Life has been kicking my ass a little bit lately, but I thought it was time to check in and let you all know what’s been going on.
Warning – this is a long post.
The reason I haven’t posted wasn’t a conscious decision to stay away. It was more like a decision on where to spend my energy each day, and unfortunately blogging just didn’t bubble to the surface until now. At the end of each day I was either crafting (aka “saving my sanity”), being a sloth on the couch lacking motivation of any kind, or going to bed early. I was in survival mode.
Now I’m slowly working my way out of it.
As you may or may not know, a few years ago I was diagnosed with an eating disorder – Binge Eating in fact. I thought it was last year, but in finding my original post admitting my disorder I was stunned to discover it was in August of 2018 – I could have sworn it was 2020. The more I think about it though the more it makes sense. Here’s a recap of what happened:
- Diagnosed by my GP, who asked “what can we do to help”
- Told my doc “I’ve got this”
- Started lite n easy and took decision making out of food
- Lost some weight
- Started making decisions about food again, relapsed, gained weight, spiralled out of control
- Told my doctor “I don’t have this” (this was the start of 2020 before COVID, and why I thought it was only last year I got diagnosed)
- Went on diet pills to help me lose weight and control my appetite (he suggested more resources, I declined)
- It didn’t work
- I went back to my doc and said “OK, I still don’t have this”
This is where it brings me back to now. I finally took a deep breath and accepted that I can’t do this on my own. Lite n Easy and diet pills were not the answer – it was a bandaid masking the truth.
The thing about eating disorders is you’re not making a conscious decision to have one. You don’t want to either starve yourself, purge or shovel the food in. We don’t enjoy it.
The eating disorder was a coping mechanism for something else. I couldn’t fix the eating disorder without finding and fixing what that something else was.
To understand my eating disorder, it’s not just as simple as just stopping eating particular foods, or cutting myself off from something. It wasn’t that easy. My brain doesn’t function that way. It’s the same as telling an anorexic to “just eat”. It doesn’t work. It’s more than that.
(For the record, telling someone with an eating disorder to “just eat” or “just stop eating” is the most offensive and insensitive thing you can ever say. So just don’t.)
What I’ve been doing
My time since my diagnosis wasn’t a total failure. I was able to track when I was most susceptible to a binge and how I could set my body up to stay strong – I needed sleep, exercise, and low stress.
It wasn’t fixing the core issue though, and ultimately I couldn’t do it on my own.
I saw my GP and got a referral for two things:
- A therapist he knew I’d love
- A mental health plan
With those two tools I spread out a huge net. I contacted multiple different Eating Disorder support groups, reached out to government departments, and most importantly, booked in for my first therapy session. At the time there was a 4 month waiting period, 6 in most other areas, because of the effects of COVID on everyone – which, for the record I didn’t mind waiting because I was thrilled so many people were invested in their mental health.
Since then, I’ve been accepted into a Government funded Eating Disorder program, where I’ll have access to peer mentoring, group programs, nutrition and more. I’m on the waiting list for the next round of programs to begin.
I also had my first therapy session last week.
My first therapy session
I honestly thought I was going to come in with notes spread far and wide saying “here’s all the symptoms I have, here’s my behaviour, ok now let’s fix it.” In my own pigheaded way I still thought I knew almost everything. In reality I still had no fucking idea.
Within 2 minutes my therapist had sized me up, and remarked “you’re highly intelligent and very analytical”.
Within 10mins she had blown my brains apart.
She asked me if I was an anxious person. I replied saying I didn’t think so. I mean, I’m organised but I thought I was kinda cruisy and flexible. I joked my husband definitely was, and maybe some family members, but compared to them I was pretty chill.
Then she suggested I had High Functioning Anxiety, and started to describe it.
I was textbook. In fact, we joked my picture should be in the dictionary next to the definition.
From verywellmind.com these are the characteristics that describe me extremely well:
- Outgoing personality (happy, tells jokes, smiles, laughs)
- Proactive (plan ahead for all possibilities)
- Organized (make lists or keep calendars) – hello, have you seen my 52 list? I have a daily planner, a Kanban chart for work, the walls of my office are decorated with 6 months of projects…need I go on?
- Orderly and tidy – if the house is cluttered I lose my brain
- Appears outwardly calm and collected
- Loyal in relationships
- People pleaser/fear of being a bad friend, spouse etc
- Talking a lot, nervous “chatter” – I pretty much have verbal diarrhoea
- Overthinking – there is constant commentary about every single thing of every single day...if we had a conversation I’ve probably replayed it 5 times in my head before you’ve even left the room.
- Need for reassurance
- Procrastination followed by long periods of crunch-time work
- Avoiding eye contact
- Inability to say no, always having an overloaded schedule and being constantly busy – I am notorious for this, and my friends/family forever tease me about how busy I am
- Racing mind
- Limited social life (turning down invitations) – I have been doing this more and more, preferring to just stay at home in solitude where possible
- Inability to just “enjoy the moment”
- Feeling intimidated by the future
- Tendency to compare yourself to others
- Mental and physical fatigue
- Potential for alcohol or substance abuse as an unhealthy coping method – hello eating disorder
Honestly, from the moment she suggested it, everything just made sense. As she asked more questions and I started to talk I just saw the pieces falling into place in front of my eyes. I couldn’t even answer the most basic of questions (“how many times do you eat a day”) without spewing a huge answer at her along with judging and putting myself down because I was afraid of what she’d think!
The mental and physical fatigue completely hit me last week. For example, the concept of having to make dinner (for just me – both my husband and son had already eaten) was enough to bring me to tears, sitting on the couch, completely unable to make a decision on what I should eat. I was so overwhelmed! I was criticising myself saying that I should be eating healthy, when I had originally planned a wine and cheese night. I had a raging battle going on in my head and finally it got too much.
There’s been two nights where I have slept for nearly 9 hours, completely unheard of for me. I was drained.
What scares me the most
The list is long, but here are the things that honestly stress me out the most every single day:
- Not being a good mother to Luca
- Not being a good wife to my husband
- Continuing to abuse my body
- Letting my friends down e.g. my run club, and where I’ve committed myself to doing specific things
- Not being able to run
It’s true in that my brain is constantly going a million miles an hour every day. The reason I love running so much is because it’s where my brain is actually still! The world is quiet, I can enjoy music and breathing and just….run.
I put so much pressure on myself to be a perfect mother and wife. When I spend time with Luca, my brain is constantly telling me that I’m not doing the right activities with him, that we need to be working on developing his skills, that everything should be educational and meaningful…blah blah blah. Round and round it goes. And the whole time I’m saying to myself “you’re not doing that….you’re failing, you’re a bad mother.”
Likewise in my head I’m thinking “you’re a terrible wife – you should be spending more time with your husband, you should be having sex more, you need to be affectionate more, you should be doing more stuff around the house, you can’t cook and you should be giving your husband more time to do whatever he wants, you’re failing!”
At the end of the day it all just gets to be too much and so what do I do? I hide, or I eat. And neither of those have gotten me anywhere. It’s just made life worse.
Where to from here
I’ve got six sessions booked in with my therapist, my next one being this week.
After our last session, my homework was to identify when my anxiety would rise. I needed to try and park it, put it aside, and then focus on the moment. Specifically around Luca. For example, if we were playing and I felt my anxiety rising and the stress increasing, I had to try and say to myself “nope, that’s your anxiety, park it”. Then I had to spend a few minutes just observing Luca – what are his hands doing? What’s he saying? Is he happy or sad? What facials are he pulling? Just……be present.
The way my therapist explained it to me is that anxiety isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, there’s a lot of positives to it – you can achieve some amazing things. But you have to learn how and when to engage it, use it as a tool if you will. And if I can learn how to cope with anxiety, then I’ll no longer need binge eating as a coping mechanism.
I’m going to learn how to weaponise my anxiety, and I’m going to become an anxiety ninja.
Fix the anxiety = fix the eating disorder = become a bad ass.
So….I made myself a little mascot.
I’m also trying not to put myself under so much pressure task-wise. A lot of my 52s are “doing some sort of task this many times otherwise YOU FAIL”. I’m rewriting those. I want to just inspire myself to do specific tasks but not have a failure point. If I get them done this year, great. If I don’t, then I don’t. But I don’t want to have such rigorous outlines to be “graded” against.
I’m also trying to pull myself away from negative or toxic situations. There are Facebook groups, conversation topics, and other areas of my life that I don’t want to engage with anymore. I’ve started to bite my tongue during conversations (just let someone have their say and talk it out while I smile and nod), or leave altogether. And in some situations I’m just firmly saying I don’t appreciate things. I need to remove myself from the conversation so that it doesn’t echo in my brain.
So anyway….that’s what I’ve been doing for the last few months. I hope you’re all well, thanks for sticking around and reading this ol’ blog…and I’ll hopefully have some good news from here on out!
Also…I don’t want to re-read my brain dump from above because I know I’ll fret about what I wrote sooo….I guess, apologies for any typos!