- Sara Mann
It's been a hot minute since I've blogged and apparently when this one posted this past weekend my website had a glitch and the blog didn't come through! So here it is again! I hope it works this time.
I haven't blogged because I've been going through a lot of changes and I needed to get a grasp on them before I could share them. Also, when I'm going through a bit of a hard time I just don't have the energy to blog. I have the energy this week, so here it goes!
About four weeks ago I had a bit of what I would call a breakdown and a miraculous intervention.
Almost daily I was having anxiety and panic attacks about my weight and recovery. I found myself in a very very low place. There are many things that triggered it. Some I'll keep private, but others were typical. I have a lot of family coming in town to visit this summer. Now that I live near my parents its impossible to avoid seeing everyone. Most of these people haven't seen me since I entered treatment. The last time they saw me I was rail thin. The weight gain is massive and the anxiety I feel about people seeing me is debilitating. I just want to hide, but I can't.
My younger sister is getting married. She has asked me to be a bridesmaid. I knew this day would come. I prayed my body would be back to normal when it did. She asked. I'm still overweight. I love my sister and of course being a bridesmaid takes precedent over my body image, but the thought of being in photos and having those photos splashed all over the internet and having to walk down the aisle in a dress in a body I hate in front of 200+ people is frightening to me. Literally.
I had been running. The weight didn't budge. I felt stuck and hopeless. There were a million other little things but all of them together made me panic and want to grab control and get this weight OFF OF MY BODY as soon as possible. That would make all of this just go away.
I remembered that the doctor at the Cleveland clinic suggested I go to the Weight Management Program. I decided I wanted to go. I just couldn't take the weight and the shame anymore. I talked to my dietician in DC about it. She seemed at her wits end too. I've been working with her over a year and haven't lost a pound. I kept asking for a meal plan or anything that would help and she said just to intuitive eat. The problem for me is I'm still so afraid to eat because of my weight that I under eat every day. I'm over weight, under-eating, exercising and miserable. I have no idea how to get my body back and it's seems neither does she. I told her I wanted to go to the Cleveland Clinic Weight Management Program to see if they could figure out whats wrong and she said it sounded like a good idea. Most of my family thought it was a horrible idea still, but I justified it, they have no idea what this is like. Going from thin to obese without over eating and having to wake up every day and try and act like it's ok is a living hell and I wanted out of it.
I had the phone in my hand to dial the number to the clinic and then all of a sudden it rang. It was an unknown number. I almost NEVER answer unknown numbers because of a bad past experience, but I decided to answer this one. Ends up it was a woman calling about the support group I inquired about a couple of days before. I had decided I needed more support here in Ohio. What's bad is when I looked online there was only one support group and it was an hour away. They didn't have a number so I emailed hoping for the best but expecting nothing to come of it like the other five I had tried.
This woman asked me if I was looking to be in an ED support group. I said YES! She asked me about my story and through a lot of tears I shared the shortest version of the past ten years that I could muster. I told her I now was overweight, stuck and about to go to the Cleveland Clinic Weight Management Program to get my body back because I can't take it anymore. That's when in a loud and very firm voice she said, "NO!!!!! Do NOT go there!"
Ends up that this woman use to work there! (ironic?) She said that if I go there, there is an 100% chance I will relapse into my eating disorder. She then asked if I was willing to hold off on calling the clinic for two days while she gets her thoughts around my case and points me in the right direction here in Ohio. I said I would and then, forgetting who she said she was, I asked who she was again. She then said her name was Anne Hull of the Hull institute. One of the only eating disorder centers in this area. I don't know how I had the phone ready to call the Cleveland Clinic and then somehow ended up on the phone with THE head of the Hull Institute instead? It had to be God. I'm serious, I've been praying and praying and praying for God to make a way out of this. I had found no other way. I was about to go to a weight loss clinic for petes sake, which to me felt like giving up and just going back to old disordered habits to get the weight off. God decided that wasn't going to happen I guess because instead of a weight loss clinic I found myself on the phone with the one person in Cleveland, Ohio that could point me in a different direction.
Anne asked me if I was willing to see a new dietician. She knew of a woman who had a story that was almost identical to mine and there is this one dietician she knew who was able to help her and get her body back to normal. I said a very enthusiastic yes and made an appointment. She also made me promise to go to the support group that Sunday. I said ok and I'll never forget what she said to me after that, she said, "It's going to be OK Sara. You are NOT stuck like this. Hold tight. Help is on the way." I cried.
I went to my first support group here in Ohio four weeks ago. It was exactly what I needed. I felt comfortable in a room for the first time in sixth months. I was surrounded by people who "got it" and shared stories similar to mine. I had a safe space to share the pain of what I was going through and the daily struggle that is recovery.
I met with the new dietician. She was fabulous. She was and is incredibly confident that she can help me get back to normal. She has seen cases like mine before and seems to know what to do. After looking over my food logs for the past four months she said the dreaded thing I've heard time and time again. I'm not eating enough. My body will not lose this weight if I don't eat more. Through tears I told her I can't and I don't know how. I'm frightened (literally) of gaining even more weight and being stuck at an even higher weight. She went through all the science, my whole story, how the body works after starvation why it's swelling and convinced me to give it another go. Instead of just telling me to eat more she actually gave me a plan to help me do it. The best thing she said to me was that it was insane for me to have gone from re-feeding straight into intuitive eating. My mind and body weren't ready for it and it's led me to be scared and my body to be stuck. For the first time in a LONG time I felt a teeny tiny bit of hope creep back in.
At my last appointment with her I asked the question that has always been off limits with my last dietician. When would I begin to see some weight loss. I truly expected her to say another year or so, or give me the answer I've always heard before, "I don't know, we can't ever be sure what the body will do." Instead, she said that I need to be patient, but she is expecting to see it start to come off by mid-August. WHAT?!?!?!?! I almost died right there in the chair.
Look, I don't want to get my hopes too far up because this journey has been bad, really bad. I've heard other doctors and dietitians say the same things to me and then 6 months in have no idea why my body isn't losing. Nothing has gone as expected and I've learned to keep my expectations low and and my hope down there with them. I've learned that the worst possible scenario happens to me and setting myself up for disappointment is a raw deal, but, she seems so sure of herself! Would it hurt to just have a little hope again?
So I did it. I convinced myself to give this my all. I will follow this meal plan the best I can and pray that for once the best case scenario is the outcome.
You might be thinking that a meal plan is a bad idea, it's too structured, it's not free, it's not intuitive. Honestly, it's the most free I've felt in a long time. It's made me feel like I have permission to eat. I feel a little less guilt because hey, I'm following the meal plan. It gave me a rest from the non-stop mind control of my ED and the shame of eating at my current weight. It takes the guessing game out of it which also helps remove the guilt, shame and pain every time I take a bite of something. It has given me a goal and I can actually meet it and feel proud of myself for. It's not a meal plan of deprivation. In fact, it increased my intake. It scares me, but I have nothing else to lose. Truly.
So that is where I'm at right now. I'm in year four of recovery, in a new support group, working with my third dietician and feeling the most hope I've felt in a really long time!
I truly was at a point of defeat four weeks ago. I thought I lost. I had run out of hope and figured recovery just wasn't in the cards. I was stuck obese and forever living with the anxiety and consequences of anorexia. I truly believed that's when God intervened. I saw no way out of my defeat, but he sent Anne to me through a phone call and now I have a new dietician, a new group of support and above all else a renewed hope.
This is still really hard. Eating more is hard. Trusting I won't just gain and gain even more is hard. Trusting this will lead to my body going back to normal feels almost impossible, but I'm going to do it anyway. God's got my back and I trust that inwardly He will renew me every day and give me the courage to do it until I'm done!
- Sara -