Real-life Fail Whale

I posted a few weeks ago that my weight had dropped a bit since my move, and although I've managed to stop the slide, I haven't been able to put any of the weight back on.  I got the smack down from my treatment team this week, and so I've been pushing the food over the past few days.  I can feel my body kicking into hypermetabolism (hot flashes, etc), but I also feel like Twitter's infamous "fail whale":

Yeah, that big.

I know the chances I've gained more than a pound or two in the past few days is probably miniscule.  So I can't really been significantly larger than I was a few days ago and feeling (relatively) normal.  But there you have it.

EDs aren't rational, and I suppose there's no point in trying to rationalize any of it.  I know the feeling will eventually pass, and I also know why I hate the weight gain process so damn much.  It's mentally and physically uncomfortable.  I'm functional, unlike other times I've had to gain weight, although I have significantly less weight to gain than before, which helps.

I know I shouldn't waste time kicking myself and thusly bruising my ass.  I had been doing a good job juggling many aspects of recovery, but keeping all of the recovery "balls" in the air was beyond my capability at the time.  Dr. H suggested that I come up with not only a food and exercise plan to keep me in recovery, but also to come up with a social plan.  When I'm more stable, I want to volunteer at a cat rescue or something.  I have a weekly crochet group and a monthly book club, which is good.  I also need lots of "me" time, so it's hard to balance both needs.

I know the fail whale feeling will pass, and that I will get back on my feet.  But in the meantime, it seriously sucks.


Anonymous said...

i, too, hate this. one would think i would be averse enough to this to NEVER go down the road at all, but like you say, it's not logical. between the feelings of corpulence and depression i don't even want to think about socializing.

i need an injection of hope. :(
sry for the moan.

hm said...

I would like to hear more about how you know that this feeling will pass. I don't think I've ever been at a "normal" weight. As the pounds began to show up, I panicked more... and more... and MORE... until I just crashed. It didn't get any better- it just kept getting worse.

Will you please tell me more about how it gets better?

Is there some scientific/chemical change that happens? Can you offer some proof or at least some reassurance that those horrible feelings during weight gain do indeed pass and subside?

I'd like to try again, but the panic I had kept climbing until I was all but dysfunctional from it. I finally stopped "recovering" so that I could do my laundry, play with my kids, GET THINGS DONE again instead of sitting around all day fighting off the panic attacks.

I know it's a catch 22 b/c I'm trading playtime w/my kids and clean laundry for less time here on earth with them. I want to live, and I want to live a long time- but I can't take on "recovery" if it means I will be debilitated for the rest of my life b/c of panic. What to choose- healthy body and longer life under the burden of constant panic attacks, or ed body and shorter life but functional?

Any advice or assurance anyone can offer? I am truly at a loss as to what to do next. My RD told me that constant panic attacks can strain the heart and body too, and that also can shorten life. So what hope is there?

Unless you know that the panic stuff will pass- unless someone can tell me that if I just keep recovering, eventually I WILL feel better. 7 months of recovery and weight gain... 1 month of crashing back almost to where I started in an effort to regain my sanity and stop the panic that just wouldn't quit.

Anonymous said...

why must it be black or white? gosh already...everyone who ever tried to recover has relapsed. I suppose the difference is that you are doing a very private thing in a public venue.

If I had to report my "slips and slides" to everyone it would be hard. I beg of you to rename it. The slide was always a fun piece of playground equipment as a kid. Sometimes you'd land on your feet and move on to something else or you'd do it again until you got tired of it. There were even times when you landed on your bum. You might cry, but ultimately you brushed the dirt off and got up. Whether on your own power or because someone helped you, you got up.

As adults we make things too difficult for ourselves. Before you choose to climb the ladder leading to the slide again thinking how much fun it will be, remember how bad it will be to fall on your bum. So don't do it.

As a kid, you learned how to keep yourself safe. Don't forget the simple lessons.

JenP said...

Hm: I can assure you that it does happen. I honestly never believed that the body image stuff would go away, that once I reached some mythical point that I'd stop worrying. But honestly, it happened. When I reached...well honestly it was the exact weight my team had originally recommended for me...a certain weight, then the thoughts did start lessening, then they went away. I still have body image issues every once in a while, but I PROMISE YOU, that it happens. It really did. Once my body hit a certain point and stabilized, everything just seemed a bit easier, both mentally and physically. I was a bit bigger, but it didn't seem as big of a deal. It really felt like something in my brain lessened, then shut off. It will get better.

Cammy said...

Sending a big load of commiseration and support your way. Hang in there, remember the only way out is THROUGH, and it will take a while for your body to feel like your own, but it will happen and it's worth waiting for. Keep on swimming, I know it's a tough stage but you deserve what lies beyond it.

Jessi said...

oh i feel the same. i also feel like i have doubled in size since yesterday which is ridiculously irrational.

Remember the old saying "two steps forward, one step backward" ... it is all part of the journey, so they tell me!

hope you are feeling better soon. :)

Cathy (UK) said...

Like you, Carrie, I also need lots of 'me time'. I love seeing my friends but I am glad to retreat to my 'shell' (house) afterwards. I've always been that way and I doubt it will change. I just find socialising exhausting after a while, and I enjoy 'doing my own thing'. Maybe some people think I am a bit odd, but I don't get bored and I think it must be far worse to be someone who needs constant, real-time interaction with others and dreads being alone.

I hope the new plan works... I know how hard I find it to re-gain weight if I accidentally lose it. Fortunately I don't have body image issues, which must make weight gain doubly difficult.

CAB said...

I find it really easy to get stuck in a weight range after a slip-up. I'll try to negotiate with my treatment team but they're too smart for that. Getting back to my target range is torturous but if I'm anywhere below that range, my ED crazy brain/anxiety is rampant. Do you find this to be true?

Rachel said...

Hi Carrie,

I am your whale buddy! I also had a slip this spring (which my Anorexia Brain LOVED, and then promptly converted into self-hating obsessive fuel) but as my regular eating has resumed, I'm now freaking out at what feels/looks/seems like overwhelming blubber. Oh the doom of being a whale when everyone I know or see seems to be a goldfish. Despite being a (grumpy) whale, though, I am eating--albeit often numbly, resentfully, ashamedly, or even, at times, compulsively. My efforts are now to step away from the reflexive turn to shame; to see where that's coming from and if there are actually other feelings that it is possible to experience as a whale. It's astonishing to realize one can just be a whale, without it being a big deal. That being a whale is actually pretty awesome. I have flashes of that. It's nice to realize that whales don't have to run for hours to 'justify' eating.

I have to remind myself: Emotions are on their own schedule. My part is just to do the things that will keep my healthy until the day comes when those emotions have worked themselves out. So: Make myself go to bed before midnight. Okay, 1 a.m. Take my medication every day at the same time. Eat a breakfast that I like and that will sustain me. Listen to an awesome song if I'm feeling like a spotty or pregnant whale, because a kitchen dance party will have me feeling better in 4 minutes flat. Don't get trapped in trying on clothes or obsessively cleaning my apartment--just get my ass out the door into the Real World, where people come in all shapes and sizes and don't give a damn what you wear. Pack more food than I think I need for the day. Detach from the voice that says I should have read 150 pages, not 50 pages or 5 pages in the last three hours. Watch a show on Netflix that has a great script, humour, and hot men, hopefully all 3. (I'm currently obsessed with the UK show Spooks, which I think is called MI5 in the States.) Don't skip meals or snacks or I will find myself having a meltdown on the sidewalk. Hang out with friends who look in my eyes and think I'm great. Don't think I'm special for having an ED past--remember I have way better stories to tell than that. When in despair, go to bed. Tomorrow is another day.

In the event that you do not feel a sense of magnificent pride and joy at the huge steps you have taken this year--i.e. move, book deal, boy (? :P) which I have vicariously relished as a silent lurker on your blog, I will take it upon myself to be hugely proud of you. Not for accomplishments, success, publication, all that perfectionist stuff we academics sometimes live for--but for having cracks and letting them show, for connecting with other human beings, for telling all of us that suffering doesn't have to define you, for doing that human thing of wrestling against bodily existence so bravely and poetically. For being someone I truly hope to meet someday In Real Life! In the meantime, I'll be your whale buddy.

Anyhow, whales are beautiful. Eels? Meh.

Kelly said...

Hm: I promise it gets better. I didn't used to believe people when they said that, but it's true. I used to have debilitating body image problems and a severe eating disorder. . . the recovery period was rough and had its ups and downs, but my body image is almost entirely normal now, and my eating, while not completely normal, is very stable.

It is possible, I promise you. For me, the main factors were medication (Lamictal and Prozac are my LIFESAVERS) and time.

A:) said...

Can I just say that the last 10lbs (well 8lbs) are really fucking difficult and I definately feel like a fucking cow?

I can 100% relate. My question is how the hell do you KNOW the feeling is going to pass and that it is not reality? Especially when clothes feel tighter, things feel different. I HATE fucking recovery. And I HATE that it is necessary. And I HATE that going back is not an option unless I want to lose a lot of the progress I have made.

Anonymous said...

I like the fact that there are a few supporting birds carrying this whale in this picture, presumably until the whale can swim on her own again. Everyone needs a few supportive birds in her life.

Not to mention that if just a few small birds can carry a whale it must not be very whale-like.

Anonymous said...

LOVE the comment by anonymous above.
have received a few reality checks today as well.

Anonymous said...

I struggled with the whole weight loss/weight gain hyper-metabolic struggle in the early years of my recovery - though at the time I remember thinking that I've been at this for "so long" why can't I just stay on track - though now 11 years into it, now in what I like to call "advanced stages of recovery" (not quite fully recovered - but I'll get there) - I can assure you that its worth it and it gets better. You need to trust your treatment team, trust your body and be proud of yourself. Its ok to kick and scream and to have "bad body image" days - but the more you stick with it, the less intense those moments will be and one day, I promise - you will catch yourself with a stable body image moment, or actually with good body image - and though in my experience, it is frustrating when the good body image shifts back into bad body image - with no shift in weight - it is helpful to realize just that - intense body image feelings, isn't really about your body - though your eating disorder loves to convince you otherwise.

Angela Elain Gambrel said...

I definitely understand. I'm under a lot of stress and I am fighting the urges to restrict. I know you will get back on track and you definitely are not a "fail whale." I will be praying for you.


Anonymous said...

I'm not on weight gain, but I do have the "fail whale" feelings. This weekend in fact, which put me thisclose into relapse mode. Congrats on sticking with it and sitting through the feelings.

Charlotte UK said...

This may sound weird but is there any way you could reframe the "whale" feeling? It is extreme anxiety of such severity that it is difficult for the brain to translate it into meaningful words so it tells you that you are fat, or don't deserve food or the myriad of other spiteful taunts that ed uses.

My heart goes out to all of you who are struggling. It does get better. There is life after ed.


Carrie Arnold said...

Anon at the very end,

Nobel Prize on the reframe there. I love it!


I do think that my anxiety and body dysmorphia are related. But they're not exactly the same.

I've always thought I was huge. It gets worse when I get more anxious, yes, and I do tend to fixate on specific body parts a lot more. But I often "feel fat" (like physically larger than I am, it's not an emotional state) even when I'm not anxious.

I agree whole heartedly that sometimes I get overwhelmed and "feel fat" where "fat" is the closest thing I can identify to an emotion. And not that this wasn't going on, but there's also a physical layer to it.

I think this deserves its own blog post, actually. I already have one for today, but I will do it tomorrow.

hm said...

JenP and Kelly: Thank you both for responding to my questions. I also remember reading posts previously on this blog re: needing to be above min. BMI to achieve that state of less anxiety. Perhaps I'm just not there yet. The hard part is not having a "before the ed" time in my life to reflect on and know who I might be or what might life be like w/out it... and trying to trust others that recovery WILL make things better, EVENTUALLY- when for me, it seems to only be making things worse.

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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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