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.

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.

Eating

If you haven’t noticed from my posts lately, I have been pretty much drowning the past couple weeks. I was suicidal and depressed and anxious and basically couldn’t handle life. Of course, feeling that way isn’t a foreign concept for me, especially with the added stress in my life, so I didn’t think anything of it. Until today I didn’t realize why I have been going insane.

This afternoon though, it became fairly obvious what the real problem was. If you want to go insane, not eating meals for two weeks is a pretty sure way to lose your sanity.  I didn’t intentionally not eat; I simply didn’t have the time or motivation to prepare anything to eat. For the past two weeks, my daily diet consisted of a couple fruits, maybe a yogurt or cheese stick, a few pieces of bread, and some crackers or nuts. I justified this because I take a multivitamin and a protein supplement. And I have been so busy that I didn’t even realize how little I was eating. I ate in every spare moment, just nothing with much substance.

Anyway, the reason I’m posting this is: one, so you won’t worry about me because of my suicidal posts lately, and two, so you can look at your own life to see something simple you may be missing.

It was easy for me to miss that I wasn’t eating enough because I am constantly in pain, so hunger pains don’t register any more than the rest of my pain. It was easy for me not to realize that anything was different because I don’t own a scale and it’s hard to notice just by looking in the mirror that you’re unintentionally losing 3-6% of your body weight every week. It was easy for me to dismiss that something was physically wrong because I’m so used to things being emotionally wrong that I hardly consider the physical aspects.

Depression and anxiety and mental illness isn’t something you can just wish away or make disappear by simply taking care of your physical needs, but taking care of yourself physically definitely has a powerful impact on your mental health. So if you’re struggling more than normal or feeling more tired or less able to handle life, look at your physical needs first before you dismiss them because of your mental health. They may be having a bigger impact on you than you realize.

Feeling Full

With the upcoming holidays, this has been on my mind lately.

I have never been the type of person to overeat on Thanksgiving. I eat on Thanksgiving the same way that I eat every other day of the year. I eat until I’m just satisfied. I enjoy Thanksgiving and the food and everything, but I just can’t stand the feeling of being full.

I don’t like feeling like there’s food in my stomach. It is uncomfortable. On the other hand, I also hate feeling hungry… which means I pretty much have to eat all the time to make up for it.

In general I probably eat about 7 times a day. (I used to eat more often, but since I work for 8 hours a day I don’t generally eat more than once during that time, but on weekends I probably eat about 10 times a day.) I usually eat less than most people at regular meals and then eat snacks and mini meals throughout the rest of the day. Sometimes it seems like I hardly ever stop eating.

The most unhealthy part of not liking feeling full is that I have a hard time drinking much water. I can’t handle very much water in my stomach at one time. Water just gives me such an uncomfortable feeling, especially if I drink it on an empty stomach. And because I don’t drink much water I tend to have some problems because of that.

I think that may be one reason why people with autism may have more digestive problems than others. Water is just hard to handle sometimes. I’m working on getting better about drinking water though and I’m hoping it’ll help.