Not My Monkey.
Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!
Tis the season for joy and also tis the season for increased eating disorder thoughts, diet talk and obnoxious people/triggers! If you don’t know this already, eating disorders are our not so wonderful way of dealing with anxiety, depression, family problems, body image issues and stress. The holidays, especially during a pandemic, are packed full of annoying family members, diet talk, anxiety about Covid and I mean, Christmas cookies alone can make us stressed. I guarantee if you struggle with these things you are already dreading dealing with that one family member that you will see these last two weeks of the year that always makes it known that they cut out sugar or the siblings that will inevitably get in an argument about Trump/Biden and whether masks really do anything. Maybe it’s the random person who always has to talk about how you look because they can’t seem to find literally ANYTHING else to talk about. (I’m already annoyed writing about this.)
Before you know it you are stressed, tired and when this happens you become mentally weary and suddenly eating a Christmas cookie becomes a decision between good and evil and not just a freaking cookie. The desire to exercise off the stress becomes heightened and body image has plummeted. I mean, maybe this doesn’t happen to you, but it’s how it goes for me. So much diet talk gets me questioning my own recovery. People making me feel like an idiot because I don’t have the same opinion makes me feel insecure which leads me to want to feel secure which then leads to me wanting to control my body because at least THAT will make me feel better....until it doesn’t.
My recovery people. We MUST go into this season of triggers mentally strong! This means setting boundaries and not joining the circus. I’ve done blogs like these before, but honestly, who wants to sift through an archive. I want to share some ways I deal with all the garbage listed above so that I stay mentally strong and relapse free during the holidays. Yes, five years in I still need to plan ahead how I’m going to deal. It’s just easier now :)
1. NOT MY MONKEY, NOT MY CIRCUS. My therapist in treatment taught me this saying. I use to struggle with being emotionally invested in other people problems. This just led me to be stressed and stress led me to eating disorder behaviors. So I would be restricting, crying and not solving anything. Now, I literally say to myself and often other people, not my monkey, not my circus. Oh your family member can’t believe they have to wear a mask somewhere? Not my monkey, not my circus. I’ll do me. Your sibling is mad at your other sibling because they let their kids crush candy canes on their pancakes at 8am and that just is not ok. So they vent. Not my monkey, not my circus. I refuse to get wrapped up in other peoples anxieties and stress during the Holidays. I remove myself from it all. Don’t get me wrong. I care about people. I just don’t take on their problems. I get myself a nice book, sit on the couch and say not my monkeys, not my circus. Try it. The sanity is freeing!
2. COPE AHEAD. Take like 30 minutes and write down or brainstorm things that could come up that are triggering and figure out what skill you will use to cope with it ahead of time. It allows us to not only be prepared but also feel confident and secure when we get slammed with toxic garbage that causes relapse. For me, something that I know will trigger me is my family likes to take walks and hikes a lot. I just had foot surgery. I therefore cannot hike ANYWHERE :) If everyone wants to go for a hike my healthy mind says, no problem! I am healing from foot surgery and that would be ridiculous to go for a hike and hurt myself! My eating disorder thoughts will say, see, you can’t exercise, you will get fatter just sitting here, maybe skip some food to compensate for not being able to hike like everyone else. These are NOT ok thoughts. So my plan is to expect my family to go for a hike and if/when they go I will work on the piece or art for my bedroom and cherish the alone time. This way I look forward to my alone time while they hike.
3. STICK TO FACTS. Ok, I’ll use the hiking example again. It’s easy for ED thoughts to take over at moments that they are unwelcome. It’s so important to stick to facts. The facts for me when it comes to hiking are that even though my mind will tell me this, I am in fact NOT lazy. I just have a foot healing from surgery and have been told to stay off of it. Here is another one. Joe Shmo is again encouraging you to go low carb because he has bought into the idea that restricting food groups is the right way to go (sarcasm strongly implied). Well, facts are Joe that our body needs carbs and restricting them will only cause our body to rebound and want to eat them even more. It is not a long term solution and honestly just makes me want to eat all of the carbs in all of the land if I restrict them. Better to eat them in moderation because my body needs them and accept my body will not be Gigi Hadids. You may take the chance of sharing how hard recovery is and how much you want to lose the over shoot. Good intentioned Aunt Mary brings up calorie counting and how maybe cutting back is what you need! Well, the facts are Aunt Mary that counting calories makes me literally insane and cutting back on food is exactly what got me into this mess, so I’m going to go ahead and keep doing me. If you need to, keep an arsenal of facts in your notes section of your phone. Refer to them as needed. I am recovering. My body needs carbs. I cannot gain ten pounds from one meal. Aunt Mary is cookoo. Cookies are just flour, egg, sugar and butter. They are not satan.
4. SET BOUNDARIES. If being around someone causes triggers simply set a boundary for how long you can handle being around them and then honor that boundary. There are certain people in my life that I know if I talk to them for longer then ten minutes I get triggered. I walk away at 9 minutes. I will choose the seat at the Christmas dinner table furthest from the person who diet talks the most and if their talk reaches my ears for more then a few minutes I ask how the Cleveland Browns are doing to change the subject. Sometimes I’m direct. I say, this convo is something I just don’t think is healthy for me to be a part of, I’m going to go check if there is anything in my teeth. Other times I literally just walk away. I had someone talk about their pre-holiday fasting....I literally walked away. It’s all I could do at the moment and it was healthy. You do NOT have to sit and listen to someone bark triggers at you.
5. ASK FOR HELP. There are a few people in my life I trust to help me when I can’t get it together myself. One of them is my sister-in-law Robyn. I can confide in her that I’m struggling and she will help me asap. I can tell her I don’t want to eat and she will eat with me. If I make a plate for myself and worry if it’s too much food I will ask my husband. He will always assure me my eating is normal or push me to get more food when I feel so lost in the anxiety of how much to eat that I can’t figure it out myself. Text a friend to text pray with you real quick to calm down. Reach out to your support group and ask them to check in on you at 8pm. Don’t go at it alone. It’s easier with help.
6. TREAT FOOD AS FUEL. It’s easy to allow our food judgements and rules creep in during this time. If you can’t eat intuitively because the thoughts and anxiety have taken over, eat intellectually. You need to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and often snacks too. This is normal. I use to set a timer on my phone to remind me I need to refill my food tank. It’s like your has light coming on in the car. I would just forget to eat because of anxiety. The timer would go off and I would honor the timer. Time to eat. Time to refuel.
LAST, KEEP THE REASON FOR THE SEASON. This one is the most important. I found myself dealing with a lot of anxiety about a week ago. I was about to have foot surgery and all my eating disorder behaviors and thoughts started to creep in. I knew I was going to get weighed so I was freaking out. I knew I wouldn’t be able to exercise with a foot down which caused me to be afraid my body would gain another 100 lbs (ridiculous I know but hey, this is anorexia.) I literally got to a place where my mind wouldn’t stop and I found myself cutting back on fear foods and doing things I hadn’t done in years! I reached out to my sister-in-law and told her what was going on and she asked if I had been spending time with God lately. TRUTH.....it had slipped with how busy I was with work, and life. She then sent me an advent study to do daily to get me grounded and remember what the heck life is all about. It helped me tremendously. I remembered this time is about being generous, kind, faith, loving others, and celebrating my Savior! Umm does it matter if I gain ten pounds after my surgery while healing? No it actually doesn’t. Perspective is key and keeping my eyes on God brought me out of the eating disorder mentality and back where I needed to be. Grounded and healthy.
I’m wishing you all a very Merry and WONDERFUL Holiday season. I’m praying for all of you as you walk through this season during recovery. Remember, NOT YOUR MONKEY NOT YOUR CIRCUS! YOU CAN DO IT!