The last several days have been a particular struggle. I’ve tried to keep up with my eating while meeting some very big school deadlines. I think that I am almost to the point where things are back to a normal rhythm. The more normal stress that builds the more likely I am to revert to very unhealthy coping mechanisms (not eating, cutting, etc). I have fallen into that trap on several occasions in the past few days but I am getting back on the road to recovery as quickly as possible.
This week I added another snack to the daily schedule of things that I am trying to eat. The goal was to wake up and immediately eat around 200 calories. The purpose is to give myself some energy to start the day (although I am convinced that “breaking the fast” is inconsistent with what we know about the benefits of intermittent fasting) and also to fight off the plague of delayed gratification and reward that I’ve written about previously.
So far I have been able to accomplish the goal. It has not been easy, but I have been able to do it. As with most of things that I eat, it is easier to meet the challenge when I can spend a significant amount of time lingering over the food. Today was different, however. I woke up and immediately had a place to be. I had to eat my breakfast snack quickly — no chance to partake of the ritual. I was still able to do it, but the emotional hangover is significant.
I wonder how many people who are anorexic are also clinically depressed. From a personal sample size of 1 (n=1), I would say 100%.
One driver of my anorexia that I hinted at in a previous post is that eating has become the only thing to look forward to. So, if I don’t eat, then I will have something to look forward to, some kind of motivation. When I do eat, it becomes a ritual designed to take as long as possible. The goal is to break up the long expanse of time that I cannot fathom will ever end.
Since there is nothing to motivate me and time seems to stretch out forever, waiting to eat gives me a goal and eating passes the time.
I am not sure how universal this is, but it is a feeling that really struggle with. For me, one of the drivers of my anorexia is that I have associated food with reward. According to most people that I talk to, this is not a common association. Most people seem to consider food as a tool or a means.
On its own, linking food and reward might not be terrible. Coupled with a belief that I am unworthy of any sort of reward and/or a perverse love of pursuing the reward rather than the reward itself, it is a problem.
This all leads to very unpleasant emotions after any meal. Besides the discomfort I feel knowing that there is food in my body and mentally adjusting to the fact that I consumed calories, I get angry at myself for having a reward and I feel empty. The anger is because I have given myself a reward of which I am not deserving and the emptiness is because I now have nothing to look forward to.
Not only is it easier not to eat, it is actually fulfilling. It is easier because I avoid the discomfort and anger and it is fulfilling because I continue to have something to look forward to. When you have no sense of self-worth and generally nothing that excites and motivates you, these are powerful reasons not to eat.
Life goes on and today I am struggling with the ongoing, inevitable march toward mortality and infinity. These thoughts inevitably lead me to panic attacks and last night was no exception. It was a tough, tough night but I think that today was harder. I have been feeling very disconnected from life and the world and very selfish, defeated and scattered.
I am back on my eating routine, but it’s been brutal. Let’s see what we can do for the rest of the night.
Both recovery and illness are selfish. As someone who struggles with OCD, depression, and anorexia, my thoughts can be incredibly regimented and strict. That leads to behavior that is equally as constricted and prescribed. Planning all my trips to the gym, the exact times that I will eat, what deviations are allowed from my habits, etc, requires a pathological amount of selfishness.
At the same time, recovery is selfish, too. I feel like I am required to focus exclusively on getting the right amount of nutrition, going to see the doctor at the right time, etc.
The problem is that, in part, my mental illness comes from a fundamental belief that I am a terrible person. Part of that negative self image is because I feel like I am incredibly selfish. In other words, it is a negative feedback cycle. That cycle is made worse by the fact that I am worried that my recovery will let me be truly myself and that I am, at my core, a selfish person.
These past few days I was able to travel with my mom to visit her sister who is recovering from a series of terrible strokes. It was humbling to remember that there are other people out there who are really sick, scared and fragile and who need their family, friends and faith for help. It was also terrifying because it reminds me just how selfish I really am.
If you are feeling the same way, let me say this: recovery is selfish. Those around you who want to help you recover desperately want you to be selfish because they cannot wait to see the real, amazing, awesome and healthy you. So, be selfish in your recovery and remember others at those moments when the illness wants to knock you back.
As another data point for self documentation, here is a picture of me at a pretty low point in my illness. This is a recent picture and not me at my worst. But, it’s pretty close.
Feeling fat. That is such an interesting phrase. I don’t know how “normal” people respond to a statement like that, but as an anorexic “fat” has a very specific, uncomfortable sensation. Uncomfortable is an understatement.
I can feel fat. I feel as if the parts of my face around my mouth are flabby. I can feel my stomach hanging over my belt. I can feel the fat around my fingers and in my hands.
I can feel fat. I feel lazy. I feel useless. I feel slobish. I feel like there is no reason to exist. I feel regret — regret over the decision to get on a track to recovery, the decision to eat my last meal, the decision not to starve myself, the decision to sleep last night, the decision to wake up, the decision to have that piece of gum, the decision to have that cup of coffee. When I feel fat, nothing goes unquestioned.
I wish that fat were not something I could feel. At the least, I wish that fat were just a fleeting physical sensation that did not translate into an emotional reaction.
As another element of self-documentation, I looked back at my fitbit data and found the entry that recorded my weight at its lowest. On January 28th, 2017 I weighed 115.6lbs.
The depression is bad today. As it is every day. Remembering what I need to do to stay on the recovery track is really hard when I don’t even want to live.