Such as I am…

I often feel that I have to have things all figured out before I write a post! I feel a pull to write anyway, so here goes….

I am planning to go on a backpacking with my daughter and she had an idea to take a long  walk/jog to prepare. I love to do that sort of thing, and also to encourage her in her goals ~ so we did it!

I knew that it would likely be hard to eat enough to make up for the weight burned, and also that it would give me a sense of triumph and a boost to my body and mind to do it. All of this was true. I love the way I feel when I do a long fast walk or bike ride ~ it seems to help my digestion, appetite, and mood, and yet I also lose weight!

Recently, I told a few close women friends and family about my goals for gaining weight and asked for their support. It wasn’t easy for me to open up like that, but they responded beautifully, calling or texting to tell me they love me and encouraging me to nourish myself in all ways. What a blessing ~

Yet I found myself not wanting to write to them again until I could say that I am truly on my way to the goal. I felt so thankful for their responses, yet also vulnerable, especially with my daughters. I want them to be proud of me and I want to be grounded and a good example.

I am thinking that being a good example also means being real.

My mom was an alcoholic, but she gave up alcohol and recovered, starting after I had my first child. What I’m really grateful for when remembering her, is not that she was perfect, but that we loved each other and I KNEW HER WELL.

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This is a lesson for me to keep working to recover fully and be strong and healthy – for the love of my family and myself. I hope to remember that I am lovable all along the (sometimes bumpy) road. I may always have to pay some attention to this stubborn and tricky disorder, but I do believe I can recover.

As far as exercising goes…my sister suggested that right now may be a time to focus on muscle and strength building exercises and keep the calorie burning kind to a minimum. I will try to find a balance, and I do trust my willingness to keep working on myself until I find what’s right.

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I will keep going, a day and a moment at a time. I will notice my emotions and find ways to express and release (writing, music, fierce dancing??!!) and mostly be gentle and kind to myself.

It’s been a stressful year, with many outer changes at once. My sister also said “These would be tough times…without God! And the support of loving people in our lives.” Amen!

Asking…

So, I read my journal notes and affirmations a few times this week, and took time to listen and follow my own suggestions 🙂 For instance, I focused on “love driven”, and I thought, if I’m feeling self-conscious, perhaps I can focus instead on giving caring attention to whoever I’m with, rather than worrying what they think of me. It helped me relax.

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I have allowed myself to enjoy my food, and eat more, which I’m glad for. It seems that when I do this, it feels good at first because my body needs the food, and I’m glad to be letting myself relax and take it in. As soon as I start to feel I’m gaining a bit, however, the  patterns kick in, and I feel very uncomfortable, physically and emotionally. I even have dreams at night that I am blowing up ~ gaining weight quickly and feeling awful about myself.

In my mind and heart I know that I am worth loving at any size, and that it’s what is within that matters! I am frustrated to still be dealing with these stuck patterns at my age ~ ready and wanting to let go of this!

So, I thought of asking for support from people who are understanding and close to me. I’m going to send an email to my husband plus several women (friends and family – fortunate to have them!) and request support.

I want to enjoy and have a little fun with it, using some humor and asking for things that would be specifically helpful to me. For instance ~ “Please send me a message or email any time, telling me I am worthy and beautiful inside and out! Please tell me I’m doing well, to keep it up, and I can do it! Also, please offer me food, or ask me if I’d like dessert?? Did I get enough to eat? I may not accept but I like to be asked. Also, please check in with me now and then just to see how I’m doing.”

I want to let them know what my weight goals are, and why it feels important to me to recover fully. I want to be healthy, strong, relaxed and present for myself and for them. I love them and I want to care for myself also. I’m putting it out there so I can shine some light on the situation and openly ask for their loving support.

I’m often trying to be perfect in order to be accepted and perhaps gain the appreciation and caring I seek. I am usually working hard and doing things for others. I am excited to try this and see how it feels to ask for what I need.

My Own Program

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One of the tricky things about eating disorders is that it is not simply a matter of giving up a substance. We need to eat, so our patterns can get triggered at least a few times each day.  There is more to recovering from alcohol than giving up drinking, yet at least that part of it is clear. Not so clear for a person with an eating disorder. It is complex, and I believe the “program” may be different for each individual.

Over time, I have developed a program for my own healing and written it on a page of my journal. The ideas were inspired partly by some of my favorite spiritual/personal growth writers, and from 12-step literature. I notice that I included very little about food! I think this is because I want my life to be guided by values and thoughts other than food.

(I have also created a unique food plan for myself with the initial guidance of an ED nutritionist, and I will write about that in a later post.)

So, the following is my program!

I trust my higher self and I am my own loving ally.

Nourish self * allow myself to receive care and sustenance

Stride and glide through the air, in nature * ~ ~ (walk and ride bikes, peacefully!)

bike!

Tune in to feelings, safely express, and turn them over to God (higher source)

Ground and center, breathe ~

Wait until hungry (not starving), savor, eat until satisfied, move on! 

Use my food plan as a guide also when necessary (anytime I’m below healthy weight or acting on my patterns)

Be “LOVE DRIVEN” (rather than food driven.)

Ask for support, and offer support to others.  (try to set a time to talk with someone at least once per week).

Dine in company * It supports me to have a relaxed, social atmosphere (especially a small gathering with people I am comfortable with) and to be around “normal eaters”!

Turn it all over to God daily ~ 

“Seek, and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be open, ask and it shall be given and the love come a-tumblin’ down.”

“Improve conscious contact with God” (some form of meditation) and ~

God is Love

Write in journal ~ daily is good, but we are not going for perfection!

Listen to inner guidance, and follow ~

Simple affirmation ~ deep within, my soul knows what I need to be well. I am well and whole.

Be Kind, Be Kind, Be Kind ~

So that is my healing and wholeness program! I am finding that it is truly helpful to go back and read some of it each day, and especially take time to contemplate a few parts.

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I’m Good at Insights…

 

I stopped seeing my ED therapist a while ago.  I learned so much from the sessions about how my own patterns worked, and received valuable advice. Now it is time to apply what I learned. I told him once, “I’m very good at insights…” (revelations, understanding…) and yet I hadn’t gained any weight in 5 months!

I am 55 years old, and I think I have gained some wisdom over the years. Yet I’m still recovering from this stubborn disorder. I did eventually gain some weight while in therapy, and then lost it again after our home urned down and during the ensuing stressful time. I decided to start this blog as part of my own healing process, and to hopefully help others in some way.

I am grateful and delighted to find I am also learning and being reminded of important truths from reading other bloggers. For example, that eating disorders are actually a mental illness. Recovery is possible, but not easy! For those of us with anorexia, (and some related disorders) gaining weight is very difficult, both physically and emotionally.

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Also, though mindfulness and tuning in to our bodies is a wonderful practice, with anorexia, a healthy weight needs to be reached in order to truly recover. For one thing, our set-point has been thrown off for so long, it does not seem to work to simply “listen and trust our bodies.” In fact, we have to “over-ride” what our bodies and emotions are telling us in order to gain weight. My therapist used to say “You are going to be uncomfortable.”

I don’t want to give up on savoring my food, or enjoying healthful cooking, or tuning into to what I need and want. But Iwish to add to these things a strong intention to gain a healthy amount of weight within a reasonable time. I feel that this will not only be essential for my recovery, but it is likely the best thing I can do to be a good example for my loved ones dealing with their own issues.

So, I have set myself a specific weight goal! If I don’t meet it by my set time, I will return to my therapist. I’m not sure how I’m going to accomplish this, but I do feel intentions are powerful. Stresses and worries in life can trip me up, and the eating patterns seem to be my fall-back for coping.

I want to take it a day at a time, and use all that I’ve learned. I think the most important single thing for me is turning it all over daily (hourly?) to a higher source.

Some other things that seem to help:

*Talking to a supportive friend weekly. *Receiving massage or foot rubs (an ED nutritionist told me massage helps with weight gain for anorexics!) Even stretching out, relaxing, and rubbing my own feet can help. *Tuning into emotions that come up and writing them in a journal. *Taking peaceful walks in nature, really relaxes me ~ not over-doing, yet long enough to set my mind free…

I do love reading inspirational books.  One of my favorites is Dying to Be Me, My journey from cancer, to near death to true healing, by Anita Moorjani. I love the part where she compares her inner self to a  kaleidoscope. It is always changing, yet every image is beautiful. Sometimes we can be so hard on ourselves. It helps me to remember, that as I learn, my soul is still beautiful in each part of the process.

I wish to allow myself to feel my emotions, and yet pay attention to all that is good and joyful, and embrace the adventure ~

Metamorphosis

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I have to share the subtle transformation that occurred this week. For the first time since becoming entangled in anorexia, I have glimpsed being free from it!

In my last post, I wrote about turning the whole issue over to my higher source. I surrendered, and listened, doing my best to follow my intuition. I also remembered something I read ~ if you have a spiritual goal and work towards your intention, it will come true. It may not always appear the way we imagine, but it does unfold in miraculous and surprising ways.

So I thought about framing my wish to overcome my eating issues as a spiritual goal. I realized I want to be healthy so I can fulfill my goals and offer my gifts in this life. And, I especially wish to set an example and be healthy and present for my loved ones.

I considered that even though I’m “turning it over” it is also important to keep my supports in place, such as following my food plan and talking to a supportive friend weekly about my progress. (Trust in God, and tie your camel.)  🙂

I was inspired by a young women’s post about her motivation to stay in recovery from her eating disorder so her cherished, departed grandparent wouldn’t worry about her. I thought of my mom who died several years ago and I let myself feel how she loved me completely, and would want me to be healthy and whole.

This somehow led me to an insight that my husband loves me completely, regardless of whether I put on some weight…I don’t have to worry about securing his love anymore. I have known this in my mind for quite some time, but somehow due to my old patterns, the insecurity persisted. All of a sudden I felt a release.

And then the transformation unfolded ~ I could sense a freedom from this inner critical voice. I “got” what my therapist had said about not being driven by food. For instance ~ I want to eat something, so I eat it. (What a concept!) No worrying about what it will do to me, such as putting on weight, affecting my health, and so on….

What a sense of contentment and acceptance.

Now, I can see that having said this, the patterns still pop up, seemingly out of habit. Since  it’s been with me for so long,  at times the pattern may be re-triggered by stress. It is good to know, that as I’m relaxing, and spreading my wings, I can still use my food plan as a guideline for support. And I definitely want to continue to nurture my self in the ways I have found to be helpful, such as talking, meditating/walking in nature, doing things that bring joy, and tuning in to feelings through journaling.

I will actively engage in these life-affirming things, including  writing this blog, to ground myself in this new freedom ~ so I can fly.

Increase the Dose

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Ah, so! I realized last week, that I was slowly losing again, and actively in my pattern. It seems I don’t realize it until I become uncomfortable (anxious, low energy) because up until then, it all feels pretty good!

So, I reacted, as I often do, with my critical response (those with anorexia are usually hard on themselves!) and in a critical and serious way began telling myself “I need to eat more!” I kind of forced myself, which ends up backfiring with me, as my digestion gets wacky and my state of being becomes less than balanced.

And then I remembered that my topic to write on this week was planned to be: How to be Love-Driven (rather than Food-Driven). The above quote came to me…and I melted into the question, How can I increase the dose?

I began envisioning myself surrounded with love, and considering what kinds of things I could do to offer myself support. I put a few of my favorite plans on my calendar, such as: go to a yoga class, meet with a good friend, rest and daydream, and so on. I tried being gentle with myself, and affirming that it’s been a stressful year and I am doing pretty well.

I also reminded myself of a breakthrough I experienced in another area of life recently when I prayed and surrendered it all to my higher source. Why not try it with my eating/body issues? I have before, but I’m looking for a deeper level. This trickster is TOUGH and I can’t do it on my own!

I decided to turn it ALL OVER, to surrender and give it completely to that higher source of life, inspiration, and endless guidance and care. What that looked like for me was to tune in more fully, listen to that “still, small voice” inside that knows exactly what I need.

So – I focus on love, and put my mind to what is in front of me to do in my life. If I find I’m focusing too much on food, or anxious thoughts, I try to shift my awareness to loving thoughts, and things that bring me joy ~ like planning a bike ride or picnic with loved ones.

When it is time to eat, I tune in and sense what I want and need. It seems to be a blend of what is healthy for me, what is fitting in the situation (eating with others, etc.) the right amount at the right time for my true health and wellness. If I try to think about all these elements and figure it out (too much? not enough?) it doesn’t work! But if I sense, listen, and follow, it feels right. I also listen while I’m eating as to when it’s the right time to stop. This morning when I reflected on how it was going the past few days, I realized it just looked like being myself 🙂 All the elements I want and need are within and around me.

So far, I feel this approach is helping me let go of worry ~ I know the higher source will take care of me, and that I will get what I need. I am feeling peaceful to start where I am, and go forward little by little. Vamos a ver!

country lane ~

 

Food Driven or Love Driven?

I want to start by saying that I am not a therapist, but only someone who has struggled with an eating disorder. For anyone who has a disorder, it is important to see a knowledgable therapist (as I have also done). My eating disorder may not be as extreme as some, and yet it has allowed me to have compassion for others going through this. I believe we are all individuals and our patterns are unique. Yet, by sharing our experiences, we can find some comfort and connection.

So, first I want to explain how my unique disorder acts. I’m not proud…but here it is. I do have feelings of shame in my body, especially in my stomach and thighs. As many times as I may send loving thoughts to these areas, self-consciousness and shame seem to be lodged there.

Though I know in my mind that I still wish to gain a few pounds, I do like the feeling of being thin. I seem to feel “safer” and more comfortable and happy with myself when I’m thinner. When my pattern is in action, however, and I lose weight, at some point it feels awful because I get more anxious and low energy, and I don’t like the way I look when I’m too skinny either. (Can’t win! :0 )

Having said that, though ~ I actually love to eat. This may be different from some others with a restrictive pattern. I enjoy food. Another aspect that may be different is that I like the feeling of being hungry. I would even say I crave it or am addicted to it, so this is part of the disorder. I like being hungry because it makes me feel lighter than being full, and also because it means I can look forward to eating again! Hmmm~

So ~ when I am eating a meal, I have this restrictive tendency that stops me at a certain point, and it is often rationalized as – “I need to stop now so I’ll be hungry for the next meal or snack.”

I eat small meals often, which many say is healthy, and I eat a variety of healthful foods, and I exercise moderately. However, as my amounts tend to fall a bit short due to the pattern, I tend to continually be slowly losing weight.

Eating less is also my fall back pattern ~ for instance, if I’m under stress, I eat less. If I’m not feeling well physically, I eat less. If I hear about a new healthful food plan, or a food to avoid, I often try it, and end up eating less. Then, I inevitably lose weight, and the pattern kicks in more. It is always difficult to gain the weight back.

This is how I came to have thinning bones and got down to around 95 lbs at one point, which is certainly in the anorexic category for a 5’5” frame.

With the help of a nutritionist who specializes in ED, and a couple of supportive friends, I gained 7 lbs or so. I still wanted to gain a few more as well as truly overcome the pattern so I went to see an ED therapist. When he heard how much I had recovered without a therapist he was amazed. He said “That never happens!”

At one point in our therapy, he was talking about goals for my weight. He said “In one sense, it’s not about the numbers, but if you’re sitting in your chair, it is about the numbers.” In other words, with anorexia, it is critical to actually keep your weight up to a certain level in order to recover.

I said “Well, I understand that, but I just want to be healthy!” He said these very important words: “The most important thing is to not be food driven. Can you actually imagine what it would be like to not think much about food at all? Just eat what you want and not obsess on it?” I thought – Wow. Hard to imagine. He said “Maybe your life could be driven by something else instead? Perhaps Love? Or faith, or charity?”

I was stunned. I thought my values revolved around living in a loving way, and perhaps I did live that way to an extent. But how could I when my mind was so preoccupied with food? Yes, I want to live a love-driven life.

Discovering how to do that is my unfolding journey, and will be the focus of my next blog.

Running Late…My House Burned Down ~

The title is a line I texted in jest to my daughter several months back – milking the dramatic fact that my husband and I did actually lose our home in a recent wildfire. Back story first…

A few years ago, a friend I hadn’t seen for a while emailed me to say: “When I saw you the other day, you had lost so much weight that I’m worried you aren’t eating enough.” People had been telling me for a while that I was too skinny, but I had mostly brushed it off. I thought they didn’t really understand my situation, or I didn’t appreciate the judging way they made comments.

But I could tell this friend really cared, and I was able to hear her concern. This prompted me to research the issue, and I resonated with much that I read about anorexia. I began seeking support and working towards recovery. I found it to be a slow process; tricky and easy to slip up.

Along the way, with support, I was able to heal some deep pain and sadness, gain much self-awareness, and learn coping skills and new strategies. I slowly put on a little weight, and  declared myself “well”. Then my house burned down! This was of course a dramatic life event. I call it a “profound loss” because much meaning came out of it. People were so kind, and gave us many things, including their time, care and concern, and material items. Yet it has been a stressful year, with almost everything in our life changing at once. And often in times of stress we revert back to familiar patterns.

I was not back to square one, yet my issues did “flare” for a while. I lost weight, and as anyone who’s been through this knows, it is a difficult climb back up.                               .sky the night of fire

So, I went back to my therapist for a bit, and started a food journal and a feelings journal again. I talked with close friends who understood. And so I am recovering again.

Then the idea came to me to write this blog about my experiences. I sense that it is a part of my own strengthening to share my journey. I acknowledge myself for taking steps towards recovery – I find it is an active process! For me it is important to recognize my issues, and actively focus on healing.

Once I started, support from others truly helped. For instance, a dear friend taught me a kind of healing meditation. One day, while meditating, I got an insight ~ from deep within my belly and soul. I felt the pain of myself as a young girl, curled up, and feeling that I was not worthy and not seen as lovable by my father. My tears released some of the grief.

Then I quickly realized that I had transferred some of that inner hurt to my relationship with my husband. I subconsciously thought that if I gained weight he wouldn’t love me. (I even thought he judged me whenever we ate.) In my mind, I knew he loved me, but I needed to share this insight with him to help me get past it. A few days later I told him about my experience, and he reassured me he was not thinking or feeling anything like this! It didn’t end the disorder for me, but it did allow me feel freer with him, and helped me see that recovery was now completely in my own hands. I could make the choices and do the work to heal.

Please feel free to leave a comment. I would love to read it and respond. If I can help someone else, it will deepen the good that has come out of my journey.

 

 

Adventures in Wholeness

I am in recovery from an eating disorder, specifically anorexia, with shades of orthorexia (obsession with healthy foods).  I want to share my adventure. Dealing with an eating disorder can be a tricky road, with plenty of slippery slopes. It has helped me so much when caring people have listened or offered counsel. I wish to do the same for others. If my words resonate with someone, I will be grateful.

Why “adventure”? It is a wild journey! Rough terrain, challenges, insights, discoveries, new vistas, and deep meaning along the way. Why “wholeness”? I need to pay some attention to the “dysfunctional patterns”, yet I want to live from my wholeness. I am NOT the disorder!

It is important to notice what is happening (rather than deny!) and feel my pain and discomfort. Yet, at my core, I am whole. My intuition, my heart and soul know what I need if I gently tune in and listen.

So, here is what it feels like when I’m stuck in the disordered pattern: The truth is, it feels good (for a while) because when I eat less (slightly under-eat), I feel lighter, and somehow safer. Yet, as I continue that for a while and lose weight, then I can feel it’s not good for me.  I get overly tired, experience heart palpitations and other symptoms, including anxiety. And I don’t like being too skinny anymore. I am in my early 50’s, and I have some thinning of the bones and other health issues, and I want to be stronger! I want to have some roundness and softness to my body and to be comfortable with that.

So, this disorder is elusive, and at times I can deceive myself and not realize I’m in the pattern. For one thing, my disorder is not severe (I have never been hospitalized) and being thin is very reinforced in our society. So most people would not think I have a problem.

It takes becoming uncomfortable with health issues to wake up (and sometimes caring others telling me I am TOO thin and they are worried!) Then, I come to my senses and decide to put on weight. But when it comes to this point, it’s really difficult to try to gain. Since I’ve been in the pattern for so long, if I eat more than I’m used to, I feel anxious and self-conscious. My digestion gets thrown way out of balance, and it all ends up backfiring, as I don’t feel like eating much at all.

I know how hard it is to recover, and yet also that it is POSSIBLE. Fortunately, I know I need support – anorexia is a tough nut to crack and it is nearly impossible to recover without assistance.  I  was wise and willing enough to see a therapist and a nutritionist, and I found supportive friends to talk with. This has all helped tremendously. The next step for me now is to share my journey.

To begin ~ I want to tell about some practices that have worked for me:

*Listening to my body, and following my intuition. Waiting until I’m hungry, (but not starving!) tuning in to what my body wants, sitting down, and enjoying a lovely meal. It is best to stop when I’m satisfied, and turn my focus to something else until next time to eat. (Read: try not to obsess about food continuously! 🙂 Focusing on other activities helps.)

*B.E.S.T. Each time before eating, I tune in to these words:

Breathe (I envision my mom, who had a sense of being comfortable in her own body. I let the breath fill my stomach and affirm that it’s all fine.)

Embody (I tend to have an automatic sense of discomfort and dislike for certain areas of my body such as my stomach and thighs. A dear friend and meditation teacher suggested that I focus my attention on the sensation in other areas of my body, such as feeling the back of my legs on the chair. This helps me settle into being comfortably “in my body”).

Soften (Allow my whole body to soften and relax).

Thankful (I am thankful for life and for this food).

Tuning in to these thoughts helps me be present and more able to let go of the patterns and enjoy and appreciate my food as well as the people I may be sharing with.

My intention is to publish thoughts weekly on this site. I would love to hear your responses.

Take good care ~