The Letdown Effect

I turned in my book manuscript draft in mid-February. Then I went on vacation. Last week, I came back and faced down a migraine. The last week has been harder than I thought it would be. My therapist mentioned that this might be the case, especially since I have a history of what I like to call post-adrenaline depression.

I hated final exams at school. I was a stressed-out basketcase. I rarely slept, couldn't eat all that well from anxiety (even before the love of snacking on pretzels helped stem the weight loss), was usually sick with a cold, and was irritable, moody, and generally not fun to be around. But my need to keep myself together in order to take the exams usually kept things from getting ridiculously out of hand. My myopia saved me, in a sense. After the exams were done, despite being uber-glad that they were over and I could read for fun! and sleep! and drink something that wasn't espresso! I almost always plunged into a depression afterwards. Maybe depression wasn't the right word. It was more like a serious funk--my mood dropped, I was apathetic and unmotivated, and, horror of horrors, bored out of my mind.

The last week has pretty much been a repeat of that. Not quite as serious because bills need to be paid no matter how much I (don't) want to work, and I got a couple of extra projects from one of my freelance places, which also helps. Productivity is my antidote to despair.

Along with this funk came a bit of decline in my eating. It was thrown off first by the end of the book-writing period in which things just got chaotic. Not restrictive per se, but I didn't have the time, energy, and brainpower to take the time I normally would in planning and preparing meals and snacks. I did really well during my vacation, eating responsibly and mostly not too little or too much. Then the migraine hit and I didn't eat nearly what I needed to for that day. I didn't do quite as bad as I initially feared when I tallied everything for the day, but there was a definite drop. The next day, I did eat what I needed but felt terribly guilty. And so the passive restricting began, followed by the active restricting.

It wasn't super severe, especially in comparison with some of the crazy stunts I've pulled in the past. My weight didn't massively go down. Mentally, though, I was having a rough time yesterday. Depressed, cold, apathetic and terrified of everything. Which is kind of what snapped me into action. I texted my therapist and we worked out a safety plan and I'm trying to get back on track. I did a full day of meals today and most of the day yesterday. I was horribly anxious this morning, but I'm pushing through it and it's lifting, mostly.

I have a busy rest of the week planned, which will help, since business helps make the ED stuff more obvious (I don't have the brainspace or time to obsess or engage in behaviors). It also gives me something to think about besides calories and existential anxiety.

So...that's where I am. Regrouping and pressing on.


hm said...

There is the let-down that comes from finishing up something big or difficult- and also a let-down from any kind of praise/success. At least for me. Almost like my brain says, don't feel proud, and then tries to knock me down a notch by telling me I suck and then I have to not eat to prove I'm not selfish. Really, life would be so much easier if it was the same day in and day out... although that would be boring, too.

Anyway, it sounds as if you are making your recovery a priority- and like you recognized your warning signs for relapse. Nice catch. :)

Angela said...

I'm glad that you could see that you were not heading into a good place. I find it so weird that when I go into severe restriction mode, my body, and the symptoms from not eating make me feel like such shit. When I was really ill, I pushed through all of those symptoms and could ignore them. Now, not so much. It is good that you recognized that you felt awful so that you were motivated to reach out for help. Way to go!!!

this_is_kmb said...

You've got this.

The Dandelion Girl said...

This probably doesn't help, but we were just talking about this in my trauma studies course. How in times of great stress (as I am sure the past week must have been) we usually are able to go go go... and then immediately after part of that stress has been lifted and we're able to relax, everything catches up with us... it's why a lot of people get sick when they come home on breaks from college (those breaks are usually after exams) and why people get sick at Christmas a lot (the stress of the holidays).

I guess I say this to tell you that you're not alone... and also... please, be gentle with yourself?

Anonymous said...

Seems like a few of us are having this problem right now :(

Reduced eating because of illness often leads to a triggering of more severe and rigid restricting in me too. The biggest triggers for my rigid restricting are anxiety and low mood.

Hope you feel better soon! xx

Abby said...

First of all, as we've all noted before, the huge thing is that you notice these symptoms and take positive actions to counter the negative urges instead of using them to cope. That's huge.

Second, yes to everything you and the commenters have said. I swear I'm not link-dropping, but after my book came out and the hype died down, I went through a huge "What's the point? What's next?" phase that I'm still kind of in right now. When I'm busy and anticipating the positive feeling of accomplishment, I'm relatively stable. But as soon as that fades, I end up turning to exercise and mini-restriction to fill that void of "accomplishment," as sick as that is. Mentally and physically I'm drained, but my head just wants to push on.

At any rate, I relate and am using your actions as motivation to keep pushing through myself. Big props, my friend.

Angela Elain Gambrel said...

I'm glad you were able to see that this wasn't healthy and are taking a proactive approach to your recovery. I often struggle with eating and feelings after a big accomplishment, a stressful event, etc. But the good thing is both of us now recognize the symptoms and act quickly to keep ourselves healthy.


Anonymous said...

u are having a beta-endorphin (natural emotional & physcial painkiler) spike & crash & then trying to raise your BE by restricting - it is an interesting & deadly
neurotransmitter..... EL

C-Girl said...

One thing I have found is when I get tired after a stressful week, event, day, project, ANYTHING… and I even show the slightest act of restricting, I begin to tinker with that "power" I once felt when restricting and it becomes SO EASY to try to get my energy through "what I know"… which is incredibly ironic seeing as how less food = less energy… However, since that pattern is so engrained in my system and I did a great job of fooling myself into thinking it DID solve things, it's so easy to fall back into that same trap. As I am SURE you know.

The sunny side is. You realized it. And you didn't fall all the way in. You may need a little ladder or a big push to help get you back up… but you know that you need out and as they say, "where there is a will there is a way". Whatever you need to give you the push, I believe it is there. Keep looking up, your body will follow, I believe it! :)

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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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