anxiety and my eating disorder

Again I scrutinize the mirror, willing it to answer.

My reflection stares back, frustrated and expectant.

Do I even know the question anymore?

I don’t like talking about my eating disorder. Or perhaps, let’s personify “my eating disorder does not like being talked about.” I am not one of the teenagers who had a bout of anorexia, went to treatment and was able to move on. Atypical anorexia has burdened me for over half my life. I don’t think it is cured for all of us. Rather, in some, it becomes an illness like substance abuse that one must work at to avoid relapse.

This is where I find myself. The question used to be “am I fat?” or some variation of that, but aging and some measure of recovery and wisdom now points to the question being something more ambiguous like “am I good enough?” which will never be answered in a mirror nor will be changed by any measure of activity, body weight, or food intake.

I’ve never known good enough, but that’s beside the point. The point is my anxiety wants me to believe that if I just [insert eating disorder behavior here] I will be good enough [not fat]. When I successfully laugh at my eating disorder’s irrational process I am still left with tummy-swirling, chest stomping anxiety. 11 years of therapy, a few medications, various self help tricks, advice, and the single most helpful technique aside from exercise (which can bring with it potential problems particularly if you’re in recovery from an eating disorder.. moderation) is distress tolerance.

Sitting with the distress. Tolerating the feelings and knowing they will in fact pass. It’s terrible, I know. I wish I had a cooler answer. There are lots of techniques to tolerate the distress and YMMV on which one(s) work the best for you, so try many, but yep, good job Marsha Linehan.

Get Out of Your Own Way

I wish I could say I have writer’s block. It wouldn’t be a total lie. However, perhaps conversely to much of the internet I don’t feel anonymous behind the keyboard. Rather, I feel exposed and vulnerable. I like to hide from things that are hard and scary. So I avoid writing.

The other day in group we were talking about long term goals. Mine was writing my memoir. Inwardly, I grimaced at myself How’s that going for you? Cue negative self talk. I can’t even maintain my blog.

I’m in my own way because my fear literally clouds my brain. We cannot access our prefrontal cortex (where all the high end human function happens) when we are stuck in fight or flight mode which is the instinctive lower end reptilian part of the brain. I’m effectively shut off to what makes me smart and creative when my anxiety is so high.

Though I do get in my own way, perhaps it is a good time for me to take a lesson from things I say to my clients and people I care for and that is “give yourself a little grace.” I’ve just come from 4 months of intensive therapy. No one would say the last year and a half hasn’t been hard, to say the least – even without knowing any of my personal details.

I’m looking forward to rolling out some more amateur poetry and other ramblings and meanderings.

I Stopped Writing

I’ve done myself – and perhaps you – a disservice and I’m sorry.

I stopped writing. A quick jaunt through my previous posts and I smiled – I’m proud of the work I did; why did I stop?

Fear.

Right.

The truth is I did lose my mind a little. And as evidenced by literature, referrals I’m seeing in my inbox, the news, and my colleague burnout, I’m not the only one. Mine might have been a bit more intense than some, perhaps less than others. I needed care away from home to support me and that’s tough to acknowledge when you’re the professional.

I packed my bags, kissed my loved ones, and boarded that plane. Then I had to remember how to be the one cared for. The one encouraged to take up space in a group and not facilitate everyone else’s healing. The one trying a med change after 11 years because it was a safe setting to do so.

Being the patient. Being not in control of anything. And being ok with that.

Dullish

I used that word in an earlier post and it aptly describes how I feel during the colder months. The blues come and go but the sense of blah typically offers its 6 month lease starting in October.

And then it’s fine. Just fine. I gaze back toward the summer and my heart yearns for the virtually limitless creativity emanating from my soul, when my mind was so sharp and clever. Now I feel rather like an object, collecting dust. I mean biology and all that. ‘Sposed to be hunkering down for the cold right?

It’s 2021. When does biology catch up with technology?

Ramblings of Woe

I think I’ve had a reasonable head through the pandemic. I’m mindful, socially distanced, and I keep an eye on the news. I remember when the pandemic first started and everyone around me was freaking out and all I could think is the panic you people are experiencing right now is how I live my everyday life – thank you anxiety disorder.

So I managed to never get too terribly anxious about the illness itself. But the changes I saw in people broke my heart. Over the summer I found myself wishing for the rapture – I saw no hope in society and wondered why the hell we were still on earth.

Eventually that did pass but winter arrived and the warm sun faded into the chilly air and my senses returned to a dullish state and dysthymia crept in, as it always does. Yet I trudged on.

I realized yesterday I had been carrying some kind of hope that January 1st would wave its magic wand and the pandemic would be but a memory. As the evening wore on, my childlike hope faded and today I’m full on Eeyore. I have clients who have lost loved ones recently to COVID. My heart cries when I see the death numbers tick.

Remember in the beginning when we were all there for each other? When people were donating salaries? When it was the world fighting together to stop COVID? People are still dying but now we’re fighting each other. I fear for the early months of 2021 as my country transitions presidential administrations when so much is already bubbling.

The pandemic is a trauma. We are going through a collective traumatic experience to varying degrees. Take care of each other.

I’m not watching the ball tonight

I am very tired and I have a few clients tomorrow.

But that’s not why

It is the anniversary of my dads suicide.

But that’s not why.

2020 has changed all our winter holidays

But even that’s not why.

There is no closure tonight. People are still dying. America is still divided. This nightmare is not yet over.

Rather morose, I know. But I just don’t feel like celebrating. I’m not without hope; I am guarded as to what could be next.

Have You Forgotten Me?

No I have not forgotten. To the contrary, I’ve been actively avoiding writing.

Why?

Oh, you know. I just haven’t really had much to say—

That’s a lie.

Well, I’ve been quite busy with—

Stretching it…

Truly I’m not all that interesting, I was just—

Scared.

Yes.

And wasn’t transparency the purpose of this blog?

Yes.

What’s wrong with your humanness?

Nothing.

Speak truth.

I felt mundane. The creativity slowed. I got busy with boring.

Why are you here now?

Because I said I wouldn’t stop dancing.

He Would be 62 Today

With the exception of this blog, I have not mentioned my dad today. Which is unusual because today is his birthday. I always post a memory on Facebook about it but I avoid FB like the plague these days so I didn’t bother. Which means I also didn’t get the few supportive words I get from those anniversary posts. I had therapy today and didn’t bring him up. I chatted with my mom this morning and I did not mention him.

Recently I was confronted with a situation in my neighborhood that called up the painful memories of his life. He was a troubled man and his alcoholism and mood disorder often resulted in physical violence, of which I don’t cognitively remember but somatic memories still trigger trauma response and it’s been a trying few weeks.

So maybe I’m mad at him today. I was never mad that he died by suicide. But I was mad about his addiction. And I am mad today about his addiction, despite intimate personal awareness of living in addiction. I am mad that he never experienced sobriety and stability. That he didn’t “try harder.” I say this knowing the disease process of addiction, knowing what my family has seen me go through, knowing intimately the pain of mental illness and hopelessness. Both things are true. He was sick and fought a hard battle. He was also my dad who was forever inappropriate and unpredictable.

But I knew he loved me. I knew so young that he was limited in his access to expression of love. I “knew” that dads are absent and that any expression of love was always ready to be whisked away on the breeze. Thus I knew better than to place faith in the availability of that love. It was like the sunshine – warm when visible but cold when not. But I always knew that at some point, whenever I was in his presence, I felt loved.

So I think I’m mad because it’s hard to remember what feeling loved by my daddy is like.