Eating Disorders and Health Issues

I recently committed to a new diet. The hardest part of that commitment was committing to eat. I don’t have an eating disorder right now, but I have had one before. Having health issues related to food has brought back memories of that time.

Back then, it was easy to hide my disorder because I could isolate myself and no one would have known if I didn’t tell them. Now, with these health issues, it was easy to slip back into that lifestyle because I had an excuse. People knew I wasn’t eating, but they also knew why. So no one questioned the sanctity of my actions.

I have tried to downplay the seriousness of my eating habits, both to others and to myself. But the truth is that starving yourself for physical reasons is just as bad as starving yourself for emotional reasons.

I don’t know how I recovered from my eating disorder. I do remember that it took a long time. I remember that I had to make deliberate choices to change. I remember that it involved changing my environment and basically starting over.

Once again, I find myself in recovery. This time it is not an eating disorder; it is simply disordered eating. Still, it takes a lot of the same things. I have a reason to get better. I have changed my environment. I am consistently making the hard choices to change.

When I tell people about my diet restrictions, they are quick to feel sorry for me or offer solutions. Although helpful to some extent, the solutions fail to recognize one important factor in my recovery. I have not just faced health issues, I have straddled the edge of an eating disorder that would have been all too easy to fall into.

I don’t write these posts so you will feel sorry for me. I write these posts so you will understand. Everyone sees me as so capable. They see a health issue with solutions. They see actions that need to happen. But it’s not just health that needs to recover. For me, it has never been just health. It is a comprehensive recovery. I am recovering mentally and physically and emotionally. It’s not from an eating disorder, but it may as well be because the behavior and recovery are strikingly similar.

I have a lot more resources this time though. I have a lot more reasons to be healthy. My mind is more clear than it ever has been. So I have hope that recovery will be easier this time. I have hope that I will be okay. I have hope that I can avoid the temptations of an eating disorder and become healthy again.

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You Have a Right to Mourn

I decided to give up gluten at the beginning of this week. I had already given up most foods that have gluten in them, but I hadn’t completely cut it out yet. In the past six months, I have limited my diet to foods with little fat, oil, sugar, acid, lactose, and sodium content. For the most part it has worked, but I haven’t followed the diet strictly until recently.

Going gluten free was a lost battle for me. It meant admitting that something really is wrong and accepting that it may never change. In a few weeks, it may not seem like a big deal. But it is a big deal right now, which has made me realize something.

I never thought of an autism diagnosis as a big deal. It was simply a name for a set of symptoms that already exist. I didn’t understand the need to mourn or the devastation someone may feel. But now I understand better. Parents don’t mourn the child or the diagnosis. They mourn the inability to hold onto something they wanted to have.

Right now, I am mourning that I may never enjoy pizza again, that I don’t remember the last cream filled donut I ate, that I do not know if I will ever again feel the sensory adrenaline of hot sauce. To other people who haven’t experienced this or who have been living with these problems for a while, it may not seem like a big deal. People who don’t know, who can’t know, or who know all too well, are giving me suggestions and advice, solutions for what they perceive to be my problem. But they all miss the point. I don’t need solutions right now. I just need to mourn.

Give me solutions in a week or two. Tell me what I’m doing wrong and what I can be doing better, just wait until I have had a chance to mourn first. Let me breathe in the reality of my situation for a moment. Let me process what this means and what it changes. Let me not be okay for a little bit. Then you can bombard me with your advice and solutions because maybe then I can handle it.

I am sorry for not understanding the need to mourn before. I am sorry for wanting people to realize that autism isn’t so bad before they are ready to. I am sorry for not recognizing your right to mourn.

You have the right to mourn what you wish could be. You have a right to cry and be sad or afraid. You have a right to not be okay for a while.

And maybe when you’re ready, we can discuss advice. Maybe when you have mourned, we can solve this together. Maybe once you have processed this, it won’t seem quite so overwhelming. In the meantime, I understand your need to mourn. And I respect that right. I hope people can understand and respect mine too.

Attachment Styles and Updates

You have probably heard of attachment styles in some form, whether you know about the study done on infants or you are familiar with clingy companions. Basically, attachment styles refer to how you bond in a relationship. You can have secure, anxious, avoidant, or fearful attachments. For brevity, I’m not going to go into the definitions of each attachment style, but feel free to look them up if you are interested.

People usually think of attachments styles as developing from infancy through your relationships with your parents/ caregivers. While it is true that your parents play a large role in forming your attachments styles, there are other factors and relationships that influence it as well. In my case, I would say I have a pretty secure attachment with my family. Although I do get a little anxious with them sometimes, I mostly trust them and feel safe with them.

However, my early relationships outside of my immediate family heavily influenced my attachment styles with everyone else. I lost all of my childhood friends at age seven, and after that I was teased and bullied, isolated and punished. Because of all that, I have an anxious/ fearful attachment style in most of my relationships. I don’t trust people. I am afraid of getting close to people. I am afraid of allowing myself to be vulnerable. I am constantly afraid of being hurt, abandoned, taken advantage of, ignored, and basically afraid of letting anyone get close to me physically, mentally, or emotionally.

Anyway, I have been thinking about this lately because I have an ultrasound tomorrow and an endoscopy next week, and I am super nervous. I waited as long as I felt I could to make these appointments because it is really hard for me to trust people. It is hard to be vulnerable, and going to the doctor is just about as vulnerable as it gets. You have no control at the doctor’s office. You have to do what they say and trust that they are doing their job and that whatever test they put you through is going to help them figure out what is wrong.

The hardest thing about this is not having a secure relationship to hold onto during these tests and procedures. I don’t have parents or siblings to take me to appointments and be there for me. I am simply left to my fear and anxiety. And I have to convince myself to trust, if only for a moment, which is perhaps the hardest thing. If I wasn’t genuinely concerned about my health, I would not allow myself to be this vulnerable even for a doctor’s visit. But I feel I have no choice if I ever want to get better.

 

Basically, what I am saying is that I am scared. I’m terrified. I’m desperately longing for an escape as I go towards what I know must be done. This isn’t one of my usual posts. It doesn’t end with everything bundled up in a happy ending or inspirational message. It’s simply me being real because being vulnerable is scary. Being vulnerable on here is scary, but being vulnerable in real life is even scarier. And I just want you to know that as positive as I may seem most of the time, I still just get really scared sometimes, and I don’t have all the answers.

Lessons of Pain

Pain teaches you things. Sometimes, the more intense the pain is, the more it teaches you. Today I have been in excruciating pain, and I have been thinking about the lessons pain has taught me.

  1. My body is amazing. Sometimes we tell ourselves how much we hate our bodies because they are not what we want them to be. When it becomes hard to move because of pain, you realize just how amazing your body really is.
  2. My body needs just as much love as I do. I learned this by  unintentionally starving my body. Eating causes me pain and time is a short commodity, so I simply did not eat meals for two weeks. By the time I realized what was happening, my body needed a whole lot of love to get back to normal.
  3. Everyone suffers. Most of the time, no one knows I am in pain. I resist the urge to slide to the floor and curl up in fetal position when I’m talking to someone. It has made me wonder how many other people resist similar urges and what unseen pain they may be suffering.
  4. You may never fully understand the power of a hug. When I am in intense pain, physical touch can sometimes be unwelcome. But a hug is almost always something I want. A hug releases some of the tension, alleviates some of the pain, and above all, let’s me know I’m not alone.
  5. Compassion and empathy. Everyone experiences pain differently, but because I know what pain feels like for me, I can sympathize when you describe what pain feels like for you.
  6. Gratitude. When I have a good day, when I feel well enough to do something extra, when pain doesn’t describe my state of being, I am so grateful. It makes me grateful for the little things like being able to stand and able to eat and sleep, etc.
  7. Pain is temporary. Even though I am almost always in some kind of pain, I have realized that the intense pain is temporary. It may feel unbearable in the moment, but eventually it will become bearable again.
  8. Sleep is my friend. Sometimes I delay sleeping because of depression. Sleeping seems like a darkness that I do not want to enter, but sleeping almost always helps me feel better.
  9. People care. Pain didn’t really teach me that people care, people taught me that they care. But pain made me realize and notice people caring.
  10. Service. Pain makes you realize the frailty of life. It helps you realize what is most important. To me, what is most important is other people. If I can make someone’s life better, if I can make them a little happier, if I can help someone, I want to do it. My pain does not disqualify me from trying to help someone else.

Mental Health

I don’t understand the dichotomy between how we treat physical health and how we treat mental health.

I have been experiencing some health issues lately that make it difficult to eat food. To me, these issues don’t really seem like a big deal, but when I tell people about it, their reactions make me think that it may be a bigger problem than I realize. The thing is, I compare my health issues to my mental health issues, and in comparison, my physical health doesn’t seem like much of a problem.

Not being able to eat without being in pain doesn’t seem as bad as not being able to eat because I had an eating disorder or because I was too depressed to eat. Being in constant physical pain doesn’t seem as bad as when I tortured myself for days at a time because my mind told me I deserved it. Feeling like I’m dying doesn’t seem as bad as wanting to die and constantly thinking of suicide or attempting to kill myself.

Yes, my physical health issues are kind of a big deal and affect nearly every aspect of my life right now. But compared to my mental health issues, I hardly consider them worth anyone’s time.

What is worth helping, saving, and taking people’s time is when I want to die. That’s something people can change. That’s something they can help with. Bringing me food because I’m in pain is nice, but it doesn’t change much of my condition. Giving me love when I feel hopeless could change everything.

I’m not saying that mental health is more important than physical health. They are both important. They both need attention and care. But if you really want to make a difference, it’s probably not going to be by finding the cure for cancer. In my experience, the biggest difference is made not on the giant scale of curing disease, but on the tiny scale, the one person at a time scale, of curing loneliness.

Mental health isn’t just a statistical arena. It’s not something you just hear about on the news. It’s something that someone you know is struggling with. It’s something that is just as important as keeping someone physically healthy. It is the most real thing I have ever experienced, and it’s not over. I have hope, but it’s still not over. Mental health is real, and it is serious. Don’t forget that.

Health Habits

About two months ago, I posted some goals I was going to try to follow to improve my emotional health. Although these goals were physical goals, I knew that my emotional health was being affected by my physical health. If you want to see that post, click here.

It’s now time to share some thoughts on how my goals have gone so far.

The first thing I should mention is that I haven’t done everything every day, but I do something every day. And it makes a difference. In fact, the more I do, the bigger difference I see.

When I eat right and get enough sleep and drink enough water and exercise, I feel a hundred times better than when I do none of those things. And when I do a couple of those things, I feel ten times better than when I do none of those things. So it does make a difference and it has made a difference.

I’m still not great at keeping all my goals and I can feel myself slipping more easily into depression when I don’t keep my goals, but I am starting to develop healthy habits and I am excited for the difference it is making in my life.

Day 1

Sometimes you just need to restart.

This weekend I went to a camp with my church. One of the speakers there talked about how much your health affects everything else. So I have decided I need to start over. I am doing good things in my life, but I am struggling with my own physical, mental, and emotional health. But maybe there’s something I can do to help myself be better.

Today is day 1. I’m not going to worry about the past feelings of depression or frustration or pain or anything else. I’m going to be a new person.

 

Just to keep me accountable to someone on this newness of life, I’m going to post my goals on here.

Here’s what I am going to do starting today:

  1. Go to bed at 9 pm
  2. Drink at least 2 bottles of water per day
  3. Eat 1 extra fruit/ vegetable 3 times per day
  4. Run from 5:30-6 pm
  5. Take a multivitamin