I've talked before about my Eating Disorder voice and how nasty it is. The last few days my E.D. voice has been meaner then ever.
At the moment I'm at the beach for my families yearly vacation. Much like last year, I had been dreading it. (Not because I hate my family...but because of all things Eating Disordered..) The difference between this year and last year however is that I feel like last year I was much more prepared and able to cope with the triggers that vacation brings. This year I just couldn't do it.
There are times in recovery when I get exhausted. I become mentally drained from it all, frustrated and defeated. When that happens my E.D. slips in and takes over and to be honest, it takes me a solid week, sometimes more, to get back on track.
This week was one of those weeks. I just could not deal. My eating disorder was all consuming and I felt powerless against it. It attacked my attitude, my body image, my emotions and my ability to decipher hunger cues. It made me spend an entire day in tears and managed to get me to walk away from the beach one day in shame.
I wish every day of fighting my eating disorder was triumphant, but sadly that's not the case. If the right storm of anxiety, stress, swelling and triggers brew, I'm done for, and that's exactly what happened this week.
I was already nervous about coming to the beach and family vacation. I had prepared, but accidentally left my cope ahead sheet at home. I had my beachwear ready, but it didn't feel right. I saw hundreds of woman at the beach with imperfect bodies, but it didn't matter. I was upset about mine. Last year at the beach I thought next year would be different. I would feel better. I would have my body back. Well, now it's "next year" and my body isn't different, it's still far from normal, and it just got to me.
Between my frustration with my body, my anger that it had not changed, my feeling of defeat that I was doing EVERYTHING right in recovery with no results and some other typical drama, the perfect storm of anxiety and stress began to brew. Anorexia is how I deal with anxiety and stress. Why deal with the problem when I can distract myself and control my situation with this?! Obviously I don’t decide to let me ED take over, it just does....When the storm finally hit, I unfortunately was consumed and completely taken over by my eating disorder.
I got knocked down. HARD. My ED let me think of nothing but how gross I was and how I should have never came on vacation. How I should leave now and just go home to the safety of my bed and read. How painful it was the look at the fit bodies on the beach. How jealous and insecure I was of every person who is able to eat and be fit. How desperate I am for my belly to GO AWAY. How badly I want to wear my bikini and get in the water. How my team and treatment is complete garbage and they have no idea what they are talking about. How sick I was of wearing these baggy huge crap clothes and honestly, it makes me feel that life is not worth living. I hate that my thoughts go there, but this blog is about the truth and the truth is ED's make you feel like life would be better if it ended.
The way to make my ED thoughts go away is to restrict or exercise. Fix the body and everything will be ok. Concentrate on calories or my flaws, control my food and fat and all these problems will be gone! That woman wrote a rude email..instead of coping correctly lets concentrate on how fat you are instead. Give the ED what it wants and there will be peace once again. We all know that is BS because, well, I've been there and done that and it almost killed me.
The second best thing to quiet my ED voice and deal with the anxiety that is causing it in the first place, is to use coping skills. Things that I literally can't remember when I'm in this state of mind. I have like thirty listed in my phone, but when I'm this consumed, they are the equivalent to a fairy flicking a giant in the knee and hoping the flick killed it.
Number twenty-four on my toolbox list is, reach out for help! Thankfully I was smart enough to follow my own advice and tell a couple people in my family, reach out to my support group, my therapist and my best friend for help. Some of my family saw I was struggling, (possibly because I couldn't’ stop crying??) and prayed for me. This was helpful and calming, but it still doesn't stop the onslaught of thoughts. Some people think I can just snap out of it. Hear me when I say, I can't. I have to work very hard to get out of it. It’s called a mental illness for a reason!
I wrote to my therapist and my support group asking for them to remind me of coping skills because my brain was moving 1000 mph and I couldn't slow it down enough to think of them myself or use the ones I have in my phone. Sometimes it takes someone else telling me what to do to get it to click! Thankfully one of the awesome girls in my support group immediately sent me a lot of ways to calm my anxiety right away. My therapist wrote back as well, validated what was going in, reminded me of how I can slow my thoughts and emotions down so that my skills can actually work. She asked me what my limits were and encouraged me to not go past them for the day. That day my limits were, I can't go to the beach. I'm not in the right head space. My ED wouldn't allow it. So fine. I came back to the house, practiced self care. Did some breathing exercises to calm me down. Rested and then worked through some coping skills. By the end of the evening I felt mentally hungover but I was able to participate and get a little back on track. I was able to eat. I was able to go five minutes without thinking of my belly or the circumfrance of my upper arms.
Some days the ED attacks, it consumes, I fall, I reach out, I rest, I cope, I get back up and try again the next day. This is recovery. It’s ugly. It’s hard. It’s work...
So how did the rest of vacation go?
It was still hard, but I made it through!
I stayed back from the “fun” a few times knowing the environment would be triggering and not helpful. It was lonely, but better then the alternative. There were random things that caused anxiety and stress that I coped with quickly and effectively. I was sitting in a beach chair and it broke....I know that this had much more to do with the rust on the chair and the fast rush of water that came in then it did my current poundage. I dealt with it ok, but I know the ED will throw it in my face the next time I have a bad body image day. I felt gigantic most of the time and constantly had to stop, take note of what was causing my heart to race, and proceed mindfully...
The wins were that I was able to go to the beach every day afterward! I was able to accept my body for what it was each day and stop comparing myself to others at the beach. I ate three meals a day, which was BEYOND difficult. I read three books and enjoyed some delicious cocktails! I tye dyed t-shirts with my nieces and nephews and learned a new “oldie” song from my Gramps each day! I now have a killer tan and hung out with my family, which is always a good time!
I constantly have to remind myself that the bad does NOT outweigh the good. My Eating Disorder may have won a few small battles this vacation, but I am still winning the war!
Things will FOR SURE be different next year :)
- Sara -
p.s. Thank you to the people that helped me get through this week. You know who you are. Without your support I would have driven home and accepted defeat. Instead, I kept fighting and am one day closer to being recovered!