It's not over 'till it's over

I had a therapy appointment today, and part of what came up was the continuing anorexic thoughts that I have. I've been at a healthy weight for a little over a year, I'm eating a wide variety of foods, most of the time I eat enough fat, I exercise moderately--in a nutshell, all of the things that I am "supposed" to be doing in recovery.

So what gives? Why, after all this time, do I still instinctively want to restrict? Why, in times of stress, do I want to exercise like a madwoman? Some of it, I know, is how my brain is wired. But I had hoped that after a year of all of this turmoil, it would get a lot better.

And it has gotten somewhat better. Somewhat. But I still have to talk myself through a lot of things. I still have to remind myself that butter is not something that exists for the sole purpose of decorating my fridge. That I can cook with it. Put it on my bread, or baked potato. I have to remind myself that exercise feels good, but only as long as I don't overdo it. Sometimes I still get horrifically anxious if I can't exercise as I had planned. So I sit myself down and have a long pep talk with myself and try to get through it.

No wonder my roommates all used to think I was whacked. Luckily Aria doesn't seem to mind.

Yet all of these thoughts are a several-times-a-day thing. I had hoped they would be more fleeting. Can I manage them? I suppose- I've been doing it for a year now. But it's exhausting, and I'm tired of it. Not tired enough to give up recovery, however. Just tired in the sense that I have this plaintive question that remains: when will it get easier?

My therapist reminded me that, considering I've been sick for almost 8 years now, it's going to take more than just a year of a healthy weight and eating properly for the thoughts to go away. Which, okay. I do logically get that. I'm just frustrated with it all. I had hoped I would bounce back more quickly. I guess, ultimately, I'm having a hard time accepting how ingrained the AN thoughts were/are. I don't like to think about that.

I can function on the outside, and that's something. That's an achievement. I can go out with friends, even if that going out involves dinner. But it's still just so damn hard. And I almost wish that the inner turmoil was more visible, that yes, I look and act moderately normal, but my head is still a little screwed up.

I was also reminded that the thoughts may never fade entirely, but I will instinctively replace them with positive reminders of why I need to eat. That it won't be such an effort. I'm not entirely thrilled with that thought, but if it does become my reality, I can at least figure out ways to deal with it.

I used to be told that the eating disorder would end when I chose to end it. Obviously, I have several problems with this. First of all, someone with an eating disorder can't just randomly "choose" to start eating again. Believe me, if we could, we would. But secondly, I can't totally control how long these thoughts will stay with me. I am ultimately in charge of managing my recovery. I am ultimately responsible for feeding myself properly, for ensuring I don't start exercising compulsively. These behaviors will have a HUGE impact on whether the AN thoughts go away. But I can't control how long the thoughts will stick around.

All I can do is remind myself that if I want to get well, I need to stay at a healthy weight. And I can certainly start losing again, but that will just mean I'll have to gain weight again. The relief of restricting is NOT equivalent to the torture of weight restoration. So I'll have to sit it out, and get the hell on with my life.

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Jessie said...

Thank you. This post was articulating exactly what I have been finding so frustrating lately.

fighting_forever said...

I really wish I had some magic wand I could wave and make all the thoughts go away. I'd use it on myself as well.

I've been recovered from bulimia for about three years now. There are still the bad days and the thoughts that say I'm too fat and that I shouldn't have dinner today. But they're getting quieter and less frequent.

In a lot of ways, I think anorexia is harder to recover from than bulimia, since at least I was used to eating. But it will get easier. The problem is that it's so gradual you don't notice it. You'll just look back one day, maybe months away, maybe years, and see your life and think, "Oh! I'm better. When did that happen?"

Anonymous said...

I wish there was a way to make this easier, too. I give you so much credit for doing such a great job battling through.

mary said...

I too wish that I could make it easier.
That you are using your tools and have managed to do an incredible amount in the last year speaks well of you as a fighter.That you moved far away and lived independently and did your work, this too speaks volumes. I know it wasn't always easy. The day may yet come when you are able to say "I am not fighting with you anymore, I've already won."
Your ED is BORING and MEAN.I feel it's best to avoid all mean things and most boring things. You on the other hand are a rich well of creativity and ideas. Remember this! /*******

Laura Collins said...

Incremental change is SO hard to see up close. You've come light years, and though it isn't done (ED's been yammering at you for years so you've got the script memorized like a bad Seinfeld episode) every day is another line in the sand. So happy for you.

Juliet said...

I spent seven weeks as in inpatient on an eating disorder unit when I was 15, and it didn't do much for me except make my ED worse. I felt so inferior to anorexics, and even to the "true" bulimics - the ones who could purge. I never managed to succeed at purging (for which I am now tremendously happy).

I felt like anorexics had the "willpower" I lacked. My best friend there and I used to joke that she could lose weight for me and I could gain weight for her. She was 85 pounds and I was 325.

Now, since working with my current therapist since October, I realize that though the manifestations of an eating disorder can be quite different, the thought processes are startlingly similar. What you are going through right now is so similar to what I am going through.

I am fighting the dieting mentality, the thought that I *have* to be thinner for any number of reasons. I want to restrict my food intake, though ultimately I know I'll just binge and gain back any weight I lose. So I can relate, in many ways, to this post.

I wish I had been in the right mindset to learn from the girls with different eating disorders than my own when I was hospitalized. They had a lot to teach me - positive things, not the negative ones I tried to emulate upon discharge. I just wasn't ready to hear their stories through a filter of healthiness, of recovery.

Now I am, so thank you for sharing. I realize that after over 20 years of chronic, yo-yo dieting - basically most of my life - I will need to give myself time to heal, time to get to the place where these thoughts aren't always weighing (no pun intended) on my mind. Your post helps me realize I'm not alone in this journey of recovery from ED, and that while not fun, it's worth the time it takes and the anxiety it will cause along the way.

Jeanne said...

I hear you, Carrie. I never had to gain weight (having never dropped below a "normal" weight,) but I have been in recovery for five years. Five long years.

The good news is that it really does get easier. Honest engine. While I still have major slips and while I still have to pull myself up from it, it doesn't take me quite as long as it did when I first relapsed. It is a lot of hard work. And it is extremely tiring.

But you have the right idea. Restricting in the now is never worth the pain and suffering of getting "back in the saddle."

Keep fighting that damnable voice!

thinking of you with love,

A said...

I can relate Carrie,

It's so difficult to keep up gains made in treatment. . .When you are restoring weight or working on specific behavioural issues, it feels like recovery is just a matter of correcting these key things.

LIVING with the change day by day by day is incredibly difficult. I still battle exercise, restricting, weighing thoughts each day -- and they really don't show any sign of letting up. I still make wrong decisions and correct decisions. . .

The road to recovery sometimes seems too long. . .


Mrs. B said...

thanks for the insight into what my daughter is problabley feeling. I aslo think it is a grieving process that you go through as well. said...

Carrie, I promise you it will get better. It may take a while, but it will. I remember 12 years ago my friends would ask me, "Will you get better?" It was scary because I didn't know. Just keep doing the work and one night you'll be eating dinner with friends and half way through it, you'll notice you aren't counting calories. It's a great feeling.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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