halfway there. 

A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life

Can verify that everything here has happened in some shape or form in the last 3 weeks

My WFH life during COVID-19

7:30 – alarm goes off, work starts at 8am

8:00 – in bed

8:02 – in bed

8:15 – put phone on loud, checks email and Whatsapp

8:17 – get up

8:20 – Breakfast

8:25 – Breakfast

8:35 – Breakfast

8:40 – check emails again

8:50 – stand outside with a cup of coffee and breathe

9:00 – get dressed, make bed, lie down on made bed

9:15 – made it to desk, one hour and fifteen minutes late

9:16 – open work laptop, boot Outlook and Zoom

9:30 – open own MacBook, boot up Spotify, my writing WIP, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Netflix and Disney +

9:32 – scroll through Instagram on phone

9:35 – put on a small bit of makeup to take #workfromhome selfie

10:05 – still taking #workfromhome selfies

10:15 – why haven’t they texted me yet

10:31 – first work email comes in – it’s a cc with nothing for me to do

10:33 – change Spotify playlist to ‘All Out 90s’

10:35 – small cry

10:42 – make a cup of coffee, go stand outside again

11:00 – come back inside, look at to-do list, deem everything non-essential

11:07 – change all my ringtones

11:08 – change my iPhone wallpaper

11:09 – Whatsapp from boss to Zoom him

11:15 – actually Zoom my boss

11:15 – 11:21 – my boss tries to unmute himself

11:22 – 11:50 – dictation of an email with 5 different attachments in both Word Format and red-lined PDF

11:51 – leave Zoom meeting, put my head down on desk

12:10 – finally leave desk to make more coffee

12:12 – kettle is boiling, annoy my mother

12:15 – get anxious about idk something

12:19 – journal

12:20 – stop journaling because there’s too much goin on

12:21 – Pinterest

12:50 – Pinterest

13:00 – LUNCH TIME

13:00:01 – phone on silent

13:01 – check my facebook messenger, get anxious

13:02 – 13:18 – choose a #wfh selfie and post to Instagram

13:19 – delete Instagram app off phone

13:20 – boil kettle

13:21 – make tea

13:22 – forget completely about tea, pour some Coke Zero

13:24 – remember I haven’t taken my medication, ask for an apology from the anti-depressant Gods

13:30 – actually clean my face and put on moisturizer

13:45 – stop picking my face and put on more moisturizer

13:50 – realise I’m not hungry

14:00 – stick phone back on loud

14:07 – check up on the news on my phone

14:08 – look up “108 Things To Do During A Pandemic”, get to No 3 before quitting

14:15 – re-download Instagram on terrible 3G and mass DM memes

14:19 – look out the window to see all the delivery drivers drive up and down

14:20 – daydream about the DPD Driver delivering something for me

14:25 – watch the two kids playing hockey suspiciously near my car

14:45 – go back to my desk, open work laptop, check emails (none)

14:53 – go through everyone’s instagram story

15:01 – go through my old photos of Colorado

15:07 – get anxious about not being in Colorado, put phone down

15:15 – generally continue to feel anxious

15:17 – medium cry

15:18 – email from my boss to say he’ll call me in a few minutes

16:18 – no call from boss, put on shoes and actual clothes, go out for walk

16:20 – call from boss to do work

16:22 – walk back to my house and open my laptop

16:28 – make it look like I was actually out on a long long walk when I was interrupted finally Zoom my boss

16:31 – boss realises he doesn’t need me for this task and hangs up

16:32 – go for walk

16:55 – stare off with another walker as to who has to walk on the cycle lane in order to maintain social distancing

16:56 – cave and walk in the cycle lane

17:16 – come home

17:18 – anxiety, large-ish cry

17:29 – check email – 2 emails asking me to do two urgent things

17:30 – shut down laptop (if it wasn’t shut down hours before this)

17:32 – feel guilty and do the two urgent things

17:52 – finally done work, crack a beer, sit outside

17:56 – move indoors as it starts to rain

Things my Therapist Taught Me

Things my Therapist Taught Me
  • You can hide away in a cabin in the woods all you want but your problems will be waiting for you when you get back. The best thing to do is face them.
  • Anxiety cannot and does not last forever – that fear you have before a compulsion cannot last for the rest of your life. It will subside.
  • Mental health comes in waves. You’ll have ups and downs
  • Medication alone will not fix you. It’s an ingredient in the recipe.
  • Progress is not linear. Progress is not linear. Progress is not linear.
  • That “fright” we get sometimes when we see something that confirms our fears is hormonal, not heart-related (ie, you’re not going to die. not yet.)
  • No one is as obsessed with you as you are with yourself
  • Our self critic sometimes paints us in a way that is the opposite to who we really are – you think you’re stupid, selfish and ugly? Nah.
  • Small steps are important no matter what direction you’re going in.
  • Instead of engaging in a compulsion – write down what your OCD is telling you in order to engage with it. Review at the end of the week. Find the similarities.
  • Success is not a zero-sum game. Just because someone else has “made it” doesn’t mean you can’t make it either.
  • Social media is mindless – people like things because they like things, there is no deeper or hidden meaning
  • Object permanence – just because someone isn’t giving you attention doesn’t mean they no longer like you
  • Don’t take on emotional responsibility until you know you can handle it
  • Food is food – there is no good or bad. It’s there to fuel you and you choose how to fuel yourself
  • Society is terrified of successful women and thus, some women find it hard to reconcile the success of other women. The patriarchy like pitting us against each other.
  • Approach things with a sense of wonder – not defeat
  • As an OCD sufferer, trusting yourself is the single most difficult thing to do – start small
  • Journal – you don’t have to write down the difficult stuff – no one is forcing you to write about certain topics. Just write what you like.
  • The less OCD compulsions you take part in, the more the OCD grip lessens
  • Feelings are not facts. Thoughts are not fact.
  • Social media delivers a dopamine hit and is the reason why you might feel drained after prolonged use with nothing exciting happening.
  • Stop basing your self worth on what other’s think
  • The “better self” you continually aspire to is bringing you down – what’s wrong with who you are at the exact moment
  • Being jealous and comparing yourself to others says far more about what you think about yourself than about the other person.
  • Stop punishing yourself doing things you know will bring you anxiety
  • Give yourself permission to do absolutely nothing
  • Stand up for yourself – let people know it’s not ok to walk over you
  • Block him
  • Stop trying to control your emotions
  • People don’t always see you the way you think they do
  • Stop projecting how you feel about yourself onto other people
  • Humans are programmed to search for danger in all interactions
  • Social media exploits your brain which is programmed to scan for threats and rewards
  • Your pain is personal but not unique – lots of people get it
  • Pinterest is the devil for people constantly striving to better themselves and getting disappointed in the process

Let’s talk about…

Let’s talk about…

I want to talk about medication.

The big taboo, the elephant in the room.

And it’s a shame that it’s treated as so. We happily share the different medications we’re on if we physically injure ourselves so why not with our mental health?

“I’d rather take something and have a chance of being happy than be miserable for the rest of my life” is what I said to my mum when my doctor recommended I start a course of Citalopram when I was 19, though part of me was scared. I didn’t actually know anyone else on anti-depressants (spoiler alert: far more people than you think are). I thought it was something to be feared, something you kept a secret because “what everyone else would think”. So for a good while I hid it.

As I ventured through college, more and more people would announce either directly or discreetly like it was nbd that they were on medication for their depression/anxiety/OCD/bipolar/BPD etc. I started to feel a bit more comfortable sharing with others my experiences on them, just like I had shared my experiences with therapy and how that convinced some of my friends to go.

But one common misconception is that medication cures you. It doesn’t. If it did, the anti-depressant industry would be bankrupt.

Continue reading “Let’s talk about…”

i found my tribe

i found my tribe

It’s been one of those years (TM)

A year I wouldn’t have envisaged at the end of the last one. A year where certain places are deemed too heartbreaking to return to yet. Where certain songs can’t be listened to. Where frosty mornings bring more flashbacks than fresh starts. 

A year where for each good thing that happened it was compounded by a worry, a fear that it’ll lead back to where I was before. 

A year of grief.

A year of gut wrenching truths that even now I’m too proud or naive to admit to but I know they’re there.

It was a year of endings.

It was a year most unfair and cruel. 

I’d love nothing more than to be able to turn the dial back and redo it all. Maybe things would have been different but I can’t and instead I’ve chosen to look at what things help with recovery. 

I joined Galz Gone Wild after a Thursday evening crying to my mother about how miserable I was as a result of this year. I was worried, terrified, deeply unhappy with myself and very lonely. I had a habit of bailing, of going silent in fear that no one really gave a crap about me anyway – so I cut ties before ties could be cut on me. I couldn’t trust myself to make a single decision no matter how big or small.

Continue reading “i found my tribe”

a note

a note

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I can’t wait to see the back of 2019. It’s been a horrendous year for many different reasons and it seems like everything around me has been affected in some way – my family, friends, relationships, my physical and mental health, my work, my hobbies – they’ve all taken a hit in one way or another. I spent the first half of the year going through family and relationship trauma that took me the second half of the year to process. And I’m still trying to figure it all out.

So really what I’m trying to say is that I’m tired.

I’ve learned that I’m so scared at being discarded that I put myself through a huge amount of emotional energy to self-preserve – at the detriment to myself. I blow tepid in fear of scaring people off. I have a very unhealthy relationship with food. I view myself as completely unworthy for anyone or anything and it’s why I get so frustrated with myself. I’m aware of how other people’s behaviours towards me have reinforced this idea in my head. I learned that the undue stress I put on myself has started to take a physical toll. I know that living alone is lonely. I find it difficult to trust people. I’m constantly comparing myself with others.

This has been one of the darker years.

But with all of those things came the learning curves (yeah, the sappy ones) – the realisation that your self worth doesn’t rely on anyone else’s opinion of you, that it’s never too late to change, that sometimes people act in a way towards you that has nothing to do with you. That you do get through the things you thought you’d never get through. You do get over the people you thought you’d never get over.

I’ve gotten into hiking (from a recommendation of a great friend) and that has opened a whole new door for me of new people and opportunities of adventure. I’ve started seeing a counsellor again (who has changed my life – and after 7 years of finding the right one, comes as a relief). I’ve a much better grasp of my mental health; what the triggers are and how I overcome them, and I finally got my full driving licence which has given me a wealth of freedom that I didn’t think possible.

I think that next year a lot has to change because with the way things are going, it’s not sustainable. I certainly don’t want another 2019 setting the tone for the 2020s – I don’t think I could do it again. I’m still trying to figure out what it is that has to change before I can set about doing it. I’m hopeful for what’s to come but honestly, I am worn out.

But until then, I’m taking it day by day. Because what else can you do?

 

 

You Are Worth It

You Are Worth It

Hello

Yeah, I know it’s been a while but the truth is is that I had nothing to say. Out of all my lists of “post ideas”, all my scouring on the internet for inspiration, I couldn’t find one topic that drove me to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

I’ve become very comfortable with hiding away. The idea of being unreachable, uncontactable or just generally *not there* has become so attractive that I find myself going days without talking to my friends or engaging with other people aside from work and home. I like to think that I’m wiping the slate clean and starting from scratch but in actual fact, I’m just getting lonelier.

I started seeing a new counsellor who I’m making great progress with – she suggested that my need to hide away is product of my inability to express anger at what has happened this year and instead I turn it on myself. And wow, it kind of started to make sense.

Continue reading “You Are Worth It”

Landslide

Landslide

I was never originally afraid of change. It always seemed very attractive to me when it was pushed into the near future and I didn’t have to really worry about it much. In other words, I wasn’t afraid of the idea of change. But the next few months are a period of change for me and yes, I’m afraid. 

Stevie Nicks sang Landslide on Thursday night and I cried. Not only because that song was a big one in my childhood but because it makes sense to me right now. I’ve become quite comfortable with how my life has been the last few months and now that things are changing, I’m afraid of how it might change me. 

Continue reading “Landslide”

Despondency

Despondency

I’ve stopped telling people how I feel. It has almost become a competition on who has it worse which doesn’t help anyone. I know it’s hard to remain objective when you feel like what’s happening to you is the worst possible thing but just like someone else’s beauty isn’t an absence of your own, your problems existing doesn’t mean others’ are trivial. So in order to deal with what’s on my plate, I’ve stopped sharing it.

I think that the best description on how I’ve been feeling lately is despondency. I am overwhelmed the point of being downright disinterested. The things that make me happy, don’t. The people I find comfort in, I can’t. I struggle to get up and go to work, to eat well, to get any kind of exercise, to read, to write. The only feelings I do feel are anxiety and frustration. And extreme fatigue.

Part of that is the medication I’m on, it kind of sedates you. I know if I take it in the morning, it knocks me out completely. Part of it is the emotion of the last number of months. Part of it is subconsciously knowing I have to move back home in a few months. Part of it is the constant managing of my finances so that I have enough to live on.

It doesn’t matter how much sleep I have, I will wake up tired.

So, in other words, it’s just the stress of life. But that doesn’t make it any less difficult to deal with.

Continue reading “Despondency”

On Celebrating the Small Things

On Celebrating the Small Things

There are many things in life we take for granted. Especially the small things. And as things in this world are not exactly wholly positive, it’s now more than ever that we should celebrate the small things. And yeah, it’s a bit of an erroneous list to write but why should we not do things for the fear of other people finding it cheesy?

I’m making a better effort to celebrate the small things in life like…

When the crowds and stragglers finally clear and you can take a photo you can be proud of

When you get onto the train just seconds before the doors close (or when the bus driver waits for you). Bonus points if you get a seat upstairs at the very front.

When the sun comes out on a cool day and warms your face

When you finally have that chance to overtake a slow car and have endless empty road in front of you

Continue reading “On Celebrating the Small Things”