Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Body Image

I'm been procrastinating on making this long promised body image entry.  I keep waiting for the 'right' time and as I let the days go by so much changes inside of me that I know I need to just sit down and get my current thoughts out there. (This is a way to communicate with the masses as well as document for myself for future reflection on this journey)

I've thought about many aspects of body image.  I've tried many ways of comforting myself through this time of major change and I've seen myself go through various phases.

There are two remarkable changes that I am expereincing right now.  The first is often waking up with a severe dislike for my body but not being able to pick exactly what I don't like about it or determine how I might change it if given the option.  The second is that looking back on photos from the past, I see my thinness - my down right emaciation in some cases.

So the first change is relaly quite a delight.  I still have maybe 5/7 days/week that I wake up very uncomfortable in my body but like I said, not knowing what I would change if I could that would really make me feel better.  I recently had a friend refer to herself as feeling as 'big as a room'.  You might laugh at that but it makes so much sense to me.  There are times when I really feel that I fill the room too!  The thing is, the person I'm growing into really does fill up a room.  In some cases, it's a peaceful presence that is just notable; at other times, I may not be being noticed by anyone else but my emotions are so strong that I really so think I can't contain myself in my physical surroundings.  This latter feeling is the one that often morphs into a feeling of 'fatness'.  It is an undescribable feeling of being big.  I wasn't able to identify this and seperate if from myself until very recently.  It has never made sense to me why in one moment I can be okay with my body and the next look completely obese and feel very uncomfortable.  It almost always, when I let myself be aware, comes down to an emotional change.

That said, there are days when anyone, who has or hasn't had an ED, feels gross and out of sorts.  Those days are possibly the hardest because there really isn't an explanation for why I see myself the way I do.  I know logically that nothing is remarkably different from the day before but at the same time it is.  I think that is just a part of being human (not only female in my opinon) and a times when all one can do is wait it through and really know that it will get better. 

I am also very aware of even slight fluid shifts.  I am able to identify it as fluid and yes, acknowledge that I really do look different and bigger but that I am not, by any means, 'getting fat'.  There are days where I really do retain a lot of fluid and I think back to my statements of "I never want to refeed again" because edema was probably the cause of my worst distress.  It is still distressing but I can manage and I know that it will pass.  I really can tell the difference between fluid accumulation and weight gain - many people experience peripheral edema in their lives but people recovering from anorexia often experience abdominal/trunk edema that is very anxiety provoking.  There are days where I really feel like the michelin man with the amount of fluid I'm holding on to and I do still catch myself thinking that it's real weight and will never come off...but it does.  It all passes.

I have always been fairly aware of the fact that I was technically not 'fat' because of my rational knowledge.  However, until now, I have just known it but now I really know it.  There is a difference.  Obviously, any person with anorexia, when faced with facts regarding body weight:height:age, skin folds, etc. 'knows' they are not fat but that rational knowledge doesn't trump the emotional feeling of being fat.  How frustrating to be on the outside when the skeleton in front of you is crying about her muffin top...and on the other hand, how very frustrating to be that skeleton and now understand why you see what you do and why it is so very real.  There is no solution until the emotional mind actually heals.  Yes, there is acceptance and tolerance and maitenance of weight and body shape but a real conviction and deep understanding that one really is okay in the body they are meant to have only comes with time (yet another opinon as it pertains to my experience).

I'm not there.  I still feel at times that this BMI or weight is unbearable but those are fleeting moments.  At most times, I feel authentic.  I know I could maintain a lower weight and still technically be healthy enough.  But why be 'healthy enough' when I can really honour my body, really be me, embody how big my self is and my chronological age?  I knew coming into this journey that it was all or nothing:  eradicate the eating disorder or die.  Perhaps that sounds drastic but this really was my last go at any attempt at wellness and now that I know that it's possible, I"m not stopping at 'good enough'.  I am not aiming for perfection but I will be whole.  The negativity that has controlled me for so long has no power over me anymore.  It is not gone, the thoughts still come up from time to time and I know that they are lies and they are not welcome in my head but they are habit.

I think the hardest part of all this for me is really adjusting to my body in space and how it does things.  When I was very thin, I would feel that I might not fit through a door way because I felt so big but then, if trapped in a physically small place, I knew that I could bend and fold in bizarre ways to get out of the predicament (say, a table near a corner of a room that I had to get out from behind).  Also, there was always space for me.  If a car was full of people, putting me on top or squished anywhere wasn't an issue.  On a crowded couch, I could find a few square inches and perch.  Now, well...now it's really life as an adult.  I just don't fit sometimes and hey, that's okay!  There are other things such as having my legs touch again when I'm walking, or not having concave underarms (I notice this when I put on deoderant), and even my gait has changed.  These are very unfamiliar sensations.  They are not exaggerrated, they are real but all they require is a growing accustomed to.  It is not wrong to have this body, it just is who I am.

Finally, lookng back at old photos, I recognize my thinness.  In fact, I am startled by it.  I see photos from times when I was more weight restored that I used to hate with a vengeance and I see myself with real eyes.  The eyes that others must see me with.  What I see most is the sadness behind the eyes of that normal looking person and I think that's what scared me the most about those photos.  I looked fine but I really wasn't.  Then, I can look at photos from even higher weights when I did feel happy and good about myself and my life and I think I look beautiful.  Really.  Because I felt the happiness inside.  I have never felt it regularly as strongly as I do these days but sometimes I feel like I might burst with joy and more often than not, I am peaceful inside and I know these strong feelings show and may impact a person's perception of me more than my physical appearance. 

So, slowly, the distortions are leaving me.  I keep plodding along, practicing acceptance until I feel love for myself and always, always being patient.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

7 months

I don't have a lot to say today but I figured it was appropriate to write something.  Today marks 7 months since coming into the program.  I came across an email I sent out before I came stating that I 'might be gone as long as 6 months' oh how I underestimated the time it takes to heal.

I was recently gently reminded of a time before I came where I was passionate about convincing people that I was chronic and that wellness was just never going to happen for me.  It's hard to imagine being on the receiving end of that because if I hear it from anyone else, I want to shake them and tell them to wake up and realize that there is no reason to be chronic for anyone!  *shakes head*  I'm sorry to those who were so privvy to my hopelessness.  It was more of a protective mechanism for you guys...if you believed that I was chronic and wouldn't get better then you would be prepared for the worst or pleasantly surprised - both of which I believed were better options than hoping for the best and having me disappoint you.

Thanks to the people who wouldn't listen to that crap I dished out and kept believing in my ability to get well.  I really am doing it.

I think the biggest lesson continues to be that of patience.  Patience with my self and the healing process; patience with the staff; patience with my family.  I like to get things done, that's just the way I am and so having to let life unfold as it will is really difficult for me but I'm getting better at rolling with it.

It's hard sometimes when I still ahve such intrusive thoughts and feelings of unworthiness, fatness, inability, and freakishness.  I get very frustrated when I suddenly have the urge to throw up a meal when I feel like I'm over that.  The major difference is that I can sit with the urge and the discomfort and really know that it will pass.  I know that the negative thoughts I have towards myself are lies and I can give more weight to what is real.  I'm not scared of these urges or thoughts anymore because I am in control of my behaviour and I know that this bit of negativity that is left in me cannot get me anymore because I am stronger and I choose only to treat myself with kindness (I'm now also training myself in compassion.  It's always been there, I'm just experiencing it differently now and extending it towards myself).

What I thought of this morning was a diagram in my head that I had pertaining to recovery.  Imagine a hollow circle (perhaps make it pink in your imagination) outlining a solid black circle.  The pink is me, sort of a hollow person that was filled up with the darkness of the ED.  My understanding of recovery was choosing to move away from the dar, shifting the pink circle to the left or right creating a bit of area that was not black with the negativity and ED.  I thought that recovery meant choosing constantly to move away from the darkness but understood the entity of the ED to remain a solid thing.  Moving away thus created space in the pink circle that seemed empty and what I wanted was to know what to fill it with.  If I, as the pink circle, was full of the ED and chose to move away from it what was I going to be aside from a shell?   An empty circle?  That's where the 'coping tools' I learned in treatment came into play.  I would go against the ED and use these tools to distract and attempt to fill the void that existed when I denied the ED it's control but it was extremely frightening to consider being that empty and having nothing.  The ED might have been negative and deadly but it made me something which was better than nothing.  There was no 'me' away from teh ED.

How this has changed in my mind to date is this process is not about moving ME anyway.  I am steadfast in my placement and the ED does not remain an entity.  As I progress forward, I am erasing the darkness and the space that exists is already filled up with what really is Julia.  It can even appear empty but it is bright and making more room does not make me hollow and does not mean I have to be scared of being nothing because the fundamental me that is there is not defined by anything external.

It would be easier to expalin if I could actually make a diagram.

So that is today's thought on recovery and wellness.

My next anniversary will be spent in the company of the most important people in my life.  Less than four weeks til I am in Canada for a visit!  YAY!!!!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What about 'them'?

I thought to title this post "Change" but that is too broad a word and I'm not talking about my own change I'm talking about 'them'.  Them being everyone who has known me in one way for so long.  Many adjectives that applied to me in the past still hold true today:  funny, honest, smart, kind, compassionate etc.  Many new words can be used to describe me now like: responsive, positive, curious, brave, and insightful.  These positive steady qualities and new qualities are not what people tend to have an issue with.  It's the old words that just don't fit anymore like:  scared, manipulative, evasive, neurotic, anxious, etc. that outsiders have more difficulty understanding that that just isn't the case anymore.  And those that stick but in a different, more positive sense like: impulsive, selfish, and convicted.

I want people to know the real me, this Julia that is blossoming into who she has always been meant to be and I do value that people are coming to see the postivie qualities that are coming out to play now but letting go of the old and familiar seems to be impossibly difficult, especially for those close to me.  I get frustrated when it's just not accepted that I am different.  I am constantly changing for the better right now and I am working my ass off to grow into the person I am meant to be (who is largely pretty neat) but many people in my life are lagging behind.  They don't see the day to day work that I do and have done and I know that it must be like meeting a new person but I feel often that there is little faith in me.  How could I possibly fake these changes?  I don't believe anyone could 'act' so thoroughly what I am feeling inside, I know I never could.  One word I want to be in the forefront of a description of me is PATIENT and I'm having a very difficult time embodying that in some aspects.

You know, I could understand if people had a hard time accepting that I am not scared and anxious anymore but right now, it's as concrete as not understanding that my behaviours have changed.  That, honestly, food is SO far from the core of this and I have let go of the manifestation of my inner challenges through the use of food and eating disorder behaviours.  Sure, I still struggle a lot with body image but that is a whole other post and I understand it now, which makes a world of difference.

*sigh*  I want to just reach out and pull the people in my life up to where I'm really at but I can't, just like they couldn't save me, I can't help them change and grow and feel secure until they're ready to do that on their own.

So what do I do with this?  I'm really not sure.  It is a constant stage for me to practice my patience and if I truly want to embody that word, I will continue my effort moment after moment, day after day and know that someday, my loved ones will catch up and if they don't...I will still be okay.

This all sprouted from a difficult interaction with my Dad.   The manifestation of his fear in his behaviour and it really hurt me.  Yes, another painful opportunity to learn and although this lesson seems to be dragging on, the 'bell' will ring and I will head to my next class.  Nothing lasts forever.

Off I go to walk one special little dog near the ocean and drink in the sea air and renew my soul while blastin gmy tunes in my ears and singing and dancing like no one is watching and listening.  Good morning, Alvor! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Recently I've been working really hard at creating positive memories to replace the old, negative memories.  I seem to have developed a system that is really working for me.  I decided to make any positive experience a memory by extending it by as much as 5 or 10 seconds.  When I notice that I am experiencing something pleasant, I bolster it by choosing to think hard about a positive feeling such as gratitude, love, or comfort.  It can be as simple as noticing a beautiful flower...then I add one of the above feelings to my experience and hold onto it for a few more seconds and let it seep into my soul.  As I have practiced this, it has lead to positive feelings and pleasurable memories in many many places.  For example, I really didn't like the boardwalk here in Alvor after about a month of seeing it every day as my only place to go walking.  My energy was very low for a long time and I dreaded the 'arms' of the boardwalk because they had slight inclines and my legs were so very exhausted for months after arriving here.  So, now that I have short periods of time alone, I have thus far chosen to spend them walking this same boardwalk.  Even the sound of my feet walking on the wood triggered memories from teh early days here.  I plugged in my music to drown out the sound of my footsteps and noticed that I was taking in beautiful images of the quaint fishing town and gentle ripples in the water; then I leaned towards focussing on a feeling that comes easily to me such as gratitude.  I imagined being with people who made it possible for me to get to this place where I am experiencing healing; I thought about an old friend giving me a giant hug without words; I just 'thank you for this moment' in my head and felt myself filling up with what I can only identify as joy.  It bubbled and bubbled until I felt like I was going to burst and I savoured that moment, that pleasant feelign of fullness.  The next time I went to the boardwalk, a few steps into my walk I felt this now familiar feeling starting in my stomach...tickling me from the inside out - out of no where!  It is not really the boardwalk per se that has any specific memory attached to it that I could put words to and explain but it is what I have done with that experience - I have created what I needed, I have replaced the old negative memory of dread that I affiliated witht he boardwalk with one of psotivie anticipation.

This is a pretty classic example of the 'power of positive thinking' - a phrase of which I dislike because it is so over used but it does encompass what I am discovering.

I am eager to take this skill back to my home environment (wherever home is...somewhere in Canada) because I truly believe that it will help me deal with 'triggers' (another overused word) and I can change places that are affiliated with negativity and sickeness and pain and replace that familiar experience with one of peace.

It really is a type of neurological pruning.  I'm clipping off those dead old memories and letting the new growth be closest to the sun and extend right from the trunk or core of what is me.

In other news, I am having a little bit of freedom these days to be by myself.  I am learning quite a lot about how I feel in my own company, where and if I am safe with myself, and also discovering that it is not me being 'needy' by wanting friends and family near me, it is simply that I am a people person.  That said, I am also good company for myself and that is going to be a crucial element in keeping me well for the rest of my life.

More on the practical healing of my relationship with exercise and possibly a touch more on body image to come...

Much love.

Friday, January 20, 2012


We've all probably heard the quote "Feel the fear and do it anyway".  I have taken this to heart for many years, frequently challenging my irrational behaviour and learning to tolerate fear.  What I'm realizing now, is that out of this statement, I wan only "doing it anyway".  I think the harder part for me is actually feeling the fear.  In many situations I would let the idea of fear hold me back, I always told myself that the fear of the fear is actually greater than the fear of the action that I"m consdering.  Looking back, I realized that more often than not I was perhaps ignoring the fear and doing it anyway or numbing the fear and doing it anyway.  Those aren't as effective as really feeling it and acting against it.  Part of my challenge to myself now is to really feel it; to have the thoughts racing through my head and notice them but reframe them, at least challenge them, or just let them come and go as all thoughts do.  I challenge myself to share the fear with those near me because spreading it amoung many and creating a strength in numbers on my side of things is what's actually going to kill the fear forever.

I have learned the hard way over and over (and continue to because it is my nature) that I don't have to do 'this' alone.  I don't have to do anything alone.  I have an army behind me, beside me.  I have to live through it but that's not so hard to do when I'm connecting with people.

Any feeling is more of a teaching tool for me.  If I am scared, I can wonder why and reach towards comforting that scared little self.  If I am happy, I want to recognise why and work toward making that situation happen again to bring about more feelings of contendedness.  Each feeling is merely an indicator, a reaction or a response, and always something to learn from.

In other news, I looked in the mirror yesterday and for a minute or two I loved how womanly I look.  I liked my curves, my hips, my 'softness'.  It didn't last long but I really truly experienced it!  I was able to look objectively at myself and realize that just because my bones are not jutting out and my body not concave where it should be convex and vice versa...that does NOT make me fat!  Slim is probably a more difficult concept for me because it is so grey and is different for everyone.  I am used to extremes:  emaciation or obesity but there really is an inbetween.  In fact, there is a vast inbetween that is really, truly, 'okay'.

I'm stuggling with the fact that I still have to get weighed.  Tomorrow is my weigh-day and although I don't have to see the weight (actually, I'm not allowed to see it but I have a pretty good idea of where I'm at and do know the general number) I just don't want that to be part of my life at all.  I'm so beyond the treatment aspects of a program that are ED related which is a fantastic sign.

I'm also considering that I might need a major attitude adjustment.  It is like there is a parent inside of me and an adolescant and a very petulant adolescant at that!  The parent aspect is very kind but solid.  It's a very neat experience as I become my own comforter and safety.  Sometimes the adolescant wins as in any parent-child relationship and I'm keen for the adolescant in me to grow up and be at the same place as the adult in me so that these aspects of self can be 'friends' but I know this is a crucial part of the process and one I do not want to skip and a process that will only help me get to my ultimate goal of wellness.

Patience.  My constant goal of being.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bad days

Sometimes bad days seem endless.  It's not day upon day like it used to be, generally now it is a couple of token days/week where I feel low.  Somedays it's nothing more than a slightly grumpy mood but too often still it escalates into a more all encompassing experience.

Today is one of the more intense bad days.  On these days I can just hope that the time goes by (as it always does) and I find rest and refreshment in my dreams when the day draws to a close.

I find it hard to hold onto the knowledge that tomorrow or the next day or the day after will be brighter.  When I have a string of good days I feel on top of the world and am so amazed by my progress but then BAM it hits me and I am reminded of how far I still have to go.  I have to hold on so tightly to the knowledge that things will get better and that this is all just part of the process.

I do expect life to be a kind of bed of roses...as I see that analogy.  I expect it to be pretty prickly but above that discomfort, there is a beautiful aroma.  Why not?  My sense of smell is a lot more acute than my sense of touch and pain reception so I'll take the thorns for the experience of life in the beautiful smell.  But my point is that I don't expect life to be perfect or to feel good all the time but I don't want my bad days to be accompanied with considerable urges to engage in self destructive behaviours.

I am approaching a particular anniversary I would rather avoid.  Memories upon memories are flooding my mind...so many questions.  Most painfully is WHY?  And that's the only question that I will never have an answer to in this case.  What's possibly worse than how much it hurts me is that I have many friends that will be experiencing the same grief in just a few days.  *sigh*  Together and alone we will get through this.

I had a day with many memories of my own experiences today.  I had to ask myself if I wanted to write about them here.  Am I ready to have people privvy to more realities of the past that I kept largely secret?  What is my intention of letting people in now?  I'm still not sure...  but here it goes anyway...

The topic came about through a discussion regarding loneliness and being alone with personal suffering.  Being lonely while in a crowd is worse for me than feeling lonely and being alone.  I think that's why I kept a lot of my experience as quiet and as removed from those close to me as possible.  The only people that I let in on nearly all things were those that needed to know everything in order to try to help me.  Even with them, I couldn't be 100% honest because I was so overwhelmed by shame.

I don't think I need to go into much detail but I have an extensive log of nights spent in emergency, lonely.  The nurses were there, my GP was there (95% of the time even when he wasn't on call), me and my eating disorder were there too.  Often my family didn't know where I was.  To them I was out with friends, to friends I was with my parents.  I knew that people were at the end of their rope with me and I knew they didn't want to hear the same old stories again but that didn't take away the fact that I was terrified at times.   Home alone with cardiac symptoms or losing consciousness from malnutrition or blood loss.  When I was living with other people I was still scared to tell anyone what was up and would 'go for a walk' and maybe get 'picked up by xxxx and go for coffee' when really I had walked myself to the hospital because I was scared for my life or knew that's what I needed to do to keep myself safe.

But you know, now that I think about it, those weren't even the most lonely times.  It was worse when I was lying there semi-conscious under a snow of sedation and seeing a parent of friend there looking completely helpless.  They were there but I was so far gone, there was no reaching me in that pit of despair more often than not.  That was loneliness.

Loneliness was also sitting by myself staring perhaps at three large pizzas on Friday night knowing what the next 4 hours looked like for me until I crawled (quite literally) to a softer place than the bathroom lino to try and sleep.  Yeah...those were lonely days.

Let me try and flip this now...I am not consistantly lonely anymore.  Not when I'm alone and not when I'm in a crowd.  It still comes up sometimes when I feel misunderstood or unheard but never that ache and experience of existing in a seemingly completely different universe it seemed than anyone else.  Feeling completely untouchable.  No, now I reach out and invite people to be near me and join me in my fight against my thoughts or in my experience of something extremely beautiful.  I want to share myself and generally it is well recieved, I am comforted and lifted up by people or a lovely experience is that much better because I have been able to marvel with someone else whether that be in thought and in a picture or in person.  I feel connected...finally.  I feel like a part of this puzzle of humanity not anymore crucial than the next piece but nonetheless the whole picture would be incomplete without me and without my neighbour.  And without you.

It is not a strength to surrender to loneliness, the power is in reaching out and realizing that desperation can be shared and that there are solid people out there that will love to the grave with all their hearts and give 110%.  By sharing our pain we can heal, we can rise above and go on to pay it forward in our presence with the next person (reciprocation is totally fine too!).

We need eachother and there will always be people that have some sense of aloofness that will deny this need for others but it exists whether they choose to embrace it or not!

I need people.  People need me.  And those are beautiful facts.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ups and downs

Maybe I'm experiencing a delayed reaction to seeing my weight.  I'm reacting to something and I don't know what it is.

I had this dream last night that I went home and lasted one week and was hospitalized again.  This time I readily went to the psych ward.  It was so familiar...the disappointment in the eyes of my GP that I had failed again; nurses bringing me the tube feed supplies; me being peaches and cream on the outside for everyone and yet completely dead inside again...

Why would waking up after this dream make me miss that?  It is an odd sensation to miss such an undesirable life.  I know how it could be explained:  wanting the safety and familiarity or that life even if it's a negative familiar; it was predictable - the days out of the hospital were hell, as were the days in hospital but it was a routine...crash and burn and be picked up again - repeat.

I have this desire to have what I call an 'Ensure day'.  I just don't feel like eating.  It's not about the calories or the food.  I don't need my 'safe foods' (those don't really exist for me anymore), I just want the day off from eating.  I don't want to decide what to eat and I could just eat what my meal plan says for today but I don't feel like that either.  I would rather just not bother today and hook myself up to my tube feed overnight.  It's so messed up and I guess being able to recognize that it's messed is an advancement in my thinking.

I also know that this will pass.  That it is just a day that I have to get through and that if not tomorow a day in the near future will be brighter again.

It's hard right now too because this program is in its infancy, the staff cannot understand what it's like for a person to miss that life.  Most have had such little exposure to eating disorders that they have no idea of the life I came from.  They can't understand that tubes and IVs were the norm for the last 4 years until I got here.  Any of my adult IP treatment used parenteral nutrition.  The last time I ate adequately for so many months was easily 9 years ago.  Any time since there has been punctuated with days of fasting or really bizarre behaviour like not eating all day and then eating junk at night.  There were the inevitable q4-5 monthly slips with purging.  The behaviours weren't as intrucive as they were near the latter part of the last 9 years but they always existed to some degree.

What I have to hold onto right now is the reality that brough me here:

With an eery peace, I accepted that this was/is my last attempt at recovery from this.  If I have to live a life constantly struggling to protect myself from behaviours and always looking over my shoulder for the ED or questioning mysef at every turn about my intent and if it's really Julia that's choosing something...I just won't do it. 

This is it.  Recovery or I actually give up.  I'm not willing to give up.  I'm not ready to end my life and at this point, that is the option.  In reality, its not an option at all!  My life is not mine to take and so, I will get through this.  I will feel the pain and live through it.  I will reframe my thoughts constantly and reach for the positive.  I won't ever, ever stop trying.  I'm not leaving here until there is not even a sliver of a chance for anorexia to sneak back in.

I do NOT want my tube back.  I do not need an Ensure day.  I want to embrace life.  I know it is worth it, I am worth it and I will get there.

This is just a day in a valley or the journey...I will get through.

Friday, January 13, 2012


At the place I am at in this journey, weight holds little meaning to me beyond how it effects my health.  That is 100% honest and something I didn't believe that I would ever be able to say.  I though that I would get to a place of acceptance.  A place where I wouldn't fight my body and nature anymore.  A place where I could consciously focus on what my body could do for me at an appropriate weight and not how it made me feel when I considered the number.  Well...how things have changed.

Before Christmas I managed to sneak on a scale for the first time in 6 months.  I had anticipated what the number would be and was rather accurate.  It bothered me that day and for the next couple of days actually but it did not impact my behaviour or motivation which was a great sign.  Yesterday I did it again and my thoughts:  "Well, that's Christmas for ya!"  I had a sense that my weight had increased slightly, I am suprisingly accurately intune with my body, and I was right but it was ever, ever so slight an increase.  And at what cost?  I had an amazing holiday season with my family where I enjoyed much good food and drinks.  Now, it's back to 'real life' and I know that my weight will settle as I notice and respond to my hunger and fullness cues as well as honour simple wants that I may have around food.

It is freeing.  I have surprised myself.

I don't love my body everyday when I get up and many days I still am at that place where I have to remind myself of all the wonderful things my body can do now that I am treating it well.  I remember how good my mood is and how reliable my energy level is.  I think of the future and how I want all possibilties open to me and that requires a functinoing body.  I remember the hell that I've put my body through and take care to be patient with the healing process.  But there are days where I wake up and the thought of "You're kind of sexy" goes through my mind when I glance in the mirror.  It makes me laugh out loud sometimes as it seems so incredulous coming from MY brain but I just savour the moment, understand like any human, the feeling of self love will probably not last but the acceptance never ends.  It really....never...ends.

I spoke yesterday at the staff meeting and I will write about certain aspects of that another time.  It was very interesting to think of the beginning of this journey and the thoughts and feelings I had.  Not many people were privvy to the reasons that I came, the dangerous peace I felt as I started on this endeavour, and the reasons that I ended up staying.  Another time...maybe later today...I will write about those things.

Speaking with the staff really fired me up again about this whole process.  I'm not done here, I still have much healing to do but I'm going to get there.  Against all odds I am conquering this beast and starting to come into the person I've always been and living the life I've always been meant to live.  It's amazing.

With love.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Not Proud, Not Ashamed

Yesterday something interesting happened...something that reminded me of many days gone by, of how far I've come, and yet of how far I still have to go.  I don't think it's something that many people would admit to doing at this point in the journey to wellness but I want to release myself from the secrecy of all negative behaviours and bring awareness to people while helping others let go of any shame they may feel if they experience similar things.

Last evening, I was preparing my snack and went to toss my fruit peels in the garbage can.  My eyes fixated on a small piece of papaya sitting on the top of the rubbish in the bin.  Nearly without thinking, I reached in, grabbed the piece of papaya and ate it.

I was upset immediately although I didn't say anything.  I just chewed and swallowed without tasting or thinking.  Why did I do that?  I was cutting up my own papaya so it wasn't a desire for something I wasn't going to have.  I wasn't actually hungry and even when I do expereince hunger it is not a desperate hunger that previously would have driven me to garbage cans...I actually couldn't identify WHY I would do that.

What is it about me that makes me so unworthy in my mind?  Could that not be the only answer?  If a person holds themselves in high enough esteem, eating something from the garbage would not cross their mind, there would be no compulsion.  If I put a friend in my shoes I would feel painfully sorry for them for thinking that that piece of fruit was anywhere near being consumable...so why is it okay for me?  The answer is that it's not. 

It was not a conscious act of degredation or punishment.  In fact, there was not a lot conscious about it at all.  It was thoughtless but there was still that force inside me that made me act in that way and allow that negative behaviour to take control.

So, it was a reminder of where I have been.  I have never been very open about the desperate lengths I went to to allow myself to consume food and let my body digest it.  In attempts to keep myself alive, there were many times where leftovers from trash cans were the only option and with a face wet with tears and fear in my heart I would grab any scraps I could see and mindlessly shove them into my mouth.  There was a constant tape of thoughts telling me how worthless I was and how disgusting I was for doing this and that I was out of control as well as the thoughts that justified it:  this is not actually food; it is so gross that I am worthy of it; it has sat here for so long there should be less nutrients in it so it won't make me fat; etc.  This time, there was none of that and I do not believe those thoughts any longer. There is not that drive to keep myself alive because I am constantly taking care of my phsyical self...

Being a solitatry behaviour and unaccompanied by any conscious thought, I was able to pat myself on the back and recognize that I have made great strides.  This is the first time I have done such a seemingly unthinkable act since I have been in treatment this time...it is really just one time in 6.5 months.  The fact that I saw it for what it was:  an act of low worth - and I stopped and knew that that wasn't right and that I didn't deserve to treat myself like that; and immediately I put someone else in my shoes and judged myself on the same level which helped give me compassion for myself.  These aspects of the experience really prove how far I have come.

However, the fact that the compulsion took over and the thoughtless behaviour occured reminds me of the work I have yet to do and resigns me to keep pressing forward in my understanding of myself, the reversal of the negative messages that I have fed myself for so long, and reinforces my need to be on high alert at all times still to guard myself against the beast that is dying slowly inside but still fights back with a vengeance at times.

It was a great learning experience and one I hope never to have to go through again.  It's interesting how lessons happen and actually how every little behaviour can be one to learn from.

Today I treated myself to popcorn at the theater as I took in the new Sherlock Holmes with my parents.  I later enjoyed a deliscious scallop curry dinner accompanied by a light and fruity Italian white wine.  I learned through my interactions at dinner but not in ways that pertain to this post.

With my head held high and much love,

Thursday, January 5, 2012


I just got back yesterday from a few days in Lisbon with my sister before she had to return to Canada.  I really had an amazing time.  We went to the Oceanarium (I believe it is the biggest aquarium in Europe or something); shopped at Vasco de Gama shopping center and at El Corte Ingles; looked around Belem; took a hop-on-hop-off tour around the city; checked out the Garbulkian (sp?) museum; and had leisurely evenigns together with our feet swollen and throbbing from walking. 

It was just so delightful to spend time with her and be present and have energy.  We did come through Lisbon and overnighted in June on our way to the clinic but honestly...I remember very little of it.  She said a few times that we had seen things already back then but it was definitely like seeing it for the first time for me!  I remember wanting so badly in June to be able to enjoy myself but I was SCARED of what the future held for me here in Portugal, I was exhausted from many months of very little sleep, I had no fuel in me from which to draw physical energy, and I was so terribly anxious and over medicating that I was living in a cloud.

This time, with a fresh, open, and calm mind I saw the sights and felt the air.  I relaxed and laughed.  I felt free and alive.  It was hard to see her off at the airport but you know...I'm not sad.  I will miss her, but we have the rest of our lives to look forward to together so how can I be sad?!  Our time with eachother can only get better than how it has been.  I am no longer dependant on her, I feel like her equal again.  There is a mutual giving of 150% from each side to meet halfway.  There is balance.

My mind is racing in a positive way.  Thoughts of possibilty, fun, future, and excitement are zipping this way and that.  It's like a whole new world in my mind and I love it.

For the first time in my life, I spontaneously cried because I am so happy today.  I was just sitting, writing at the beach, when tears sprung into my eyes and I didn't know why.  There was just an overwhelming force inside of me that bubbled up from my stomach and I realized that I felt this peace and joy through and through and I couldn't help but cry because it is amazing!

This again gives me hope.  Life is wonderful.   It doesn't always feel good and it doesn't even always feel possible but it is.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hello 2012!

Well, well, well...who would have thought I'd see this new years?  Not I...or at least I anticipated celebrating with nurses again and not in the collegue sort of way.  I imagined crying myself to sleep again thinking about how I'd wasted another year and wondering what unreasonable force was keeping me alive and making me endure day after day and year after year of hell.  Not this year, not ever again.

I spent the day with my family.  We played games and danced and sang and laughed.  We ate good food and drank deliscious wine.  And we called it a night at 2330 Dec 31.  So I did officially ring in the new year alone, lying in bed...but not lonely.

I'm going to avoid any major reflection on the year as many of you already know much of what I've been through.  At somepoint, I will probably go into a little more detail of a typical day in my life over the years, maybe delve into specific events and offer any insight I can but not today.

Completely unrelated to the new year, I have wanted to discuss my OCD and anxiety and chronic 'what if' syndrome.  I have been diagnosed with OCD and one of the qualifying factors for that diagnosis is a belief that something 'bad' will happen if one doesn't engage in whatever behaviour their mind pulls them to.  The most popular therapy for this is exposure to 'prove' to the sufferer that nothing 'bad' will happen.  Here's the problem with that:  you see, I'm a very logical person.  My rational/logical mind is extremely well developed hence why I was able to maintain such a 'normal' life for so many years while suffering in silence and struggling each day to hold on to the next.  The public awareness of my difficulty was only really recognized by most people when I physically displayed how unwell I was - but at that point, it was old news to be honest.  Anyway...exposure therapy.  So with my logical mind, I KNEW that my mom wouldn't die if I put orange and brown next to eachother in my closet or drawers; I KNEW that my food was not contaminated if the plates had been on the wrong shelf or if i used the wrong fork, I knew I wasn't actually going to get sick....those were the concrete things I would describe that would happen because I really felt that something terrible would happen.

I couldn't often explain what exactly so I would choose what seemed like the worst thing in that moment and apply it in an attempt to get the listener to understand just how significant this event was.  With exposure, the therapist works on what is spoken...I leave those colours together in my drawer and go about my day and discover my mother doesn't die - true.  However, something terrible DOES happen.  It happens inside of me.  It is painful and scary and worst of all, unexplainable!  It would make me feel more foolish when I had to admit 'You're right, nothing bad did happen' but just because it's not measurable -this terrible thing - doesn't mean it doesn't happen.  Because the person on the outside doesn't see what happens and can attract my logical mind to looknig at the fact that nothing concrete happened, that's supposed to help.  It does, eventually...as I learned to tolerate the extreme discomfort and pain of the terrible feelings exposure created in me, I did get over it.  But it wasn't until just recently that I could express that it never stopped the badness that happened, the terrible event that I was so scared of still occured and still hurt me over and over.

I don't know if this can be applied to everyone experiencing anxiety and OCD.  For another example:  a panic attack.  When it was purely anxiety and I could recognize that as in the case of my first many panic attacks, I knew that although I felt like I was going to die, I knew I physically was going to be okay.  However, later, as a sick person, there were many times where I couldn't differentiate between anxiety and phsycial symptoms.  I would treat a racing heart, palpitations, shortness of breath, sweaty palms and nausea with Ativan or some other dast acting benzo but the knowledge of my physical unwellness also came to mind and it was a real question of whether I was dying or not.  Was I having a heart attack?  What were my electrolytes like?  Was I in shock from volume depletion?  So at times I would present to emergency with my symptoms with the nurses and doctors likely rolling their eyes at the crazy frequent flyer back in their Emerg but I had always treated my symptoms as anxiety and if they didn't improve THAT's when I presented to emerg.  Everyone, regardless of how they felt privately, was always warm and concerned abotu my well being and actually very few ever treated me like the freak I felt I was and for that (amoung so many other things) I am grateful.

Tomorrow, pending orgainization of my documents, I will be heading to Lisbon for a couple of days with my sister.  I am very excited.  I haven't spent much time in Lisbon...just an evening the day we arrived in Portugal and I was so out of it, I don't remember much at all.  This time will be different.  :)

So, Happy New Year!!  Welcome to 2012.  May it bring many blessings for all.