The email about the body image talk

if you have an eating disorder, this could be a triggering post. I am talking about the roots of my ED, the childhood beliefs, memories I have of my body image and thoughts associated with food even then. Please read with caution, and as always, be safe.

After therapy on Thursday, I couldn’t quite get all the body image thoughts and questions out of my head. I couldn’t get the examples and the memories out of my head from childhood.

I managed to shut it down, and get through hubby’s awards dinner. I smiled, and chatted. Several people complimented me on my dress, my hair, my earrings, how Hubby’s yellow tie and dress shirt coordinated beautifully with my kelly green dress without being too matchy-matchy. I acted my part, and everyone believes I enjoyed myself. I can be charming and witty. I’m actually intelligent and can carry on a conversation with just about anybody; it’s why I did so well as a hair colorist, and why I was able to really reach people to help us get the votes needed to get the autism insurance added to hubby’s work. I am so proud of Hubby; that wasn’t an act. He works harder than anyone I know, and he cares more, too. He deserved to be recognized, and honored.

Thursday night, we stayed at the hotel, and in the middle of the night, I used the hot tub in our room when I couldn’t sleep. And I started to journal the thoughts swirling in my head. I journaled pages and pages worth. Friday was more journaling as we drove home– along with a rest stop for some shopping (because I needed clothes, and shoes, of course).

And then on Saturday, I cleaned it all up, and emailed it to Bea:

Hi Bea,

I think I’m ready to talk about some of the eating and body image stuff. I say “think” because it’s a scary thing to me. But I guess anything that has to do with me and my feelings is scary.

I know I didn’t like myself, even as a child. I’ve always, really deep down blamed my parents for that, because don’t kids just like themselves? But maybe not. I don’t know. I feel like the more honest I am with myself about my life, the more confused I am, too. I always assumed it had to do with feeling like I was never good enough for my parents, or that they did not love me for me. Now, I really wonder of it had to do with the sexual abuse, or my personality, or a combination? Whatever it was, I have specific memories, as well as an overall feeling of there never really being a time where I liked myself.

Memories I have– some of these came to mind when you were talking on Thursday, but it was too much to even think about talking about this stuff last week. I needed to get through Hubby’s awards dinner, and that meant not thinking too much about body image or how I really feel about me, or how I felt about myself when I was a kid.

*kindergarten: when the letter people q and u got married, I remember being just so excited (we had a “wedding” at school that day) but not talking to anyone about it partly because I didn’t feel like anyone really cared about what I had to say anyway and partly because I wanted to disappear and hide– like I really didn’t want anyone to notice me

*First grade: I hated having to line up, and having people be so close to me. I remember crying in line when someone bumped into me and then being embarrassed that I would be so stupid to cry over that when no one else cared, but at the same time hating that another person had touched me

*Summer before 2nd grade: I read “Harriet the Spy” and decided that my mom would like Harriet better than me, so I tried to be just like Harriet. I even ate BLT sandwiches everyday for lunch just like Harriet, except I fed the bacon to our dog because bacon makes you fat and I did not want to get fat.

*Second grade: I remember trying to change one of my marks on a progress report before giving it to my parents because it was not perfect. I don’t remember what the marks were, if I changed it, or what happened. I simply remember the desperate feeling that I had not done good enough and could not let them know I had failed because they wouldn’t love me anymore

*When I read “the babysitters club” books, I was always trying to figure out which babysitter would be the best one to copy, who my parents would like best, who would make everyone happy with me? (And I read those in 2nd and 3rd grades)

*I have a memory of my mom doing my hair, maybe 3rd or 4th grade and I am looking at our faces side by side in the bathroom mirror. I remember thinking my face was fat and not pretty, that I did not look like my mom at all.

*I remember thinking my mom probably would have liked me to look more like my cousin– who I saw as thin and pretty– and I wished I looked like her too. (Now, when I look back at pictures of us at dance or at the pool, or family functions, we are the same size, or at least we appear to be)

*It was 3rd grade when I started skipping and limiting what I ate, 4th grade when I really began to skip lunch as a routine thing.

*It was 5th grade when I threw up for the first time. I got caught a year or so later, after lunch, by the school guidance councilor. And that’s how I ended up in therapy for the “issues”.

*My mom always dictated my clothing, what was and wasn’t appropriate. Eventually, I had an opinion, but I never “over rode” her opinion. Even when she decided I was old enough to wear makeup, she took me to have my makeup done professionally, to be taught how to wear makeup, and then bought me nice makeup. I wasn’t allowed to go buy “cheap trashy” makeup with my friends or wear the bright blues and purples and greens they sometimes wore. I had to look nice, look the “right” way.

I hate my body now. I could probably criticize and pick apart any part of my body, it’s really just that awful. I try not to even think about it, because I hate the way I feel about it. It’s not a nice feeling. I’ve hated my body for as long as I can remember. I think it’s good that you see me as comfortable with my body. That’s exactly the image I am trying so hard to be, to show Kat. It seems that I’ve got it. I feel like I say this all the time, and I’m embarrassed to be saying it again, but it’s just an act, one that is so second nature by now it’s on auto-pilot. I can’t let Kat grow up like I did, and so I try my best to show her someone who is comfortable with their body. I don’t usually say anything about it though. And I’m afraid if we start talking about body image, then I might not be able to fake my way through pretending to be okay with myself, and then what?

I have other memories, thoughts, ext but those are the ones that came to mind. This isn’t going to be easy to talk about. And even though I’m saying let’s talk about it, I want to maybe work on the eating and body image stuff and all the things twisted up with that, I’m sure I’ll need help talking. Because this is a hard topic, and I just don’t know where to start. Which is why I decided to start with an email. 🙂


Bea emailed back, and that was that. Food, eating and body image were on the table as acceptable topics for the therapy room.

Body image

One minute we are talking about Hubby’s awards dinner tonight, and how I don’t really want to go, but that I will, and Bea is using this as an example of when CBT can be a useful tool– because she believes that CBT is a tool, not a be all end all, it does not get to the root of the issue. And the next minute we are talking about body image. Or rather, Bea is talking body image, and I am sitting, frozen, unable to speak, trying to figure out how we got to this subject, and how I can get away from it quickly.

“At least both my dresses fit.” That’s what I had said.

“Do you like to dress up?” Bea asks me.

“I don’t know…”

“Well, do you feel good about dressing up? Pretty? You always look put together, dressed cute, stylish, your hair is always done, you always look nice. I know you say you just throw clothes on, but you always present yourself well. So you must go shopping to buy clothes. What’s that like? We’ve never really talked about body image, how you see yourself, with the eating, I’ve never thought to bring that up… carry yourself well, look confident….what do you think about your body image?”

Bea is talking, and I’m shrinking into myself, trying to go as far away as I can. I don’t want to talk about this, I don’t want to break down the facade of confidence and put togetherness and prettiness I have managed to build over the years. I’m a great faker. I need for Kat to see a woman who likes herself, bumps, and wrinkles, zits, moles, and all. As a girl, she is going to get enough negative messages about herself and her body from society. It doesn’t need to start at home, with her mom. So I have worked from the moment we started trying to get pregnant to really build this persona of liking my outer appearance. That facade is strong now, and so in place, I don’t even have to think about it; it is on auto pilot.

“Alice, I think this is a hard topic for a lot of women, not just you. Do you remember being a kid and liking your body? A lot of times it’s not until puberty that girls start to dislike their bodies. It’s harder to say with the sexual abuse, though. Do you remember? Girls usually like their bodies because they can run, climb trees, jump, do things. And you were active, right?”

“Dance, ballet, jazz, tap, horse back riding, cheerleading, gymnastics,” I list out the activities my mother had me in.

“I don’t think I knew about the gymnastics. You were busy, that’s a lot of activities.” Bea says.

“It was what my mom wanted. I only liked the horse back riding.” I say.

“What did you like about it?”

I shake my head, I don’t know. I can’t explain. It just felt right, like I belonged, like I was okay.

Bea talks about how a lot of trauma therapy patients make a connection with horses for whatever reason, so she isn’t surprised that as a child, that was the activity I liked. “Have you ever thought about going back to riding, now, as an adult?”

I shake my head again, no, I don’t know, probably not. There are too many bad memories associated with riding now, too many expectations, too many shoulds, and not good enoughs. But I don’t explain.

“Do you remember liking your body as a kid? Liking food? Or was there already too much pressure from your mom?”

I don’t know. My memories are so vague, so not there. They are more feelings than memories, and that makes me feel crazy, too.

“Bad memories, I think. They don’t feel good.”

“Your grandpa sneaking you candy, that’s a good memory about food,” Bea reminds me.

“Yes, my grandpa, and my grandma, they didn’t have weird food things…..” I’m silent for a minute, trying to grasp a vague memory, it’s like a ghost of a memory, one that’s barely there, “I have this vague memory…… grandma cooking breakfasts, after I would stay the night…’s just a feeling, really……..a feeling that no one cared what I ate.”

“Ahhhh, yes. The feeling stayed with you, even of the details are lost. The feeling that no one cared what you ate at grandma and grandpa’s house, meaning at home, someone did care,” Bea says. She gets it, she understands what I was trying to say, what the barely there memory means to me.

“What about the body image stuff? Do you think yours started to change around puberty?” She asks me, again.

I stare at the floor, at the fluffy blue rug. It’s a bright blue. I’m not sure. I don’t know. What I do remember seems too embarrassing to say out loud. I finally say, “I didn’t like myself before then.” But I don’t offer any explanations.

Bea doesn’t ask, or if she does, I don’t hear her. I’m back in my head, far away. I can’t face the body image talk, or how I really feel about myself. I don’t want to know, or think about it. I want to pretend it’s not real, that we never touched on this subject. I know Bea won’t let me do so for long, but right now, I can’t face this. I need to keep my facade firmly in place. I have an event tonight. I need to smile, and be pretty; I need to be charming and pleasant. I need to have my carefully constructed persona in order to do so, which means Bea can not begin tearing her down today.

A slip and a fall

I slipped, and then, I fell. Literally, and figuratively.

I’ve been struggling lately. All my trauma stuff has been front and center in therapy, and in my mind. So Bea has had us back off, and we haven’t been talking about it. It’s still there, though. The nightmare, that is really a memory, has become flashbacks during the day. I’m a mess of feeling emotions and struggling to be present and then locking myself away in my head and going through the motions. I spend whole days not even sure what I have really said or done, but pretty sure I played my “role” well. In that same vein, I am overly aware of what I have eaten, or not eaten, and when the last time I hurt myself or purged was.

Friday, I realized that in a week, it’s my birthday. Normally, this would bring about plan making, and excitement, and hints to hubby, and all manner of things involving celebrating my birthday for the next week. This year, though, all I can think is that my Grandpa is not here. You see, my birthday falls on the 24th of October. Grandpa’s falls on the 23rd. I’ve always celebrated my birthday with him. Last year, he was sick, and it was the last birthday we had together.

I still have not really said good-bye. I don’t know how. I cried after our birthday, when hubby drove us back home, knowing deep in my heart that when my grandparents left for their Florida home, Grandpa wouldn’t be coming back. I cried when my mom called and said he had passed, then I shut it down and stayed up all night, cleaning. I spoke at his service. But I have not said good bye.

On Friday, I realize it’s birthday week. I don’t want to think about this, and so I binge, without even realizing it. And then, inevitably come the “What the hell have you done? You’ve ruined everything, you have no control,” thoughts, and I have to lock myself in the bathroom and purge. No one is home, so it’s okay. After, because I’ve throughly, carefully thrown up everything, I feel terrible and dizzy.

Kat wants to go to the pool when she gets home, and I think this is a good idea. Hubby has a weird work schedule this week, and needs to sleep to go back into work tonight. So off to the pool we go, where I end up slipping and falling.

I’ve now spent the weekend sore and with a monster headache from the slip and fall at the pool, and starving myself back into control because I need to be in control this week. Did I mention hubby has a very important award he has won, for the entire state, and that the dinner and ceremony is on the 23rd? I really, really need to be in control. He’s so excited and proud he hasn’t even realized what that day means to me. I feel lost, and trapped. I want out, I want to run, to hide, to not be here right now.

Working towards safety

this post is all about eating disorders, and may be very triggering if you have or have had an eating disorder. Please read with caution

I’m curled up, knees to my chest, head down. It’s Thursday, and Bea is talking about Eating Disorders.

“That conference I went to, really focused viewing eating disorders a little differently. It’s what we were talking about a little in our email. With the eating disorder behaviors never really healing completely until the trauma is processed.”

I don’t say anything, but I’m thinking. I’m thinking back to all the years of eating disorder therapy; all the cognitive behavior therapy combined with talk therapy, therapists who specialized in eating disorders, group therapies, weigh-ins with nurses at my doctors office, diagnosis of bulimia, anorexia, eating disorder not otherwise specified, I’m thinking of pretending to get better but never really stopping my behaviors.

“This is why my behaviors never stopped?” I ask, quietly, tentatively. I’m unsure I want to go here, to do this.

“That’s my theory,” Bea says, “Since the trauma wasn’t addressed there was no real way to get better, right? I mean, the healthy part of you kept getting healthier and developing into a competent adult, but the frozen in time parts of you remained untouched. It’s sort of like having a ball of kryptonite in your gut exerting influence over you no matter how hard you try to live your life and pretend it’s not there.”

I nod my head, it makes sense. It’s why I got better, but not. It’s why I was able to function, but continuer my behaviors in a very secret, hidden way. I

“I think you have to make a choice, here,” Bea tells me, “You made one, when you kept working so hard to get your message to me that you weren’t okay, that you aren’t eating and cutting everyday. You decided that wasn’t okay to be doing.”

I’m silent, but she’s right. When I told her, I has decided this wasn’t okay, that I needed help before I fell all the way down the rabbit hole of this eating disorder. Now that it’s out, though, I don’t really know if I want to be pulled out of this rabbit hole.

“I think you have to decide if you want to stop, you have to really be ready. There were a lot of good ideas at this conference, and I met a great eating disorder therapist that we can talk to if we need to—-”

“No. I’m not talking to someone else,” I say quickly, interrupting before she can even finish the thought. That is not happening.

“Alice. I’m not an expert in eating disorders. I know some, I can work with you, I can help, I can get you back to your standard of safety, I believe that as your trauma is processed, you won’t need your behaviors, but if and when you are ready to give this up, and reach for the dream, the goal for your life you told me about, then we made need to collaborate with someone who is an expert.”

I don’t say anything, I’m ignoring this. I don’t want to hear it. No experts, no nurtrionists, no meal plans. Nope. I don’t have a “real” eating disorder anyway, I tell myself.

“Well, when you’re ready, we can make a list of all the things the eating disorder gives you, or has given you, and all the things it has taken away from you. You could write a letter to the eating disorder, and say goodbye. I don’t think you’re ready to do that yet.”

“Not yet. I don’t know. Maybe a list. Not today,” I say. My thoughts are all confused, I having trouble thinking straight.

Bea and I talk a little more about eating disorders, my fear of Kat inheriting my issues, but also how Kat is my reason for being almost ready to stop.

As I leave, I think that on my list of negatives would be tiredness and not being able to think clearly.

Progress, however slow

if you have an eating disorder, if you self-harm, if you have been sexually abused, those things are mentioned in this post. Please read with caution

I’m making progress. It’s slow and twisty, and doesn’t really feel like progress right now, but still, it’s progress.

Driving to therapy today, my stomach was a twisted bunch of knots. I could feel, in my body, that I was anxious. I was running late, I knew what Bea was planning to talk about, and I knew what I was planning to talk about. I also hadn’t seen her since admitting that I wasn’t really okay; that cutting and restricting my eating are now daily occurrences. But still, I was feeling an emotion in my body, and recognizing it. I’m not sure that has ever really happened in my life.

I arrived, and walked in, and my defense of “perfect me” kicked into high gear. I went into chatty mode.

“Good morning, ” I said, setting my things down, and sitting in my usual spot on the couch.

“Good morning,” Bea said. She seemed to be sizing me up, trying to figure out what was going on in my head. Before she could get out a question, or start with any serious talk, I jumped in with a Kat story, and some updates on how things had gone after Kat’s last session with Bea. We chatted about that for a little bit, and then, finally, she looked pointedly at the clock and said, “well, we should really switch gears, and try to talk about some of your stuff.”

I hid my face. This was not what I wanted to do. Not at all. It’s hard, to be an adult and be in therapy. No one is making you go. No one is forcing you to be there. You have chosen to be there, of your own free will, because you know you need help, yet it’s still so hard to talk, to get out the words, to say what needs to be said. I always feel like I am being a difficult teenager by not speaking, instead of the 30 year old woman that I am.

“Did you bring you drawing?” Bea asked me. She was referring to a drawing I had done, last week, of how I see the inside of my head. It gets difficult to explain (and is really another post in and of itself) but I feel like I have a “room” in my head I go to when I want to be more detached from things, more numb. It’s not true dissociation, exactly, but perhaps a precursor, or a very, very mild form of it. In trying to explain how I had been numb and dissociated and in the room and now was back in the room because I wasn’t okay to her last week, I ended up drawing out how I picture the inside of my head for her. Unfortunately, the one I drew in therapy wasn’t exactly right, and so I went home and drew it again. I took a picture, and sent it to her, along with a very detailed explanation. After that, Bea “got” it. And then she wanted to know what it was like to be out of the room.

I nodded, In answer to her question, and pulled out my drawing of my “internal landscape”, as well as my explanation of what it is like to be out of the room. And then I handed them over.

“This is awesome, so rich,” Bea told me, “This visual just puts it all in perspective, it all makes perfect sense.”

I don’t say anything, I just stare at her, feeling a little bit silly and exposed.

“Can I read this? The what it’s like to be out of the room?”

“Yeah,” I say.

And so she reads. Bea is a fast reader. She’ll read about how I felt more connected, how if felt like I could feel what others were feeling and not just intellectually understand, she’ll read about the giggle fest I had with Kat and how I couldn’t stop being silly. She’ll read about how I started to feel like I could maybe give up the idea of who I “should” be and just be who I was, or at least have the freedom to find who I was. She’ll read about how all these emotions hit me from all sides, the anger and shame at myself that might have swallowed me whole if I named it, the guilt, the fear and anxiety that were stronger than I ever felt. She’ll read about how I was more connected to my body than I remember being, and how that’s when those terrorizing physical memories started.

She nods, and looks up. “This is all good stuff, so much good stuff. But then there is some scary stuff too, isn’t there? That’s why the cutting started? And the restricting?”

I’m looking down now, but I manage to whisper, “yes.”

We sit in silence for a minute, and then Bea asks me what I’m thinking.

I struggle to get the words out, and when I do they are choppy and whispered. I’m afraid of the answer; a yes or a no is frightening. “Can nightmares be memories?”

“Sometimes. It depends on the nightmare, on the symbolisms, how much symbol is is in it, what is happening in it. But, yes, they can most definitely be memories, or parts of them can be memories.”

I’ve managed not to hide my face, but I’m still looking down, and I can’t get anymore words out. Thankfully, Bea helps me. “Are you having a new nightmare?”

I nod. And then, feeling terrified to even speak, I say, “it’s all new.”

“Do you want to try to tell it to me?” Bea asks.

I had written it down a few nights ago, it never changes, it’s always the same. I pull it out of my notebook, and hand it over to her. And in that moment, I thank God that she just accepts my difficulty and fear of speaking, and that she takes the papers and reads them. I also hide my face, I don’t want to see her reaction, and I don’t want her to see me.

“Is it the same, everytime?”

I nod my head, whisper, “exactly the same. Nothing changes.”

“How long have you been having this nightmare?”

“A week? Two?” I guess. Time smushes together, I can’t be sure.

“It’s very vivid, it feels too real to be just a nightmare. I agree with you that it’s a memory,” Bea says, and I feel,better, less crazy.

“It’s so real. So, so real,” I say.

“Does the nightmare end where you stopped writing, or does it go beyond this?” She asks. Oh, Bea knows me too well by now. I couldn’t write the rest, I can’t face the rest.

“There’s more,” I say, and I think I can’t breathe now, but I manage to hold it together somehow, “I’m so scared in it.”

“Yeah,” she says, “when you wake up, do you remember what you feel? Or do you feel anything?”

I’m curled into myself now, as far back from her as I can be, and as small as I can make myself. I can’t focus, I’m not really “here” anymore, I’m more “there.”

“I’m scared. I’m alone. All alone. No one to help me. I need to hide, just go hide……” My voice is a whisper, and my words are choppy and laced with fear.

“Alice. Alice,” Bea says, “We need to back up. We need to come back a little bit…..”

Her voice is fuzzy sounding, but eventually I’m listening, and she’s naming 5 things she sees, 5 things she hears. I’m more grounded.

We talk, but no more about that nightmare. Bea tells me about an eating disorders conference she went to this weekend. I listen, and I know she wants to ask me what I have been doing, food wise, but she doesn’t.

When I’m more calm, I ask her if I’m crazy. She tells me no. “But I feel crazy,” I say.

“Well, yes, trauma therapy can make you feel that way. All these emotions bubbling up, and memories that you didn’t know you had, and flashbacks popping up, and nightmares, and lack of sleep, and anxiety…’s crazy making, and can make you feel crazy. But you aren’t crazy.”

“I do crazy things, though,” I tell her.

“They aren’t crazy things. You aren’t bad, either. You needed some heavy duty coping skills for what you were dealing with all your life. You found those coping skills in disordered eating and cutting. They aren’t the best tools for your tool box, but they work, you know they work, they are hard for you to give up, they give you that sense of control you so desperately need to have. The more you heal, the less you’ll need those things. You aren’t crazy, you don’t do crazy things.”

I’m afraid I’m going to wear her out, but I risk it anyway, ” Are you tired of waiting for me to stop taking this so slow? Are you getting annoyed with me yet?”

Bea just looks at me kindly, and shakes her head no, “I told you when we first started meeting that safety comes before all else. You need to feel safe. If taking things slow is what makes this safe, then that’s good, that’s all that matters. I told you I was committed to take this journey with you, I’m right here, I’m not going anywhere.”

I nodded, “okay.”

I really hope she’s telling the truth.

Detached again

I haven’t been around much.

Sleep has been hard, which means I haven’t been awake at the time I usually blog. I could blog after Kat is in bed, but my brain is so fried by that time, I can hardly think straight, so I’m afraid my writing wouldn’t make much sense.

Things were hard, after the dinner debacle where I cried over wine and behaved like a 15 year old. But that was the beginning of something. I was feeling my feelings, even if I didn’t know exactly what they were. And it wasn’t all bad; I felt like I was more connected to Hubby and Kat. It was an odd feeling, one I don’t have the words to explain completely. It was like realizing that things my favorite authors have described in their novels are real— that thread that connects us to other people, that allows us to feel with them, and not just to intellectually understand what or why they are feeling the way they do actually existed.

That very feeling though, the closeness with others, the emotions, all of it was overwhelming at times, like being smashed into. I’m not equipped to deal with those things. For all the good, there were negatives, too. It was too much.

I started pulling back, trying to be back in my head, trying not to feel so much, trying not to care. I can’t be sure of an exact time, because time just smooshes together for me, maybe two weeks ago, Kat told me something that happened with the little girl who assaulted my friend’s daughter. For my daughter’s privacy, I’m not going to share the details, but it’s not a situation that is being hidden. It’s being dealt with, Kat is processing it in therapy, and Hubby and I allow her to talk or play it through she whenever she needs.

That admission was my breaking point, though. I needed to be “perfect me”. And so, the cutting and the restricting began again.

This week, I’ve talked to Bea about it. Which is different. I would never before admit that I am cutting, or restricting in order to maintain some control, to shut off the feelings, to be back in my head. I would never before admit that I’m pretending to be okay on the outside, but inside I’m falling apart and panicking.

So that’s where I’ve been. Stuck somewhere between feeling and not feeling, self harming, and trying to stop.

Coming clean about the ED

In therapy, the subject of my eating, or not eating, and other habits, has come up. Bea has brought them up in that sneaky round-about-shrinky way. I’ve avoided it, because it makes me uncomfortable. I know I might have a problem. I know my thoughts about eating aren’t what one could call healthy. I also know that if I want Kat to learn different, I need to start behaving differently. Yet, I still avoid this topic, because I’m not so sure I’m really ready for a change.

Last weekend, I came clean. Bea and I had an email conversation in which I told all about my adult years of disordered eating. I didn’t even go near my teen years. As usual, it started with something she had asked days ago. I finally decided I might be ready to talk, if it was safe enough.

I emailed a list of questions, first. I needed to know she wasn’t going to freak out, or insist on some meal plan or that hubby know this, too so he could watch me. It took a few emails, but her general feeling seems to be that any behavior that is not immediately life threatening is a coping merchanism, and taking away a persons coping mechanism without teaching new tools is not a good idea. Also, teaching new tools does not mean replace, it means add to, but we would hope that at some point the new coping skills would begin to be chosen over the old. And, I am an adult so hubby can’t be told unless I choose. And, she would never think to have someone “watch” me, I’m not a child.

I took a deep breath, and began to email. I wrote that while I would not say I have an eating disorder, I think I don’t know what normal eating is. I tried to explain what I meant. Bea wrote back asking me if I felt comfortable, if I would write out what I normally eat in a week. That was a scary thing. It made it real. I mean, really real. It meant letting her into my crazy just a little more. I wasn’t so sure that was a great idea. I figured I was either doing this, or I wasn’t. So I wrote it up, adding a little, in here and there (yeah, bad Alice, bad!) just so it would not seem so empty, and sent that off. After of course, explaining the whole how I gained weight thing (anyone ever go through IVF? I swear they create those hormone cocktails for the sole purpose of weight gain and to make women insane).

She emailed back. She understands. She thinks we need to watch this. It does make her concerned. She would like to hear about my teen years with ED. If, and when I’m comfortable, she would like a food journal, with foods but also emotions and if I don’t have the emotion then whatever is happening that moment in time.

So now I’m keeping a food journal. I’ve made rules for the journal. Yes, rules. As though I’m 12. I sent Bea an email letting her know I would keep a journal as asked, but also that I was really afraid to give it to her. I said I needed some rules for it becasue I was feeling very out of control. She said okay to all my rules, and that she was just happy I was wiling to keep a journal for her.

Disordered Eating

if you have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, or are currently struggling with one, this post may be triggering for you. If you have not yet found help, please do so. There is help out there. While I have not found the light at the end of the tunnel, I know it is there, and I do believe that it is possible to be healthy. Please visit the website of the national foundation for eating disorders . They have resources to help, and supports, even lists of real life supports. There are really good therapists out there, even ones who won’t force you to change right away, or push you to talk.

In the past, I have been diagnosed with anorexia, bulimia, eating disorder not otherwise specified, a combination of anorexia and bulimia, and with binge eating disorder. You name it, I have been diagnosed with it. In reality though, my habits never really change much. I feel like the diagnosis changes based on my weight. My habits tend to cycle:

Don’t eat. Skip as many meals as possible. If I eat, eat as little as possible. If I eat what a normal person would eat, possibly figure out a way to get rid of that food– exersise, throw it up, take a laxative. Or, alternatively, maybe I am in a better place, and I keep the food down. I may manage to go a few days without eating and then lose it, and stuff my face. I could then throw that food up, or keep it down. I go through phases where I try to eat normal, and I eat breakfast, lunch, dinner. I go through phases where I crave some kind of food, and I stuff down a bagel or cracker or cereal in secret. I live off lemon iceys, coffee, and sprite zero. I have so many tricks to make it look like I am eating, and tricks to make it seem normal when I go to throw up what I have eaten. I’m not your average bulimic. I have never eaten the large amount of food that research papers and books talk about bulimics eating. Think of a normal amount of food, what you ate for dinner last night. That would be a “binge” to me. That is what I would throw up.

Right now, I am at a heavier weight. I won’t post my current weight, because I’m too ashamed of what it is. I hate that I am at a heavier weight, and I know that every time I skip eating, and then eat and don’t purge what I eat my body stores that food because I have sent it into starvation mode by not eating, which makes it impossible to lose any weight. I know this, but I can’t stop what I am doing. I have weighed everywhere from 93lbs, to 170lbs. I’m not at the highest end of that scale right now, thank God, but I’m not at the lowest end, either.

I define food in terms of good and bad. I think of myself in terms of good and bad, often times based on what I have eaten or not eaten that day. I try very hard not to do this with Kat, of course. The rational part of me realizes that my eating behaviors are not good or healthy. I don’t want Kat to start to copy these behaviors. I want her to have a good relationship with food. I want her to enjoy food, to see it as fuel for her body.

I have told Bea my past history with food. I have not informed her of how bad it was. I have not really told her that I still struggle. Little by little, I have told her small things. Like when I was back at my parents and I are two donuts and then threw up, I emailed Bea and told her what was happening and what I had done. Or, at Kat’s last appointment, when Bea suggested I allow Kat to feed me, and I feed Kat (to help with attachment issues for kids on the spectrum) and I freaked out, admitting with much shame, “I can’t let her feed me. I have food issues.” Of course, Bea took this in stride, acting like my confession was no big deal and suggested we could play baby and I could feed Kat, instead.

In one email, Bea and I briefly discussed disordered eating, my mom, Kat, and myself. I said that this was something that should be talked about at some point but I wasn’t ready yet. I also told her that I “rarely” threw up any more. I didn’t classify “rarely”, though. Bea replied back to that email that the eating was “very much worth talking about”. She also said that most women who walk into her office have issues with food in one way or another.

I know that I should discuss the food issues with Bea. I know I should talk about my disordered eating. I know I should probably be sent to a nutritionist to learn what really is normal eating because the truth is, I have no idea. I don’t want to talk about it though. Part of me thinks Bea won’t believe me because I don’t weigh 93lbs. I think that she will decide I am a liar; after all, anyone who skips meals as often as I do should be skin and bones, not fat and curves (and while I may have a slightly distorted body image, it’s not that distorted, I’m a size 8, sometimes a 10). So, I’m embarrassed because I think she won’t believe me. And while my behaviors do cycle, and they are in a worse cycle right now, I’m not really sure it is that important to bring up. I also am afraid that she will decide I am exaggerating or lying, so therefore I might be lying about everything else.

The rational me knows that Bea would believe me, and be compassionate about my eating struggles and that she would help me however she could. I also know that one day I will fee safe enough to really bring it up. Bea believes in putting all the “symptoms” on the table first, before the trauma memories. She believes in finding ways to cope with the symptoms before really looking at and processing the trauma memories. Of course, sometimes trauma memories come up and need to be looked at, and that okay, too. I know, rationally, that Bea would consider these food issues a major symptom to be dealt with. It frightens me, though, because to really deal with the food issues could take a year….or longer. That is overwhelming to me. Perhaps I’ll bring this up tomorrow morning.

Childhood memories

After asking the question that changed everything, Bea wants to talk about my childhood in general. I find it difficult to do. I don’t want to talk about it. Bea wants to know why.

“Because. It was just a normal childhood. There was nothing significant,” I say.

She asks about my mom, and the way I described my mom as anorexic and a control freak in my first “disclosure email” to her.

“Well, yes. My Mom is anorexic. What difference does that make? It doesn’t effect me now.”

I’m feeling argumentative today. I don’t want to have this conversation, I don’t want to discuss my mother. My feelings toward my mom are complicated. If I talk about the bad parts of her, that feels, like a betrayal. I just can’t do it. As with everything else in my life, I have compartmentalized my mother so that I only have to deal with the “good mom”

Bea finally gives up. She seems to realize I’m not really ready for this conversation. “What do you want to talk about today?” She asks me.

I stare at the floor for a while. Finally, I manage to to spit it out. “I’m worried about Kat and her eating. She refuses to eat breakfast, and then demands snacks. If I don’t give her snacks and make her wait for lunch she cries and sobs that I’m starving her, but come lunch time she won’t eat and says she isn’t hungry. I’m so afraid I’m teaching her bad habits, or teaching her body not to be hungry. I just don’t know. And I don’t want to talk about my eating issues, I just can’t yet. But I really don’t want them passed onto Kat, and I try too hard and I know I overthink things but I don’t want her to have a bad relationship with food and I try to tell her that meat has protein to give us energy and fruit has vitamins to keep us healthy and vegetables have vitamins, too and I never call foods bad or good, just what they have and why we need that, even sugar…..” Now that I have started talking, I can’t stop. My own struggles with disordered eating make setting healthy eating boundaries for a Kat extremely difficult. I don’t always have a good concept of what is normal and what isn’t.

Bea listens intently, and quietly. I can tell she is understanding, and not judging. Finally, she says, “You’re okay. You brought lunch a few times for Kat, and I did not see any weird attitudes toward food coming from you. If you hadn’t told me of your personal feelings about food, I would not have guessed.” Yup, that’s right. I’m so good at separating myself, at dissociating and blocking things out, I fooled the shrink.

Bea continues, “I would keep doing what you are doing, but I would make sure meal times are very structured. So, breakfast is from 8 to 8:20. Set a timer, and make sure Kat is aware that once the timer goes off, if she has not eaten she won’t have another meal until lunch.”

“You don’t think I’m screwing her up? I’m so, so scared she’s going to end up in therapy at my age because I messed up,” I say.

Bea laughs. “No. She’s here now. And you are here now. She’s going to be fine. You are going to be fine. In fact, I think you are both going to grow in very big ways this year.”