Monthly Archives: August 2013

Anorexia, On Vacation

I wish this article was about my anorexia going on a permanent vacation, but it isn’t.  There aren’t two ways about it: recovery is hard on any average routine-filled day.  So when you throw in a two-week period of little sleep, constant activity, and strange, indulgent foods, one in recovery can feel like he or she is on an anorectic rollercoaster.

I went to Los Angeles for almost two weeks, to introduce my daughter to friends she hadn’t the opportunity to meet yet.  (Oh, and I forgot to mention above the fun of putting a Boston toddler on Los Angeles time.  Joyful 3am awakenings where SuperWhy MUST be watched.  But I digress.)  Now, I love LA for many reasons – it’s beautiful, the weather is almost perfect, the people are relaxed, and I’ll admit, it’s pretty cool to see celebrities alongside of you shopping for groceries.  But it’s image-obsessed.  Two years ago, I had gone to LA, and when I got off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan…wait…

No but really.  The first billboard I saw read:

“1-800-GET-SKINNY”.

I remember thinking how you’d never see that in Boston.

Also, the last time I went, I had gone out to a bar with my boyfriend and some of his friends.  I had excused myself to go to the bathroom, and when I entered it, immediately felt out of place.  The white hippie sundress and sandals I had previously thought were pretty attractive paled in comparison to the row of stiletto heels and skintight dresses I saw on the other women.  Now, I’ve never been one to follow trends, but I had to admit that my Boston-ness seemed glaringly apparent that day.

This time, I didn’t compare myself as much to other women, but I found the off-schedule eating pretty abhorrent.  Can you eat healthy on vacation?  Absolutely.  Is it harder when you’re dealing with low finances and a screaming toddler?  Yup.  So, long story short, I found myself eating more fast foods and sugar, and while you know I DEFINITELY don’t endorse abstinence from any of these foods, it was an imbalance for me.

candyamanda

 

The above picture was taken in this fabulous candy store, Dylan’s Candy Bar, in the Grove.  Think candy you haven’t seen for years AND a chocolate fondue bar where you could dip strawberries and rice krispie treats in chocolate.  This is me, overenjoying one of those delectable treats:

amandalickingchocolate

 

The folly for me always lies in this common anorexic miscalculation: linking food intake with moral value.  Because I ate a ton of candy that day, I was immediately a disgusting person…not.  I may have had uncomfortable feelings of my body breaking down sugars it doesn’t usually, but that doesn’t translate into my moral value.  Separating the physical and the emotional are so very important, at times.  And also…one can’t maintain a perfect food intake 24/7.  We are humans, which means we err.  Which means it’s ok to get off the bandwagon for a bit if we know we have the ability to get back on safely.  And at this point, I do.  I just need to remind myself it’s ok to indulge in healthy substances.  Writing, friend time, nerds ropes, and my daughter.

I will say this trip was not a total anorectic mental slip, and is documented by the following:  I wore a bikini with little to no shame, for the first time in my life.

amandabikini

 

I had planned this photo mentally, because I needed to challenge the irrational idea in my head that I looked disgusting in a bathing suit and needed to hide my body.  For some, this might be triggering, but for me, it was one of the most liberating experiences I ever had.  Truthfully, I’ve still found ways to pick apart this photo since then, but, it’s a work in process, isn’t it?

 

How does being on vacation affect your self-care?  Does it improve it or throw it off?

Feeling The Burn.

I burned my thumb badly yesterday.

I had been cooking dinner for Fiona, and my mind was preoccupied with some current stress that’s been going on.  Fish sticks were on the menu, so I had preheated the oven, and was getting ready to pop them in.  There was another baking pan in the oven I hadn’t seen, so I put an oven mitt on one hand, and proceeded to absentmindedly grab the 425 degree pan with my bare thumb and forefinger that was not covered.

It hurt like f&$*.

And I felt like an idiot.  If I didn’t have stuff going on, then I wouldn’t have been distracted by my thoughts, and I wouldn’t have burned myself.  And if I didn’t burn myself, my entire attention would be on Fiona, and not on submerging my hand in a cup of cool water whilst dowsing it with aloe.

And it hurt for awhile.  It bubbled and swelled up.  It was most likely a small second degree burn, and the severe pain lasted for a couple of hours, more than the medical website said first degree burns should last.

I kept my hand in water for a really long time, because I simply couldn’t tolerate the pain and take care of a 19 month old at the same time.  I would take my hand out periodically and gage how severe the pain was.  When I first took it out, it STUNG.  It hurt.  So I pushed it back in the water.

But as the hours passed, I noticed something.  When I initially took my hand out of the water, if I could just sit with that painful burn, that passing glaring sting, then the pain would slowly decrease.  It got used to being in the air.  And by the time night fell, the pain was almost nonexistent.

And if you’re thinking this is a big goddamn metaphor for how my addictive side can deal with pain, then by George, you’re right.

******

I hate that sometimes I slip back into avoidant behavior.  But I do.  When you deal with any kind of addiction, avoidant or numbing behaviors can creep back up on you in the sneakiest of ways.  Yesterday, once I got over the embarassment of burning myself accidentally, I was able to see how it paralleled my (rapidly decreasing) ways of handling feelings.  The pattern, as detailed above, is as follows:

 

1.  There is a problem/incident

2.  I immediately judge myself for having the problem/incident happen, and the subsequent feelings that come up,

and

3.  I push the feelings away and numb them in some sort, whether it be by getting attention, skipping a meal, binging, or whatever.

 

The good news is, these days, I seem to find my way back to feeling feelings again.  With a small u-turn at avoidance crossing.

I do this with the help of several friends and spiritual guides; I cannot do this on my own.

Glennon from Momastery talks about the role of reducing shame in conquering addiction.  Getting rid of that shame is such a big player.

Your feelings are your feelings, bottom line.  They are amazing signposts of where you should journey next and what your truth is, but in certain communities and families, we’ve been taught to push them away.  They’re non-existent, in some cultures.  Which is a shame, because when we avoid our feelings we are avoiding one of the most human experiences in the world.  And at the end of the day, they’re just…feelings.  A body’s reaction to the circumstances around us.

A very wise woman has told me frequently, “Pain is a great motivator.”

She’s right.

I think it’s kind of funny that after a couple of weeks of not blogging and taking time to process some things, literal pain is what motivated me to write again.

And I hope that my emotional pain can guide me exactly where I need to go.

 

How about you?  Have you experienced shame when it comes to feelings?  How has it played a role in your eating disorder or experience in life?