Seven hours in the life of an eating disorder mind

I talk about self-love a lot.

I write about it a lot.

I instagram about it a lot.

It’s kind of become who I am in my new recovery world..

I’ve been in recovery from my eating disorder for two years now. Naturally, I’m expected to love myself all the time, right? Naturally, I’m expected to not have any more eating disorder thoughts or negative self-talk, right?

No. Wrong and wrong again.

Maybe in our eating disorder minds that are wired for perfection, those things would be true. But in the mind of  a person in recovery, like me, where perfection no longer is an option to strive for, those things cannot be true.

So, let me walk you through just a portion of my day today as someone two years in recovery.

This is hard for me to share and hard for me to write, especially since I just launched my nonprofit organization dedicated to helping those like us who battle eating disorders.

But the truth is, no matter how much recovery we have on our side, we will forever battle and forever fight–and that’s a message that needs to be shared and told with everyone who reads this blog.

It’s important to me that other fighters who might be experiencing the same thing, whether your in recovery or not, know that it’s ok to have hard days. Or hard weeks. Or hard months. Or hard hours.

It’s all ok.

So, let’s start with my day today. Keep in mind that these thoughts are a product of about a week now of struggling with my own body image and self love.

I kept track on my phone of all the thoughts in my head as I went through the day.

I didn’t plan on writing a blog post about it. After seeing a Dove campaign that did something similar, I wanted to do it for myself so I could see the reality of how mean I am to myself in hopes that reading those thoughts out loud to myself later will help me stop.

But then I realized this is something that needs to be shared to show people they are not alone.

5 am: I get up to go to the gym.

“Oh my God, these pants are so much tighter than they were two weeks ago. Really, if my gym pants are getting tighter, what more proof do I need that I am just totally out of control and gaining way too much weight?”.

530 am: Arrive to gym. Look in the mirror when I am working out.

“Wow. Just wow. This is terrible. I wonder if the other people here notice how much bigger I look? But that’s ok. That’s why I am here right? To work on my body. Right. Ok. I am doing a good thing.”

630 am: Get home and shower. Look in the mirror again before going into the shower.

“I have no more waist. Wow. It’s totally gone. Totally gone. And so many love handles. So many. What is happening to me. I always said I would never become this person.”

7 am: Get out of shower and get dressed.

“These pants are so much tighter on me now than they were when I tried them on 6 months ago. I thought I was big then…I wish I knew what I would look like now. I wish I looked now what I looked like then. There is literally no space anywhere on these pants.”

8 am: Get to work.

I talk with my co-worker about how my pants are too tight and how I wish I could learn the balance from “loving myself too much which allows me to eat whatever I want and between having self control and not loving myself too much.” Seriously, I actually said that.

9 am: I am really tired already and want a coffee from Starbucks.

I look up the nutritional facts on every Starbucks skinny drink on their website. I already know them by heart from years and years of looking at them over and over, but why not look again, right?

Then, I calculated my calorie total so far in the day and what it would be with my Starbucks drink and without it. I did that 8 times. Over and over.

When I didn’t like that number, I calculated the food I would need to eat to reach a number of calories I was ok with. I did it so many times I lost track of my totals so I had to do it 4 times.

Reminder: I am at work right now. I should have been working. But instead, I was consumed with ED.

930 am: Go to Starbucks.

Get the drink. A skinny tall one. I feel better it’s a tiny one.

10 am: Get back to the office and have to pee.

Walk into the bathroom at work, where anyone can walk in, and lift my shirt up so I can see my tummy.

“It’s just hanging out everywhere. I just can’t believe it.”

Zipping up pants after I pee and remind myself of how tight they are. Again.

1030 am: We have donuts and muffins in the office.

Of course I want some, but I told myself I wouldn’t. No more office food,  I told myself a million times this week.

But ok, someone brought it for us and I don’t want to be rude so I have a tiny piece.

“Good job Shira. You didn’t even need that piece, but good job on not eating the whole thing.”

12 pm: Which is now as I write this so I have updated you on my entire day so far.

I’m sure you are exhausted by this point in reading.

Because I am exhausted from living it all morning long and for the past week.

It’s exhausting to live it, breathe it, and to write about it.

It’s exhausting to fight it. And that’s what this blog post is : it’s fighting back.

It’s exposing my most inner darkest most negative thoughts about myself so they are no longer in the power of my eating disorder. Once people know about it, ED loses a lot of power. Not all of it, but a lot.

We are only as sick as our deepest secrets.

And for the past week, this negative self talk has been my secret, and even darker of a secret has been acting as if I am ok and letting others who maybe follow this blog not know the true reality of what is really going on.

Everyone fighting this battle together deserves to know we are not alone.

I don’t really have a cookie cutter solution to my negative self talk other than what I am doing right now. Exposing it, acknowledging its there and facing it head on.

What I will do and can do is think about what I am feeling. And fat is not a feeling, although ED wants me to think it is, it’s not. Factually in the dictionary, it’s not.

What am I feeling when I really look into it: defeated and sad and mad at myself.

How will I fix it: Do actions that illicit the opposite feelings.

Opposite of defeated is victorious. What would make feel victorious? Finishing my news story today. I will make sure I do that.

Opposite of sad is happy. What would make me feel happy? Making someone else smile. And I have done that already but I will do it again.

Opposite of mad at yourself is to feel compassion towards yourself. How can I be compassionate towards myself? By leaving these negative thoughts right here on this page. They die here.

On a positive note, this exhausting eating disorder mind and day is the life I lived for years before I started recovery. Every single day, every single minute.

And while I am feeling a little defeated right now that I am back in that temporarily, the good news is that it’s only been for about a week, and not even all day, every day-just a few hours of each day.

It hasn’t been years.

It hasn’t been birthdays over and over.

It hasn’t been sleepless nights.

It’s only been a few days. A few days that I can pick myself up and move on. And for that, I am grateful.

Hello life.

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Figuring Out My New Life

Happy almost Friday everyone,

Since I last wrote, I have officially moved to Washington (the state, not D.C.), got my own apartment and started my new job as a reporter for the main newspaper where I’m living.

When I used to talk about living in the gray, I had no idea just what that totally meant, and I still don’t think I know what it totally means, but I think I have a better idea of it now.

When I first started recovery, living in the gray meant not weighing myself and not knowing that number.

Then it meant letting go of my standards of self perfection.

Some days it meant going with the flow when my plans fell through.

Today, living in the gray means accepting that I would rather sleep an extra two hours than go to the gym before work.

Today, living in the gray means not knowing how I will meet all new friends and people, but that I will.

Today, living in the gray means not being able to try on all the old Ed clothes I gave away before I moved.

For now, the gray means this and only this: I am figuring things out.

And maybe it’s always been that simple all along.

One of the biggest changes that I’ve had in recovery since I’ve moved to Washington is that I no longer have a mirror in my room.

I actually only have one full length mirror now and it’s in my bathroom.

Not only is it in my bathroom, but it’s hanging on the inside of the cleaning supplies closet door in the bathroom; basically,  it’s as inaccessible as a mirror can be.

This means that I no longer wake up and do body checks in my bedroom.

I know that if I wanted to, I could stroll myself up to the bathroom, open the closet and lift up my shirt and do a check, but 9 days out of 10, that walk just feels defeating, like I am letting Ed start my day for me.

The three times that I have made that morning walk to that mirror and did my body check, I never once felt better. I didn’t feel relieved, I didn’t feel sad and I didn’t feel happy.

I felt empty. It didn’t bring me anything. It didn’t get me a cover story. It didn’t get me new friends.

My jeans still don’t button how they used to and I am still not comfortable in my skin how I would like to be, but that mirror is not going to bring me any of that.

On the days that I fight the urge to make that morning walk to my mirror, and on every single day since I’ve been here (with the exception of two days) that I didn’t go to the gym because I wanted to sleep more, I thought to myself, “good job Shira. You love you baby, love you.”

Yes, I really do talk to myself like that.

I love myself when I make sure I come home for lunch every day.

I love myself when I eat a snack every day.

And I surely loved myself when I left my very first city council meeting mid–way to go eat dinner and come right back.

Some nights, I  love myself so much I even have two desserts after dinner.

Tomorrow there is  a BBQ at my work and a going away party with cake, and I guess I’ll love myself through that too.

But above all, on my hardest days here, it is my family, friends and fellow fighters who have lifted me up.

I don’t care how much success I have in Washington and I don’t care if they make me a world known writer-I moved here never forgetting where I came from.

And I will never forget that.

I came from the fighter who started this blog.

I am still her and I will never let her out of my sight.

tattoo

For all of us fighters…Hello Life.

Day 360: A Journey Coming Full Circle

Happy Friday Eve everyone,

It is a little bit crazy and bitter sweet to think that this is our last official Friday Eve post together.

With that being said, today’s post is probably one of the most meaningful ones I have ever written.

When I was locked in my eating disorder, every Thursday night I would go to dinner with my grandma. (This was before I live with her like I now do.)

Thursday nights were our night to be together.

And every Thursday, we would go to the very same restaurant where I would get the very same salad of lettuce, carrots and cucumbers, and no dressing. It was crucial that Thursdays were Ed’s days because Friday’s were a major judgement day for my weigh ins.

On day 18 of this blog, I wrote about how on the night before that day, the second Thursday of this one year journey, I decided to take my Thursday night’s back from Ed.

That day, day 17 of this journey, I told my grandma that we could go to a new restaurant for our Thursday night dinner. We went to a fish house that she liked, that I liked and that my cousin liked who was going with us that night.

I remember writing that post like I wrote it yesterday because I remember sitting on my bed crying tears of victory and joy as I wrote it.

I felt like I could fly. It’s similar to how I am feeling right now too.

Tonight, the very last Thursday of this one year journey, my grandma had planned to go to dinner with my aunt, uncle, cousins and us to that very same fish restaurant.

When she asked me if I wanted to go, I almost couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even realize the irony in the entire thing until a few hours later.

I could have not gone tonight. I was tutoring late and I could have said no and everyone would have understood.

But for some reason, eating at home tonight alone with Ed, even though it would be a more comfortable meal for me, especially on a day that I only worked out for about 15 minutes, just didn’t seem as appealing to me as it once was.

What once would seem like a perfect night for me at home alone with me and my Ed food, no longer seemed like a fun night tonight.

So I cut my tutoring ten minutes short so I could make it to this dinner on time.

I was starving when I got there. I don’t know why, but it was just one of those days where you just have to listen to your body–even if it’s hungry all the time.

Luckily for me, the waiter brought out a fresh loaf of bread and butter right as I sat down, and he even messed up my order.

The two side orders I got were wrong. So instead, I got the two wrong side orders and the two right ones a few minutes later.

And I enjoyed all four of them, including my main meal and my bread and butter.

I even got a ketchup stain on my jacket. A ketchup stain, guys—ketchup was something I didn’t eat for years when I was locked in Ed,and now it has stained my jacket.

If it doesn’t come out, I will proudly wear that jacket anyway because of what it symbolizes.

I remember sitting at the table tonight, feeling nice and full, and thinking to myself how this journey has truly come full circle.

343 days ago I sat at that restaurant with the same people, and I remember the one bite of bread that I had. I even remember the butter I put on it.

It was unlike anything I ever remember tasting.

And now, I sat there tonight, choosing to be present and choosing to honor my family, but this time around, 343 days later, I was so much more free than I was the last time.

In that post on day 18 , which I titled “A Victorious Thursday,” I wrote, “Eating at a new restaurant may sound silly to some people, but for me, it was symbolic of telling Ed that he will no longer get in the way of my relationships with those who I love and care about in my life.”

Here I am on day 360, and I whole heartedly can say, that I’ve proved that line to be true.

From my second Thursday of this one year journey starting at this restaurant with me trying a bite of bread, to my very last Thursday of this journey ending at this restaurant with a ketchup stain on my jacket and a few pieces of bread and my four sides later, I can truly say that this journey has come full circle.

I called it from Day 18 ,Ed–you won’t get in the way of  my life anymore.

I was right.

Hello life.

Day 357: Closer Than I Was Yesterday

Hi everyone,

I was sitting in E’s office today (E is my therapist) and I was telling her how I felt so chubby today and not good in my body.

I was expecting her to say something like “let’s find out why you are feeling this way,” or something like that, but that’s not what she said.

She just answered one simple statement: “why do you have to be chubby? why do you to look a certain way in your body?”

I didn’t get it at first.

“Um…what do you mean? If I’m not chubby than what am I,” I asked her.

It was a serious question.

“Your Shira. Why can’t you just be Shira?”, she said.

I didn’t know how to answer. I think it was one of the first moments in therapy all year that I actually  had nothing to say for a split second.

Why did I have to define myself as chubby today? Why do I have to define myself by my body checks every single morning?

They are good questions that I don’t totally have the answers to yet.

Why do I think that being Shira means having to tag on a label about my body to that, like chubby or skinny or whatever other word that can be used to describe someones physical being?

I’ve spent pretty much my entire life since I was 8 years old calling myself these labels.

In some parts of my life I labeled myself fat, in other parts I labeled myself chubby, and in other times I labeled myself skinny. Regardless of what time period I was going through, I always used one of those words as my label.

And of course, I used my weight as a label  too.

I still remember how much I weighed the day my grandfather passed away-becasue it wasn’t a good number but I “allowed” myself the extra room because I was so sad, I told myself I could give myself a break.

These numbers and labels have been such a huge part of how I’ve  defined myself for so much of my life, it was honestly mind altering when E asked me why I even had to be any of those things.

Almost one year into being scale free, and I never thought about that.

Who would Shira be, without her being attached to a chubby or to a skinny or to a “I’m sore” today?

It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to think about.

I know who I am without my number on my scale for almost a year now; that I know because I’ve been learning that through this year. And I love who I am becoming without that number to define me.

I love the writer in me.

I love the reporter in me.

I love the sister in me.

I love the friend in me.

I love the fighter in me.

But numbers and labels are two different things. A number is  fact, a label is a feeling.

But just Shira. Plain and simple, no extra labels-that’s totally different.

I guess what I walked away with today, because it was a day of much self doubt, also in other areas of my life, is that when this blog is over 8 days from now, I am not going to have all of the answers I thought I would have.

I may still label myself with those names or those words.

Or I may not.

I am learning.

I used to think that after this one year journey, it will have meant I was cured from Ed and cured from all the negative ways I used to view myself.

That is far from the truth.

And I am glad I can be accepting of that.

The closer I get to this blog ending, and the more I start to wrap things up, the more I am learning that this one year was not meant to be a solution or an answer; it was meant to be the beginning of something.

I have a long way to go, far past this one year journey, until I think I can figure out who Shira is-with no labels attached.

But I am ok with that.

I’m not where I thought I would be at the 8 day count down to this one year journey being completed,but then again, how could I ever know where this journey would lead me?

But I do know I am a lot closer to being where I want to be than I was yesterday; I am a lot closer than I was the day before, and I am a lot closer than I was 357 days ago.

Hello life.

Day 354: Being Accepting Of Just OK

Happy Friday everyone,

So today’s post is going to sound a lot like my other posts this week, so I apologize in advanced for me writing about my brothers getting redundant.

But like I’ve always said, I really do write this blog honestly and this week they have been major parts of my day, so it is unavoidable to write about it.

But, there is something different that happened today when I was with them.

Throughout this past week, I’ve written many times about how eating with my brothers and sharing treats with them has been huge steps in my recovery.

I even wrote about how my 5-year-old brother asked me the other day if I still eat “those small things in a bag,” which were the prunes I used to bring with me as my meal when I would go and take them out to eat. I wrote about how proud I was to tell him that those things no longer are in my life.

So today, when I made them macaroni and cheese for lunch ,and ate cereal with milk and fruit instead (totally on the plan but not what they were having), you can see why at first I felt like I was failing today.

“Again, they are seeing me eat something different from what they are eating,” I thought to myself.

But honestly, I was craving that cereal and milk since yesterday, and I really wasn’t comfortable eating that mac and cheese. Some days I can be comfortable eating outside of the meal plan and other days, like at lunch today, I am just not.

It took me few times of walking myself through my own negative thoughts to bring myself to the final conclusion that I am writing about now.

Recovery doesn’t mean always eating exactly what everyone else is eating. Recovery doesn’t mean eating what we’re not always comfortable with.

Recovery means being present.

So, yes, maybe I ate a meal that I was more comfortable with than the mac and cheese they were eating, but I was still present with them at that table.

I had a bowl, a spoon and a plate with food. It was definitely a different image than the old Ed-controlled me with my plastic bag of prunes at the table.

And later, when I made cupcakes with them and I even let myself have one, I was again, back in the moment, eating with everyone else.

Recovery ebbs and flows and today is one the days that I see that.

My point in writing this is really to remind myself of what I was saying yesterday: that winning is not one definition and neither is recovery.

One part of today, recovery meant eating  a cupcake with my brothers, and on another part of my day,it meant sitting with them at lunch all together but eating something I was comfortable with.

And that’s ok too.

The only one who expects me to live life as this perfect “recovered” person who always eats what everyone else is eating and doesn’t even think twice about it, is me.

I don’t even think my brothers cared about what we ate or what I ate. They cared I was there.

They cared about sitting outside in the sun together, cuddling together and watching movies together.

Despite what the perfectionist in me is saying, I know that I did a pretty OK job today, cereal and milk and cupcake in all.

I like being accepting of the word OK.

It’s not perfect and it’s not terrible, it’s just ok.

And I like it.

Hello life.

Day 353: Winning Is A Journey

Happy Friday Eve everyone,

So I went to the park today to go for a short run instead of go to the gym because I felt like being outside, only when I started running,  my body was just not having it.

I ran cross country in high school and I usually actually enjoy the feeling I get from running (as long as Ed is not there with me), but today, I remember thinking to myself “wow, this is really just not fun.”

It was not what I expected and it’s not what Ed expected. I had expected to run . I mean, other than wanting to be outside, that’s why I was there.

Every time I walked, I felt like I was moving 1 mile per hour. But the more I tried to push my body to run, the more miserable the experience was becoming.

As I started walking, this song came on my Pandora and it had a line in it that said “We have a choice to make, wether we choose to win or lose, and I choose to win.”

I’m not sure if it was because of the state of mind I was in, but that line hit me really hard.

In that moment, I honestly felt like I was able to step outside of my own body for a moment. There was me as my soul and then there was my body.

We were two different entities.

Since the beginning of my recovery, I have felt that me as a person and my body are two separate things. While that may not be true, that’s how I feel.

We are like a married couple that is bound together for life, that went through a period of distrust and through this past year we’ve been relearning how to trust each other and getting to know each other again.

So, my body didn’t want to run today.

After all it’s done for me and after all  Ed has put it through, I am learning to listen to it and to respect it.

So if it doesn’t want to run, it doesn’t run.

In that moment, I truly felt like I was winning.

I was winning because I was making the conscious choice to listen to my body instead of listen to Ed.

I was making the choice to grow in this relationship with my body. We are a couple, and we are growing and learning together.

Since the day I chose recovery, I knew I chose to win.

But today, after hearing that song, it just made me think about it more.

What is winning?

I don’t even think there is one direct answer for that.

Everyday my definition of winning changes-especially when it comes to winning back my life from Ed.

Yesterday, winning meant making myself dinner.

The day before that winning meant eating frozen yogurt with my brother.

The day before that winning meant simply getting through my hard day.

Today, winning meant walking instead of running.

Today, winning meant eating the soup the lady I tutor for made for me. It wasn’t winning because it was me eating, it was winning because it was me showing compassion to someone else the way I would want them to show me.

Today, winning was eating dinner with my sister, even AFTER I ate that soup because I knew she was waiting for me. Again, the win wasn’t the food-it was me honoring our time we had set aside for each other and not letting Ed take that away.

Winning is connecting with the fighters in the online support group.

I don’t know what shape or form winning will  look like tomorrow, and I am not even sure if I will win tomorrow.

Maybe tomorrow I won’t win and it’s a tie. Maybe some days I will feel like I am losing.

By choosing to win, it doesn’t mean I chose to always be undefeated.

It means I chose to persevere.

It means I chose the hard path; the path of walking instead of sometimes running; the path of listening instead of acting, and the path of learning how to love myself for who I am just the way I am.

Winning is a journey, it’s not a one time race with a one time winners title.

The closer this blog gets to the end of its one year mark, the more I am beginning to see that.

Hello life.

Day 351: We Are Worth Fighting For Ourselves

Hello everyone,

While today wasn’t as good as my many of my good days in recovery have been, it was better.

I still did way more body checks than I would like to admit, I tried on two pairs of pants just to see how they still fit, and I let Ed talk to me for a little longer than I would like.

But, it was a better day than yesterday.

There were definitely hard moments in my day today, like when I went to go get frozen yogurt with one of my brothers and I let myself put some extra toppings. Ed was not happy.

There were hard moments when I was eating dinner with my brothers because I didn’t know how the food was made.

But above it all, never once did I space out into Ed’s world and never once was I not in the moment.

Every single second spent with those three beautiful souls today was spent with them in real life, not in Ed’s far away life.

And I made sure to smile, laugh and love each of them as best that I could, even when Ed was trying to hug me as I was sitting there hugging them.

Today wasn’t better because Ed was any quieter than the past two days, because he wasn’t.

It was better because I am actually taking a moment right now, as I write this, to be proud of myself, which is something I don’t do too often.

Despite Ed’s voice today, I surpassed it.

When he tried to wrap me with his presence, I wrapped myself with my brothers instead.

When he told me to not eat with them, I smiled through my own self doubt instead.

It was hard.

But it was also showing me that I still have the same fight within myself that I had when I first started this journey almost one year ago.

And as many good days as I might have, and as many bad days as I might have, I am beginning to see more and more, nothing can take that fight away from me.

A year ago, Ed would have won me over today and I would not be sitting here in front of this TV sipping hot chocolate with whipped cream and watching a movie with my little brothers.

It doesn’t matter what kind of Ed battles I had to fight today–the jeans, the food, the mirror checks–the fact that I am here on this couch in this very moment, reminds me this fight is worth it.

I don’t know if fighting for a life of freedom from Ed and a life of living in recovery truly ever stops, but I do this: we are worth fighting for ourselves.

Hello life.