Small steps creates leaps of courage

The one group I follow on social media shared the above image and I wanted to repost this as during my battle with eating disorders I had applied almost all of these tips at one time or another. The only two things I didn’t do was to keep a food dairy (as this was a trigger for me) and put an elastic band around my wrist and snap it when I had an urge.

The ones I found the most helpful was to have an accountability partner, call or meet up with a friend, and to go for a walk. Most of these tips are there to get you away from your temptations and distract your thoughts from ED’s destructiveness.

Obviously these are all temporary steps to take in preventing your binge eating habit, but at least you are actively doing something which I commend you for, and taking some of the ED’s power away!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Heartbreak

Completely off topic today, but heartbreak and pain is such a universal experience, it doesn’t discriminate nor does it choose a timely manner of appearance.

How do I tell my 11 year old daughter that someone she admires and respect is dying? I have had several family members pass away but she was either too young to know or understand, or didn’t know them due to us immigrating. She however has NEVER lost anyone she has become familiar with.

How do I keep my composure when all I want to do is cry? This situation brings a flood of memories from when one of my dear university friends lost her mother to cancer. I remember that day she send me a text. Her words were short and to the point. She asked that I pray for her mother as an aggressive cancerous growth was found. It came as a great shock as I had just recently visited with them and her mom showed no signs of being ill. I prayed: I prayed for healing, I prayed for her mother’s care, but mostly I prayed for my friend. I truly believed her mom will get better because that is how faith works, isn’t it?

A few weeks later I contacted my friend to ask if we can meet up for a coffee. I wanted to know that she is okay and also to find out the progress of her mother. She replied by asking if I would go with her that afternoon to visit her mom then we can have a lunch together at the little café inside the hospital. I said yes, because that is what friends do, support each other even if it means you hold the other persons hand while they watch their mother’s demise. I asked my friend a lot of questions regarding her mom so that I could mentally prepare for what I was about to witness. But nothing could prepare me.

Walking into the oncology ward was somewhat eerie. I have been to the ER before which is a rush and impersonal, the maternity ward which is filled with nervous excitement and the children’s ward where the walls are covered with bright and playful characters. The oncology ward however is silent, the nurses are friendly but they seem to walk around with a false sense of hope. We approached her mother’s room and just before entering she took my hand, squeezed it and said it will be okay. Her mom was unrecognisable. We sat next to her bed and she told her mom that I came to visit. Her mom was barely conscious due to the pain relief, but she looked in my direction, gave a faint smile and nodded. We extended a few words and stayed for a cup of tea (which was provided by the nurses). My friend held her mother’s hand during the entire visit. The love on her face towards her mother was breathtakingly beautiful and I knew that a prayer was answered when I noticed this exchange, she is being cared for. We ended our visit with a lengthy good bye as I knew it will be the last time I get to see her. A few days later I received a text from my friend saying the doctors contacted her family asking them to prepare for the worse and say their final good byes. I knew the content of her next text send that same day…”my mother just passed away”. There are no words, and even if you manage to scrape a few words together what do you say?

Tonight I will hold my daughter a little bit tighter in my arms, wipe any tears away, give her hand a slight squeeze and whisper that all will be okay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1 – Part 2

My school days were filled with a sense of success for maintaining my commitment to fasting and of improved marks as I was dedicating my ‘eating’ time to school work and study. On a weekend however I turned into a monster.

For 48 hours per week my life turned upside down and inside out. Why? Because of binge-eating. My dad worked and my mum often kept herself busy doing mum-things. My sister was a university student at the time and was never home. You would think that not thinking about food would have become second nature to me after several weeks of weekday fasting, but on the contrary that was ALL I could think about. I don’t know whether it was because of boredom, or my body instinctively protecting itself knowing that it will starve for the next 5 days, but the need to eat was frightening. And once my parents left the house I had free range.

At first it wasn’t a conscious decision, no, it was more like having a meal, enjoying the meal and reasoning with myself that another helping is acceptable. Once I became at ease with a second helping I soon found myself having a third. I don’t recall my parents ever calling me out on why the food was slowly disappearing from the fridge and cupboards as I tried my best to hide any evidence. The secrecy of my disorder was prominent from the beginning. The times when my parents were around, for example at dinner time, I behaved. I would have a single helping of food, thank my mother for the meal and retreat to my bedroom. Once they went to bed and the house was covered in darkness and silence my scavenging began and it didn’t stop until my stomach ached so much I had no other option but to lie down and sleep. It soon became apparent that once I started eating I couldn’t stop. It is difficult to explain the loss of control – I was merely a pawn being controlled by an external player.

And then Monday rolls along and the fasting turns into punishment for my weekend binge-eating.

                                                                                                                                                                To be continued

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1 – Part 1

The category Me, myself and ED is the chronological narration of how Tulip came about, my battle and survival with EDNOS, AN (Anorexia Nervosa) and BN (Bulimia Nervosa). I will attempt to write it as factual and as honest as I can, keeping in mind I have not written nor spoken about it in the past 12 (or so) years.

EDNOS – Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified

I learnt something recently while reading an online article regarding the danger in not recognising the signs of a specific disorder, EDNOS. The start of my struggle with eating disorders actually had a name! And they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

I want to take you back to the beginning of my nightmarish journey, back to the year 1997:

I had an amazing year in sport. I achieved my highest ranking within my grade for WAG (woman’s artistic gymnastics) and represented my province at Nationals for a third consecutive year. I excelled in my track events during the athletics season and achieved personal bests in 400m and 100m relay. I was also more involved in school activities and enjoyed spending quality time with my horse – we discovered cross country and what a trill that was! I had a few boyfriends during this year, mostly casual friends with unsuccessful attempts at forming romantic bonds.

It was not until mid to year end that I started to notice my body had taken a course of its own. I use to monitor my eating habits as there were sudden changes in my dietary requirements due the different sports I participated in. For example (and I am no expert at this, but was told by a dietician): different muscle groups are used for different sporting events, and it can’t be more so for gymnastics and athletics. Track sprinting requires short bursts of strength and stamina with a lot of focus placed on leg and lung development. Gymnastics on the other hand require ‘longer’ muscles due to the flexibility aspect of the sport and strength training consists of full body and core. My diet reflected these differences: to help sustain muscle development for athletics I included a lot of protein and raw egg/milk drinks. And when gymnastics season started, I switched to a less high protein and more balanced diet, which included salads, fish and pastas. I was used to a 4kg fluctuation during the year.

A sudden change in my body (excessive weight gain) brought me to a catatonic stand still. I saw a photo of myself taken one early morning when I was out with my horse, a photo in which I didn’t recognise myself. I felt disgusted and utterly disappointed with myself. Both gymnastics and athletics had finished and clearly the lack of constant exercise and increase in food intake had taken my body on a selfish joyride. One day during class my best friend and I were discussing a topic raised during a church sermon I attended that previous Sunday, fasting. I knew about the ritual but didn’t really understand the reasoning behind it. My friend wasn’t a church goer, but she was willing to meet me half way and instead of placing the focus of fasting on God and meditation, we will spend more time preparing for our final exams. The fasting period will be between 6am – 6pm, Monday – Friday with only liquids allowed during the fast. We will hold each other accountable by presenting our exam preparations to one another on a daily basis. We also agreed that the fasting will only be for the duration of the term, and until our exams start.

The first few weeks was somewhat torture as my body (and mind) was trying its best to adjust to this new regime, one it didn’t like. I felt miserable and hungry, VERY hungry. But I soon found that water makes for a great placebo, and if you drink several glasses of water at the time you would have had a meal, it deceives your body into thinking that it’s full. Illusory became an every day game.

On weekends I was allowed to eat, and this is when my binge-eating disorder reared its nasty head.

To be continued

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/3

I recall reading an article back in 1998 regarding the statistics of anorexic sufferers: 1/3 of anorexics will die of this disorder, 1/3 will relapse and a 1/3 will recover. I still remember the discussion I had with my counsellor at the time regarding this article, and it was also the same day I made a commitment to myself that I will not be of the lesser group, I will not die. But I can’t help to wonder whether I am completely free from this mental disorder? I still struggle with thoughts I have dealt with 10 or more years ago: thoughts that lead to insecurities, which leads to self-doubt, which inevitably leads to behavioural issues. Today was such as day.

A few of my work mates and I decided we will all contribute $5 and get pizzas for lunch. Great idea at the time as the anticipation of freshly baked pizzas fills me with utter contentment (I am truly a foodie!). We ended up ordering 4 pizzas, and a fish/chips/sausages/potato fritters combo. I am not a big lunch eater, but the aroma made my tummy leap with joy. I ate 3 slices of pizza and had a helping of beer batter fish, and I can honestly say I felt a bit queasy afterwards. I experienced heart palpitations (again) but most of all the discomfort and disgust I felt was daunting. I was trying my best to concentrate on the last 1½ hours of work I had left, but couldn’t help to think how easy it will be purging myself from this discomfort. I didn’t, and eventually as the afternoon wore on with its busyness, I soon forgot about my unsettling thoughts. Being a recovered anorexic and/or bulimic suggests that I have the coping skills to avoid acting upon dangerous triggers. But I am somewhat stuck on the implication that several thousand people will be trapped in an endless loophole of relapse.

In my opinion an eating disorder (no matter how it came about) is an addiction. Midst my 1/3, I was addicted to the countless hours spend on recalling what I ate, how much I ate, how to conceal and hide food, and how many times a day I purged. I was addicted to exercise as I spend most of my afternoon in the gym, before and after athletics and gymnastics training. I was addicted to the scale…shitlessly scared of it, but obsessed none the less.

Unfortunately this leaves me with more questions: are there similarities between different addictions? I have never met a recovered alcoholic to ask them how life is after completing their programs. Are they allowed to attend social events where alcohol is served? Are they themselves allowed to consume alcohol? Can they recognise their triggers and extinguish the desire to drink when in a stressful situation? Do they consider themselves recovered?

Or are we all just living life as a 1/3?

 

 

Three’s a crowd – personifying anorexia and bulimia

Personification is a figure of speech in which a thing, an idea or an animal is given human attributes. The non-human objects are portrayed in such a way that we feel they have the ability to act like human beings.

Who remembers the tv sitcom Three’s Company? Jack the clumsy culinary student, Crissy the ditzy secretary and Janet the level-headed aspiring dancer living together in an apartment managed by their landlords the Ropers. I have very fond memories of watching this sitcom during family time on our local tv channel as a child. Their living situation made me think of what it is like housing an eating disorder, or in my case two eating disorders.

*the reason I use the term housing is not to downgrade the seriousness of a mental illness, but to illustrate that it is like an unwelcomed guest that made itself comfortable in your mind*

In the tv series Jack pretends to be gay in order to live with Janet and Crissy. Mr Roper was always suspicious of Jack and mocked his sexuality. Jack had to constantly hide the girls he brought over to the apartment, while Janet and Crissy played along to his schemes.

In a sense living with an eating disorder is very much the same. I always felt like the third wheel, the one standing on the side line, and even though I thought I was making the decisions, it was just an illusion because anorexia and bulimia controlled my every thought and action. I had to hide them from the world because if they were discovered, they will be taken away from me and at the time I was not ready to let go. I was also scared of what people might think of me if they have to find out that these unwanted guests were occupying my body and mind.

Anorexia and bulimia are NOT friendly flatmates AT ALL! Amidst their grip you are deceived into believing that they have your back, that you are safe and will always be welcomed with open arms as you would a long-lost friend. Anorexia is the bitchy, back-stabbing spoilt brat. She pretends to be your friend by luring you in with false promises such as “You will feel so much better if you lose just 1 more kilogram”, “You don’t have to tell your dietician you skipped a meal yesterday, she won’t understand that you didn’t have time to eat”. She quickly turn you against those who love you and who only wants the best for you, by filling your head with lies “All they care about is whether you eat”, “They don’t want to listen to your issues, they have their own problems”. She is vicious in her retaliation once she discovers that you broke the secret creed. She will stop at nothing until you are just a mere memory.

Bulimia is the discreet one. She comes unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. She robs you of the little self-respect you have left, and feeds on your insecurities. She is cunning and very clever, hiding herself from plain sight because “people can’t really see that you have an eating disorder, right?”. She makes you feel guilty for being hungry, guilty for eating (convincing you that if you stop now it has all been a waste), and then fills you with emptiness once you have ridden yourself of the food you ate.

The day I decided to evict (so to speak) the annoying tenants and finally seeing that three is a crowd, was life changing. The journey of rebuilding your body and mind by replacing your destructive habits with things such as healthy living and positive reinforcement is possible.