So much easier

First of all, thank you SO MUCH for the wonderful support.  I have the best readers, bar none, and I will seriously kick anyone's ass who says you aren't.

I've gotten emails and texts from quite a few people who have shared their own struggles. One comment I was particularly struck by was via Twitter (it was a private message, so no need to waste time looking!):

I lost a bit of weight recently and it's started up this annoying talk in my head. I hate how freaking pleased it makes part of me.

It's the last line in particular that really resonated.  It would be so much easier to fight off urges and behaviors if we found them seriously distressing.  The problem is that distressing is not always the word that comes to mind when ED behaviors return.  This summer, I did experience distress at the return of ED stuff, both while I was in Europe and then when my parents were away for a week or so.  Serious distress and only a little weight loss.  I remember being simultaneously puzzled and relieved at the distress--puzzled because it was something totally new, yet relieved that the distress meant I was extra motivated to address these issues.

Eventually, the ED stuff does get distressing.  Things like blue lips, anemia, and utter exhaustion ultimately take their toll.  For me, the notion that I wouldn't be able to keep working up to my usual capacity was a major motivator for me to take action.  For better or worse, my identity is very tied up with my career, and I take any threats to that very seriously.  I realize that I am more than just a writer, but that's also primarily how I think of myself. I don't have the security of disability or sick leave as a freelancer, and so if I can't work, I don't get paid.

Addressing a slip is generally much more stressful for me than the slip itself.  And therein lies the problem.  It's hard to change when you're not feeling any internal pressure to.  Of course, external pressure quickly stepped in and helped me move along, but still.  When I notice my depression increasing, I'm generally pretty motivated to do something about it (assuming I feel there's something that can be helped, but that's another story).  Same for the anxiety.  It's unpleasant.  The ED isn't always the same.  Staying in recovery would be so much easier if falling out of recovery was harder to deal with.

Usually, a mild relapse initially makes me feel better.  Hence the problem.

I think I need to start accepting that minor relapses aren't going to cause me any sort of distress and that I need to stop expecting distress to happen and relying on it to take action.  It's totally counter intuitive, but not much about EDs makes logical sense.  Why wouldn't a recurrence of a potentially deadly illness not stress me out?  I dunno.  Here's what I need to get through my thick skull: just because I'm not freaked out doesn't mean that it's not a big deal.

If that came naturally, my life would be so much easier, I think.


Michelle said...

Carrie this is perfect and just what I needed to hear. I've been trying so hard not to fall back into old habits. Last week I emailed my dietician and told her about how I was falling backwards and she told me this:

"A set back is a set up for a come back. Remember, we don't learn anything if we don't go backwards sometimes. It's like watching a really complicated movie or documentary and having to rewind it to figure out what the heck happened."

I love it and now am trying to think of seeing the triggers and what causes me to go backwards at time. Stay strong and keep kicking butt!

hm said...

Remember those dopamine studies? We anorexics have more than the normal number of dopamine receptors- food triggers even higher levels of dopamine production, which feels good to the normal person, but in overabundance it leads to depression/restlessness/anxiety/etc- limiting food intake then relieves that and makes us feel "normal."

So it makes sense, scientifically, that you'd feel BETTER initially, not worse, at the onset of a relapse. You're altering your chemicals in a positive direction.

A drug addict can't expect to feel crappy when they inject to relieve stress. No- it'll feel good, w/out a doubt.

NOT that I'm comparing an ED to a drug addiction- I hate when people do that. It's NOT the same. But using the drug thing as a metaphor to tell you that you are not being illogical to not be in distress at the onset of a relapse, if that makes sense. It's perfectly logical that you would feel better initially.

Thus you go by what you KNOW, not what you FEEL. You know what to do be BE healthy, regardless of your feelings. It sucks when knowing and feeling don't match up. It'd be great if every slip would trigger an "oh no!" feeling that would motivate us to do better. But life isn't so easy. We have to research, rely on others, make choices that FEEL shitty because we KNOW they are the right ones.

This is what you are doing. Doing what you KNOW. That's huge. That's hard. That feels shitty, but it's right and strong and good. YOU are strong and good. You are trusting your hard earned knowledge over your physical/emotional/mental feelings. That's no small thing.

I'm incredibly proud of you.

Chippy said...

I've followed your blog for months now, but have never been brave enough to comment,so here it goes... a lot of your posts are about helping others and I'm really glad that you've reached out to your numerous (and well deserved!) followers in order for them to help you. You're incredibly insightful and you speak so much truth. This post really pinpoints how hard it is sometimes to address slips and it is great that you've been able to come to such a poignant conclusion;

" just because I'm not freaked out doesn't mean that it's not a big deal."

This is exactly where I am right now. When I have slips I always live in the now and the consequences seem so far off that they are hardly seem real. Its only when I stop and really think about where this is taking me or even where it has taken me that it begins to sink in. Even then it's not as easy as just stopping the behaviors. I really hope you have the support to help you at this tricky time, you really deserve it.

Anonymous said...

you couldn't have said this better Carrie. I think it is always hard to explain to people why it is so easy to fall back into eating disorder behaviors, but the truth is it is easy because it feels good for the time being! But more than just helping us to explain it, I think it is a great thing to know for myself, because I can use it to combat my eating disorder and work on the things I need to work on, before they get worse :)

Thanks for the insight! You are absolutely amazing :)


Cate said...

I get so frustrated that I don't know these things! I have been feeling so much better lately - more relaxed and generally happier - but I knew that I was giving in to the ED and intentionally losing weight and hiding it from my gp, so I couldn't understand why I was so genuinely happy about it.
I know I need to address it now, but it is a relief to know it's not just me!

Incredible Eating Anorexics said...

i don't know what to write, but i wish computers could give hugs, i'd hug my computer then arms would come out of ours and hug mad amen't i? lol.


Katie said...

I use a similar analogy to the one hm pointed out between EDs and addictions. Although EDs are not addictions, there are some helpful parallels when thinking about relapses. The one I go for goes along the lines of, using ED behaviours to calm ED related thoughts and urges is a bit like an alcoholic calming their cravings with vodka. It works perfectly in the short term - but in the long term it just worsens the problem. I feel a hundred times better and more relaxed if I slip into restrictive behaviours too, but that doesn't mean jack in terms of the consequences of those behaviours.

I guess you could try to reframe the problem if that's helpful. Instead of feeling frustrated by the lack of distress, and thinking that recovery would be easier if the behaviours caused distress, maybe you could try telling yourself that the lack of distress is a really scary symptom. Like you said, there would be distress at the recurrence of any other life threatening illness - but anorexia is so f-ing sneaky that it not only tries to kill you but also brainwashes you into believing that this is what you want from your life. Lack of distress is a distressing symptom when you make yourself think about it like that. It's a symptom that makes me angry at the very least, especially when it see it in my friends (angry with the illness, not them!).

I am glad you're talking about this anyway Carrie. I know what it's like to confess to lapses when all your blog readers seem to think you're some kind of infallible superwoman, so I appreciate your bravery in doing so and working on the problem :) I know we don't really "talk" outside of your comments but you're always welcome to email/facebook me if you want another friend in recovery.

Anonymous said...


Longtime lurker here. First, I wanted to tell you that your blog has been really inspiring to me. Thank you! I appreciate the Sunday roundups especially. I was really touched by your post yesterday too. I'm struggling daily with recovery myself (have dealt with ana and mia for about 10 years now). It is a daily process. Sometimes I'm all good and I feel like I'm done with this, but then there are bad days where I lapse.

Something that has helped recently that I thought I would share with you: I just finished a book by Deepak Chopra. I've never really read anything by him before but I've been "searching" this year - for what I'm not sure. So, I've had an open mind to explore.

Deepak's book "Reinventing the Body; Resurrecting the Soul" has a few passages near the end about personifying the body as opposed to objectifying the body. He talks about how some of our innermost self talk can be the most vile, rude, unloving, and condescending message(s) that we wouldn't deliver to our own worst enemy. And yet, we talk to ourselves this way, we belittle and insult ourselves. We judge ourselves more harshly than we would anyone else. And we expect perfection from our own imperfect human selves.

He wrote something like (and I don't have the book here so I could be a bit off)......He wrote about thinking of the person that you love the most in the whole world, maybe it's a partner or a family member. Would you love them any less if they didn't have a perfect body? Would you scream vile things at them when they made a mistake? Probably not. You'd likely be supportive and nurturing if you truly loved them. He then suggests that we imagine ourselves as personified instead of objectified. He suggests imagining our body as separate from the self. Treat the body just as you would a friend that you love. He goes on to explain in greater detail how thinking of the body in a detached way may facilitate more compassion and minimize negative self talk.

That section of his book really resonated with me. If my body were my best friend, would I starve her? No way, she'd get the best food I had in the house to provide. Would I let her eat a gallon of ice cream and then puke it up until her eyes get bloodshot and her abs hurt and she spat blood? No, I'd stop her before she did that and take her out for a reasonable portion of low-fat fro-yo and some supportive conversation about what she was really trying to "Fill" by doing that. Would I tell her she was worthless because the number on the scale ticked up one pound? Not ever, not even if it was 5 lbs would I talk to someone I love that way............ etc. etc. I'm sure you get my point.

Anyway, it's something I have been trying to internalize with my own "issues" and bad self-talk. It's helping me so I thought I would share with you.

Best of Luck and take care of yourself!

Phoenix, AZ

Cammy said...

So I have a random thought to toss out, it may be ENTIRELY off base, but I thought it was worth considering.

Do you think maybe any part of your recent slippage, weight loss, etc is a response, however conscious or otherwise, to being in a relationship and being aware of someone else being very aware of your body? Again, I may be way out of the ballpark on this one, but it can be an issue. I dealt/deal with it in my own relationship, it can happen even with the most accepting, nonjudgmental guy in the world. If only we could see ourselves the way they see us!

Or maybe that's not a part of it. It is great that you're conscious of the need to turn things around. And I definitely identify with you on the part about slipping not always being that worrisome...that fact is the part that IS worrisome. How are things going with your therapist?

Hang in there, you are conscientious and intelligent and badass and everything else that makes Carrie amazing, and you will beat this. <3

Anonymous said...

I love that last part "just because I'm not freaked out doesn't mean its not a big deal" that is something I need to learn. Cuz my ed has got me so tripped up in his lies, after all the physical and medical things that have happened to me, yea its a big deal. That phrase has never occurred to me before tho. Needed to hear it.

hm said...

KATIE- I love this: "the lack of distress is a really scary symptom"

Wow- I never looked at it like that. I do believe my therapist has been trying to pound this into my skull for a while now. I am remembering things she has said in the past to that effect, to which I have responded by blinking at her blankly. I didn't get it till just now.

I'd be totally freaked out if my kid was sawing off his arm and smiling blankly while he did it. It really is pretty freaky and distressing that we ed folks can happily slip back into ed behaviors (slow suicide!) w/no distress or remorse.

Further, there is a disconnect not just from ourselves, but also from others- I will see people around me (sisters, husband, therapist) as getting "all upset" and acting ridiculous, dramatic, etc. when I am slipping. It irritates me. That's pretty disconnected and messed up- the scare and worry of others should have an impact- but the ed dulls our emotional receptors (as well as our dopamine receptors!) and the reactions of others just don't seem valid.

Again- the kid sawing off his own arm, smiling blankly, and then rolling his eyes when you beg him to stop and calling you "dramatic." Disturbing picture. That's how I'm suddenly seeing how I act when I'm slipping back into my ed. It's enough to make my hair stand up.

Fellow OCD Sufferer said...

I love reading your blog because while my current problem is not fighting off an ED, everything you write seems to magically express the way I feel about my OCD. The things I rarely hear expressed by OCD sufferers, the way I happen to relate to my OCD, is captured in the way you seem to describe and relate to your ED. It is so hard to change my habits when I feel no internal pressure to make changes. I realize that continuing my compulsions is not really maintaining the status quo - it's opening the door that leads back to the relative hell I was in not so long ago - but all the same, it's hard to move forward when part of me feels like I am a better, more acceptable person when I do my compulsions, it's hard to move forward when part of me is pleased that I can force myself to perform these compulsions.

I am still fairly trapped, but I have grown used to the sacrifices I make to live my life with OCD. I don't cook, I decline social invitations, I don't swim, I avoid situations where my rules might be put in jeopardy, etc., etc., etc.

Anyways, I sometimes feel like my symptoms belong in the OCD category while my mind mirrors that of someone with an ED. I have had my own experiences with anorexia but the effect that had on my life has not been quite as long-lasting and dramatic as the toll OCD has taken. Nevertheless, I always find solace and comfort in reading your blog. It is helpful to see that others regard their disorder much in the way that I do, even if it is not OCD. Here I find patterns of thinking that I can relate to, patterns that I see less often amongst those with OCD. It's nice to know that I'm not alone.

Anonymous said...

this is just on point enough that i don't feel i can post with my name this time. i'm essentially refeeding which is hard enough but has been compounded by metabolism picking up, etc, etc, etc. i don't need to detail because we all know what THAT means. higher intake.
and i just lost a friend two weeks ago so what can be a normal side effect for others in grief (lower appetite) just isn't allowable. i know in my heart that recovery is the only way. i also know sometimes it just blows.
my anxiety levels decrease with the AN. it's a side effect along with a bunch of others. just know you aren't alone AT ALL. so many of us understand and support you even as we traverse this way ourselves.
every step forward is a lesson learned. just because we slip doesn't mean we start over, ever.
thinking of you with care.

Anonymous said...

I really wanted to pass on a inspirational award to you!

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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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