It’s been a minute since I have just chatted about my recovery on here – so I thought I would take time to do that. I’ve had a LOT of new followers on the blog pop up [woof] and I’m unsure if it’s my Taylor Swift content or my health and eating disorder discussion but wow y’all, thank you either way.
My projects have had me busy, mentally and physically which has been a good thing. In February, I was doing so bad mentally that I reached out to my dietician to discuss hormones that possibly could have had me in a rut. Really I wasn’t doing great from October until then, but January on felt most dangerous than any other time in my life, besides when I was 12-13. I was without my Therapist from November until around April – but by the time I had gotten to see her I was in a much better place. HOWEVER, my body has been displaying some physical signs of anxiety which has caused a more severe reaction in dietary and digestion issues … so I have been seeking help with her on that. In Feb. I did get my IUD out since I am typically really low on progesterone, and my dietician wanted to put me on supplements for it, but there is no use of taking those pills if my IUD was going to regulate the dosage. I had mine for about 7 years so it was definitely not giving me any more hormones but regulating the hormones my body WAS making – so overall it was just a bad time.
I didn’t know what to expect when I got that sucker out – I thought that it would make it worse since I hadn’t been off any birth control medically since I was 13. I didn’t drop any weight as I had hoped I would BUT within a week or so I felt like an entirely new person. No crazy, unmanageable depression, no crazy episodes where I woke up wondering why I was alive, as the previous months had displayed. This definitely isn’t the cure all to everyone dealing with depression but getting off of birth control was one of the best decisions I have made in years for myself.
But this part is key and a recurring theme for the next few paragraphs: I started to focus on what it meant to want to live. I have been working really hard on body neutrality and being kinder to my aging body. I am not 22 so I shouldn’t expect my body to look like I was when I was 22. Getting off birth control didn’t make me lose weight or get where I thought my body should be, but it did make me want to actually be alive again, and that’s a big deal.
Flash forward to April – Just to see where my body was in water retention and off of birth control – I did a week juice cleanse. I’ve done these in the past, and actually in January I did one, but it did absolutely nothing. No weight change, no sickness healing, nothing. From March – April my gut health got pretty severe. I have found it is the worst when I travel. The weekend of the 10th I went to Chicago with my friends, I was sick the entire time. Without even eating, we had to take breaks from place to place and go to our Airbnb because I couldn’t keep anything in my body. If I ate any food at all, even small snack sizes, I immediately had to use the bathroom. My anxiety has begun to manifest its way into my day to day life if I am out of my routine and not at home. This is part of OCD but I’ve never seen it grab on to my nervous system so physically before.
As an experiment before I had another weekend trip for a wedding, I juice cleansed for the week leading up to the trip. Typically when I travel I cannot eat breakfast, I have to eat less than 800 calories OR I’ll be nauseous and in the bathroom most of the morning/ early afternoon. This time, nothing. I learned that when I juice cleanse [now without my IUD] I drop 12-15 pounds that week alone [this is not normal; it’s water retention and inflamed bowels], and it allows me to eat whatever I want when I am gone because my intestines are not inflamed. But seriously in a 3 day juice cleanse I dropped 12 pounds. All water and inflammation… I’m sure.
Starting a more severe probiotic has helped me a lot, the problem with it is it has to be refrigerated, and obviously you can’t travel with that. But It has helped me a ton daily, and also working out and running again has helped my symptoms a lot too. But here is the kicker – I know I don’t have ‘ibs’ medically. What my therapist, dietician and I have discovered is 14-15 years of being clinically anorexic is I lost a lot of gut health. When you don’t eat or eat restrictively for years it lowers the bacteria in your gut. I’ve talked to a lot of medical people and therapists about this – and the rate of people who were anorexic who now have ibs symptoms is quite high. I say symptoms, because most like I, don’t react to the same food groups consistently. Some days bagels are the only safe thing I have to eat, other days they destroy me. Some days protein shakes are fine, other days I’m bending over in pain digesting them. All of my symptoms are reliant on the state and inflammation of my gut and what I have consumed in the last few days and how it is reacting.
I am going to link some articles in case, you reading this, have had some anxiety presenting IBS like symptoms, or have also gone through long spurts of not eating much food for years.
Thing to remember and learn: Working out, taking these new probiotics, clearing my gut before trips doesn’t make me lose weight – but it does help me control my sickness. Important.
So the last 4 months I have come out of the state of wishing I wasn’t alive and have learned methods that have given me a solution to feeling sick all of the time. As of now, it seems that if I do a juice cleanse once a month it helps my inflammation – but something also that I have learned from talking to MANY ED therapists is that this is something you have work work through. In these moments patients want to restrict and go back to minimal eating, because when I am not eating I feel my best. No joke. I am not sick. I am not bloated. I feel full of energy, its like a high I cannot explain. But in the long run it makes it worse. So juice cleansing once a month may NOT be the solution because from so much research and talking to medical professionals it sounds like eating your way through it to build the gut resistance may be key – but it’s a painful process.
At home it isn’t that big of a problem – it definitely can be if I eat flour based anything the morning after I drink any small amount of alcohol [which I have lowered down significantly and drink like 3 times a month now, if that]- but traveling is a big issue. I am on edge, out of my routine, away from my home and pets, trying to problem solve eating and find solutions and places that cater to my needs, and feeling like I need to keep everyone around me happy – causes severe issues in my gut based off of stress and anxiety – which is what the polyvagal theory above is linked for.
I try to do yoga, creative hours playing my guitar and other slow things to help my anxiety but it’s just not enough to help heal me during travel. So I am still trying to navigate and figure out what best will help me in these next few years of recovery.
If I could go back in time and tell myself to eat, I would.
Honestly being semi-thin growing up isn’t worth what I am going through now – and I still have loud monsters in my head every night telling me I need to start a new diet plan or restriction knowing damn well it’s going to hinder my progress. In fact the other day I even put alarms on my calendar telling me what and when to eat and promising myself not to break the alarms or engage in any eating without them going off.
I deleted them a day later. But I did do it. And to be honest, I do this shit once a week. Make a diet plan. Tell myself I need to do it. Put on reminders. Then the next day I see my chaotic and sporadic attempt of control and delete everything.
I know I have a slower metabolism, my heart rate is only 39-44 bpm in a resting state [normal people are 65-90], I store higher amounts of insulin, I have low blood pressure, I have no gallbladder, I have hypothyroidism. Eating when I was younger would have made me gain a bit more weight, but it would have been worth it. I wouldn’t be fat-phobic towards myself [a big key understanding there – it’s never been at anyone but myself], I would have had gut integrity, and I would have learned how to cope with a lot of these things.
It’s so crazy because running is the only time I can get lost in what I am doing. The other day I ran 3 miles and forgot I was doing it. I was so lost in my own mind that I forgot how I got to the place I ran to. However, because of my insulin store up I have to do it in moderation. Over quarantine I was running 7-10 miles a day and gained 20 pounds in a month – and no, it wasn’t muscle. My body goes fight or flight mode and holds on to all insulin I have created and I gain a ton of weight, yet, mentally it helps me a ton, and physically it keeps my IBS symptoms at bay. So gain weight but feel better? Or Hold down the fort and get sick? It’s a hard choice.
Reminder, again: Running helps your symptoms – do exercise and eat right to help your symptoms, not your weight. [I’m talking to myself]
Listen to people.
The last 3 weeks I have despised myself physically. I have been following a weightlifting routine – I’ve been lifting 4 times a week, running 2-4 miles 3 times a week, and walking at night for 20-30 minutes after dinner. My weight feels high, but since getting my IUD out I’ve at least been able to hold my weight instead of gaining. I know I am eating the amount of normalcy but it feels like binge eating to me. I want to do less… but am fighting that every day. I aim for 1400 calories a day. I know that seems low to many people but it’s so scarily high to me. I still get proud when I’m under 1000 a day… but am still trying to break that habit. However, with all this I just haven’t felt very.. good.
Yesterday I went to a microblading appointment and my artist said, “you’re looking good! and you’re looking thin!” I kind of shrugged it off and said, “well I definitely haven’t been feeling like I look okay at all so thank you.” I meant the thank you, but I just don’t see that, so I kind of just assumed she said it to be nice.
Today my hairstylist[s] said to me, “you’re looking so good and I hope you can see that. When I saw you on Sunday I wanted to comment on how beautiful you looked but I got distracted and forgot to mention it,” and the other one in the room mentioned that she thought I looked super good lately.
I definitely don’t see this and I’m not sure if they are saying it just to be nice but walking out of the salon I thought to myself, “dang, what If I do look good?”
Body dysmorphia was something I discussed a lot about in Graduate school. My entire line of work revolved around it as well as many of my research papers. I really hate the societal belief that dysmorphia is about being discouraged when we look into the mirror, because it’s most definitely not that. It’s when you physically cannot see yourself for how others see you, in fact you have no idea what you look like. That’s me. I see nothing but disgust in the mirror. I don’t actually know what I look like. I know I can grab my stomach and shake my arms despite all the weights I lift. I know that my gut has gotten bigger and my hips wider. I know that I have been lifting excessively everyday since I was 20 – but I never see improvement.
Maybe my body has become more strong in the last 5 weeks for doing a strict work out regime, but I’ll never see it. But what if it has? When will we, ourselves, be enough?
I am 3 years into this recovery and it never gets easier. So if you too, are facing this healing process, please know it’s not linear.. at all. Most of us are smarter than our disorder. Most of us know that societal expectations on people, and women, are bullshit. We know weight isn’t our worth. We know that how we act and what we do is more valuable to those around us than the size we wear. But it’s so much easier to say this to other people and genuinely mean it than it is to say to ourselves and follow through. I am such an advocate of women. I believe people of all sizes are powerful and beautiful. I have never shamed any one in my mind for being a specific size, no body but my own.
As I get closer to go home to see my family this weekend, for a wedding, all I can do is be fearful of what they think of me when they see me. Will my brother think I am over weight? Will my mom and dad think I have been lack on my workouts because I am not thinner? Will my grandparents not say I look pretty because I am not a size 6 any more? The truth is they could all say nothing but it would feel louder than if they said something. Growing up in such an athletic household was super beneficial but it also had me misunderstand what health vs obsession was.
Literally every day I walk or run 4-5 miles in total, I weight lift for an hour, I do garden/yard work for an hour and a half. I then either edit, or walk around and photography sessions all day. And last time I was home I caught myself saying all of this to them, again, for the 10th time in a year, to validate myself and my size. I got to stop doing that. After I said all of this to explain how I wasn’t lazy, I took a breath, I self reflected and I said to myself, “you do not have to validate your size, what they think about your weight isn’t any of your business. You are healthy, you are strong, you are active, you are motivated, and most of all you are kind.”
I adore my family, but they are my weakness in my healing. I have placed unrealistic expectations onto myself and my body based off of my past interactions with them, that most of them no longer hold. Most of them have understood that the expectations were dumb and bullshit, and have rid them, which I need to do too – but it is a hard thing to rid and unlearn.
So that is my check-in for all of you. I have gotten comfortable taking the bad selfies, the unflattering photos, but it still hasn’t seeped into the judgement of myself. Know that I have not given up though. I am fighting every single day.