Happy Saturday!! I hope you have all had a great week!
Before I get into today’s blog I want to mention again that I run a zoom Eating Disorder Support Group every other Sunday! We have one tomorrow and if you are interested just contact me at email@example.com! People all around the world are in our group and we all have such similar stories! It’s such a blessing to encourage one another in this way! Unfortunately I can only add a few more members to the group as having too many would make it hard to have time to truly support one another! If I keep getting interest I will consider a second group!!! Come Join!!
Recovery is a straight up journey.
There are highs and lows.
Steps forward and steps back.
Wins and losses.
I can be doing great for five months and then WHAM I’m topsy turvy and have no idea which way is up and if I even believe in this thing called recovery!
I’d love to say these set backs come out of nowhere, but whenever I look back it is actually pretty obvious what the base line cause is to my desire to starve myself and exercise like a fiend.
It starts out small and slow. Little triggers here and there. I then get busy and don’t take the time to process some things that I probably should. Throw a few more triggers on the fire and off the forest fire goes. It is March 3rd as I write this and am feeling pretty much swallowed by flames.
As you can probably already deduce, I’ve been having a bit of a rough go at it the past month or so. Have I relapsed? NO! Not fully anyway. Physically I’m still eating and doing oooooook. Mentally and emotionally on the other hand....not good...not good at all. For me, when things go down the tube mentally and emotionally, the physical behaviors are not too far behind.
So why did I title this blog red light? Because there is this handy dandy pre-relapse light system in recovery that helps me see where I am in recovery and how I’m doing. It’s a little check in. The colors are like a street light and are used in the same way. The green mean things are good and a go, life is moving forward with typical highs and lows but recovery is maintained and prioritized. Yellow means...hmmmmm need to check myself. Time to pause, reassess, notice there is a problem BEFORE things get worse. Red means things are getting bad and it’s time to seek some action, support and help.
So how do I know if I’m at red, yellow or green??? Here are some questions that help me assess where I am at and you can also use to see where you are as well. The trick is being honest. Truly. You HAVE to be honest when answering these questions or you may fall too far quickly. The goal is to catch ourselves before relapse.
-following meal plan
-not being afraid of unknown calories
-not thinking of foods as “good” or “bad”
-developing other interests and spending less energy on the ED
-willing to surrender control over food and life to God
-engaging in social outings and relationships
-attending regular appointments and meetings
-using coping skills
-being honest with team and support network
-generally hopeful about recovery and the future
-taking medications as prescribed
-acknowledging urges and reasons not to engage in the urges
-asking for help when needed
-practicing good self care
-bouncing back from challenges
-setting and keeping healthy boundaries
-feeling supported and capable even when a set back comes
-practicing acceptance of body size
-eating intuitively (if that is where you are at)
-exercising in a joyful way (if applicable)
-Increased anxiety around food
-Obsessive thoughts around food/weight
-urges to diet and lose weight
-weighing oneself frequently
-checking nutritional info on packages and online
-measuring and weighing food
-calling foods good and bad
-increased body checking
-questioning commitment to recovery
-declining quality of self care
-mentally planning or thinking about how to restrict or burn calories
-repressing or avoiding emotions or emotional situations
-starting to feel unmotivated
-beginning to lack hope in recovery
-more prominent mood swings
-inconsistent with following meal plans or treatment plans
-disinterest in relationships
-beginning to keep small secrets
-asking for help less
-increased talk or thoughts about body image
-insisting you are fine out of fear of being a failure or burden
-feeling unsupported or alone
-poor coping with stress
-Deciding to use behaviors “just once”
-telling yourself you don’t need a meal plan
-lying about eating
-isolating yourself and avoiding most social situations
-only eating safe foods
-increased anxiety and panic attacks
-frequent binging or purging
-increased exercise or exercising through pain
-lack of sleep
-cheating on meal plans
-finding yourself in unhealthy environments that don’t help your recovery
-extreme emotional reactions or mood swings
-feeling hopeless and discouraged
-not taking medication
-very little self care, or self care seems to be doing nothing
-non stop and increased presence of intrusive, obsessive and negative thoughts.
-you dismiss others concerns
There you go! Did you read over it? How are you doing? Where are you at?
You can even make it more personal with your own individual triggers and behaviors. For example, I know I’m in a green light when I’m not really comparing myself to others and am confident in myself. I’m in full on red light when I’m sitting at a coffee shop comparing my weight to every living being that walks through the door and it makes me feel less than and defeated.
So based on the title of my blog I’m pretty sure by now you have figured out that I’m at a red light......UGH!
I’ve always promised to share the highs and lows about my recovery so here we are.
Now red does not mean that I’m full on restricting and overexercising again. For me, it means I have simply gotten to a point where moving forward on my own isn’t an option. It’s time to seek a little help.
Alright...time to be very vulnerable. How did I know it was time for help? Here are things that have been happening for me in the past two months that made me realize I’m in the red and I need some help.
-I have seriously considered doing keto. (I know. I know. unreal right?! This shows my mental state because I am VERY against keto or any other garbage diet like whole 30, weight watchers, intermittent fasting or Gweneth Paltrow’s new trash diet “intuitive fasting” big eye roll over here.....)
-Pretty much my entire family came in town for my grandfathers 90th birthday party and I spent as much time as I could avoiding everyone and sitting at my home alone because being with everyone made me too anxious.
-I am back to body checking a gross amount. Not only do I body check though, it leads to real anxiety attacks, not wanting to go anywhere, changing my outfit too many times and depression.
-I have cancelled most social plans and do not want to go on free trips to florida with friends because of body image and insecurity.
-I have been eating, however...not as much as I should and I push off meals until I’m absolutely starving, I’m limiting what I eat and feel extreme guilt over anything I eat....even lettuce.
-I have sat in bed and had suicidal ideations and have literally had thoughts that if I didn’t wake up the next morning it would be for the best.
-I have felt hopeless that my body will ever return to it’s normal size.
-I have asked people over 5 times in two days if I look like I’ve gained weight.
-I walk down the snack aisle at the grocery store and feel in control when I refuse to buy any type of snack.
-Snacks have become hard boiled eggs.
-I have downloaded, deleted, re-downloaded and deleted my fitness pal multiple times to count calories.
-I’ve considered booting up my Garmin watch again to track everything.
-I’ve stopped wearing the jeans I bought out of very real fear of how I look even though they still fit.
-I am not sleeping at all.
-I have had multiple anxiety attacks just in the past four days.
-I’ve cried more in the past two weeks that I have in the past 8 months.
-I have increased cognitive distortions. I think everyone hates me, thinks I’m bad at piano and take ugly photos. There is no proof of this but my mind is stuck on the negative.
-not wanting to go to a dietician because they might make me eat more and I’m afraid of gaining more weight again.
-I’ve been called out by family members who have noticed a change in me and are seeing certain behaviors.
-I’ve felt distant from God and question His goodness or if He even hears me.
-I have an increased concern with how others view me physically more then for all the other nonphysical qualities I have to offer.
There are more...but these are the ones I’m willing to share on the inter-web haha.
So the next questions are 1) how the heck did this happen 2) what the heck am I going to do?!?!?!
I’ll start with why I think this happened.
Diet and exercise talk. The amount of diet and exercise talk around me is literally overwhelming and disgusting. I CANNOT get away from it. People calling foods good and bad, posting or saying stupid comments like, “you know, you are what you eat!!.” Pastors eluding to the idea there should be shame if weight has been gained in their sermons. (don't hate on me I love my church...just some of my pastors are athletes and I don't think they understand eating disorders).People having to post or tell me how much they run every day, or how many steps they have taken before 8am. If I have to hear about Dr. Hymans idea about nutrition (which by the way he is making BANK off you buying his books) one more time I might open palm slap the person talking. (I told you I was in a bad place...and no I won't follow through but for the love of it all he didn't create our bodies and doesn't know everything!)
I’ve been extremely busy. I’m a photographer, piano teacher and blogger. I have started a support group (which yes, even I need sometimes people). I run a book club and am on the worship team at church which actually takes way more time than people give it credit for! I love every single one of these things, but I haven’t been balancing it well and allowing myself to unplug and take care of myself.
Satan is trash. I don’t know about you but I do believe satan exists and that he prowls around like a thief destroying what he can. Did I really think I could share my recovery testimony to 80 high school kids and start an international ED support group where we pray without satan trying to knock me down...yeah right! The best way to cut me down is through my thoughts and satan is the real MVP when it comes to doing that.
Family. Look, I love my family. I TRULY do. But dang my family is really large and I live right next to half of them so I no longer get to opt out of big events because I live out of state. So when gramps (whom I love) decides to throw I big party I’m going and thats it. I get stressed about how I look, how people who haven’t seen me in a while will react and quit frankly I’m introverted and having small talk with 40 different people exhausts me to no end. Once I’m exhausted I can’t fight a single ED thought for the life of me.
Hormones. For those that don’t know I have severe endometriosis (one of the reasons I don’t have children, which was pointed out very obviously on the giant family tree that was made this month...another trigger.) Even though I have had TWO laparoscopic surgeries, have an IUD AND take other hormones in order to help with the pain and side effects of endo there are months that no matter what I do I swell up, am in severe back and cramp pain, have intestinal issues along with the celiac and it can make me extremely depressed. When I swell up and get hormonally depressed you better believe my eating disorder is right there letting me know I’m getting fatter and need to eat as little as possible because I should control at least SOMETHING. Thus starts the cycle...
Foot Surgery - (This is the last one I’ll share because this blog is going to turn into a short novel in about a paragraph haha.) I had foot surgery in December. Not exercising is a BIG trigger for me. I am not able to tell myself it is ok and rest. I stress the entire time and my eating disorder (or satan the trashbag) is telling me the whole time I’m lazy and gaining weight because I’m not moving. I compensate by eating less or stressing about every morsel in my body.
All these triggers, and all the ones that I’m not willing to share on here because they are a wee bit too personal, lead me to NEED to lose weight, exercise and control my body. It is my minds immediate coping skill. Oh, your family is overwhelming...maybe don’t eat! Ah, you didn’t exercise for two months from foot surgery...consider keto! Hmmmm, your uterus hates you...maybe if you lost so much weight that your hormones stop working again you wouldn’t feel this way! Anorexia is NOT a good coping skill, but it’s where my mind wants to go right away and I have to fight against that to do healthier coping skills so I don’t relapse and starve myself to death. If I’m drained I can’t fight it alone and I find myself in the Red Zone. Make sense?
So what’s the plan stan?
Welp, because I’m not a quitter and God was very clear with me that anorexia doesn’t solve ANYTHING but just hurts me, here’s whats happening.
I was honest with a few people I’m close to that things are going down the drain. I did this for accountability and support.
I am going back to a treatment center for some outpatient work with a dietician to get my mind right and back on track with eating enough. This will mean re-challenging some food rules and possible having a meal plan for a bit as needed. It may also mean that if you diet talk around me we probably won’t be hanging anytime soon. I’m cool with that.
I am cutting out time in each day to work and use my coping skills. If necessary I will also be seeing a therapist at the treatment center.
I am ordering a new bible study because ya girl needs to spend some one on one time with the big G.O.D. to be inwardly renewed.
I’m going on a getaway with the hubs. I haven’t traveled since covid started and this just isn’t acceptable anymore. Yes we will take all precautions necessary.
I’m going to be saying no for a bit. Set a few boundaries. Not out of isolation and insecurity but out of the need for some deep mental and emotional rest.
I’m going to my own support group and I will be honest with everyone! Look, I am pretty far along in recovery and things are still WAY better then they were even a year ago. Triggers happen. Red lights happen.
I am going to have a glass of wine with friends because that brings me joy :) haha
Alrighty! That’s all for now! I’m sure I will share when I’m in the green again! Notice I said WHEN, not IF. Relapse for me is NOT an option. Recovery is the only option and sometimes I just need a wee bit more support during the times that going at it alone isn’t cutting it! No shame in my game!
Love you all and if you did that assessment and are in the yellow or red, its go time! Get some help!
- Sara -