Noticing Weight

I went out with some old friends I haven’t seen in quite a while. I was excited and delighted and so looking forward to seeing them. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t wondering if they’d notice my 10 pound weight gain. As though this is all they think about.

The funny thing is – they’d all gained weight too. One friend just had a baby, another is on a medication that keeps her perpetually bloated, another injured her leg running and can’t exercise, and the fourth, heavy to begin with, looked like she’d gained a few.

Of course, I’m worried their biggest interest is that I’ve put on ten !!! Uhm, can we go through this again. Nancy just had her first child! Linda takes steroids because otherwise she can’t breath, Katie has been in tons of pain from her leg injury and Amy is going through a very difficult divorce.

Believe it or not – no one seemed to notice my body! They seemed more interested in the major events happening each other’s lives. Hmmmmm

Why am I staring at their bodies?

Evidently, I still have a sick mind. And since a sick mind can’t help a sick mind, you can see why I need Power greater than myself to return me to sanity!!!!

Damage

This post comes from guest blogger, M. M and I were in drug rehab together over a decade ago. We bonded over our shared experiences with eating disorders. She was in her early to mid-20s – just a kid, really. Here she is, all these years later, writing about some of the consequences of her ED. I am so grateful to her for her courage. Here’s M:

Scare tactics – Doctor’s telling me the ways the eating disorder could kill me – those never motivated me to seek treatment or work towards recovery. We all know the dangers – the main ones they tell you all the time: heart attack, organ failure, ruptured esophagus, permanent colonoscopy bag. Maybe I didn’t think things could really happen to me, or maybe I did not care at times. I was deep in my eatin gdsorder. And I risked it wiht behaviors that could have, in ways should have, killed me. I escaped that, but not free and clear. My dietician tells me that everyone hteir “Achilles heal” and that you never know what restricition, purge or other behavior will be the one to set it off.

So mine, so far, is my endocrine system. After my last significant relapse with anorexia, I started noticing symptoms Many were not dissimilar to the eating disorder. Exhausted all the time, debilitatingly so, dizzy spells, fainting, foggy brain and what I explain as just not what I expected to be right. But Doctors blamed it on my eating disorder and pretty much blew me off as just complaining.

Finally, a doctor identified my fluctuations in my blood sugar levels, and I started following a low GI meal plan and testing as needed to keep myself safe. We thought maybe my body was taking a while to re-regulate to nourishment after my relapse an adjusting to maintaining my weight after regaining. But still I felt ill. Frustrated was an understatement. One day, a Luna bar caused an ambulance ride to the ER from the floor of my office.

Fast forward about four years, I mentioned that I suffered from PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine system disorder among women of reproductive age) to my dietician after another blood sugar crash that left me on the floor. Turns out that held part of the answer to my insulin resistance. (Women with PCOS often suffer from excess insulin.) THAT was my Achilles heel. And all the years of starving and bingeing and starving again only made it worse. My eating disorder in combination with the PCOS was taking me down.

At that point, I kept trying to manage my health, but then things starting getting worse. I tried to talk to my primary care physician, but once again, I was blown off.

I made an appointment with an endocrinologist. Finally a doctor was taking me seriously (turns out passing out in the Doctor’s office helps with that.) After having to go through a multitude of really unpleasant tests with a neurologist and cardiologist – ruling out all sort of potential scary things – I am finally being treated for the endocrine problems. I still have to be careful of what I eat which can be triggering. I wear out easily at times and sleep way more than I want, and there is the piece that I struggle with every day – my body said’ fuck you” to me with this one. All the imbalances caused significant weight gain. This is something i will have to manage for the rest of my life – but somehow i am alive to manage it with a heart that still beats for me 24 hours a day.

Normal Reaction with Food

It’s kind of been a rocky week. Resentment and fear have reared their heads, and there has been extra stress and lack of sleep and some sadness.

But that’s life. And I’ll be fine. In fact, I am fine – just dealing with…life.

What’s different is how I relate to food at this point in my life during these kinds of times.

First of all, I don’t think to use food, for sure. I know on a very cellular level now that food does nothing for anger, fear, sadness, stress or even, tired. When tired, I need sleep. (Food does quell hunger, but that’s a different need entirely.)

But wilder of all, particularly for a women who binged her brains out ANY time ANY thing was troublesome – nowadays, when I’m stressed or upset or sad – I can’t eat. I lose all desire to put food in my mouth – in fact, it seems like a nauseating idea

After just writing the paragraph above, I googled – reaction to fear and appetite. Here’s what popped up, “When confronted with stress, nervousness and anxiety, you often just don’t feel like eating, or the thought of food is unappealing. This symptom can also be described as not having any desire to eat, not ever being hungry, or the thought of eating makes you nauseous.”

Wait, that’s me!!! The same woman who even binged her way through stomach flus! The fact that I do not want to eat for any reason at all is amazing, but that I don’t want to eat when miserable – proof, proof, proof that miracles can happen and anything is possible. For anyone.

Woo hoo! Bring on the tough times, baby

Farewell to Frumpy, Plumpy, Lumpy and Dumpy

The man in my life compliments me perfectly – he says exactly the right things, every time. And he seems to know when I’m feeling the least self-confident — suddenly he’ll mention how much more appealing and sexy I grow every day. He even seems to allude to the fact that he finds me more attractive seen I’ve gained ten pounds. Of course, he’s too smart to put it quite that way!!!!(Although I did show him a lovely picture of me from 10 years ago when I was younger, blonder and 15 pounds less. He said, “You look exactly the same. That picture could have been taken today. Again, smart man.)

Why then, when I look in the mirror recently, do I only see frumpy, plumpy, dumpy and lumpy?

Let me be clear – I’m not changing my lifestyle to change my body. I’m perfectly happy with the way I eat and move. That’s staying. And my life is very good and fulfilling. What needs to change is my attitude toward my body.

My body has taken me through a lot and taken a lot from me. I have stuffed it with the worst foods, starved it, bombarded it with laxatives, nearly puked out it’s guts, given it an ulcer, battered it’s liver and nearly killed it with drugs. Such disrespect.

And I continue to disrespect it by calling it names.

Why don’t I believe the nice man who loves my body? If he were to tell me I was getting frumpy, dumpy, plumpy and lumpy, well I would think to myself – “now, finally he is being honest!”

But he doesn’t. Why can’t I see my body as he does? I’ve made so many changes in my life. I guess I see where the next one needs to be!!!

Doing More Good in the Field

I passionately love working with women (and men) suffering from all forms of disordered eating. It’s about as fulfilling and gratifying as anything I can imagine. I think about this work constantly, spending hours figuring out how to be the most helpful. My sponsees take up so much space in my brain, because I care so deeply and want to give them my best and simply, the best.

In addition to what I do now, I dream of working with girls and young women in the early throes of our disease to help them get well young. I hope to spare them the decades of pain that I (and so many of the women I work with) suffered through. Or, if possible, to prevent the insanity of starving, binging, purging (or any of the three, or any combination of the three.) All these behaviors start with low self esteem and poor self-image and lead to self-hatred and despair. I’m dying to help.

I know I probably need to get a master’s degree to get to work in high schools and colleges and hospitals and in-patient units. That feels overwhelming – the time involved in working days and attending school at night – with studying, tests, papers. And then getting out of school at 56 with tons of loans.

I go back and forth and back and forth. I’m praying for a way to do what I love, without having to go back to school. It hasn’t come to me yet.

Something will make sense.

Guest Blogging?

If anyone would like to write a post for this blog, please let me know. I love to learn about other people’s experiences with food, body, self-image, addiction or anything else you’d want to share. Hearing from others helps all of us feel less alone. And sharing our stories gives meaning and purpose to our own experiences.

You are also welcome to if you have had experience dealing with someone who suffers. That’s an important perspective for all of us to hear.

If you are interested, you can write under your own name, publish anonymously or share your thoughts with me to include in a post I write.

Contact me here or on facebook (Melissa Statmore) or at melissa.statmore@gmail.com

THANK YOU!!!!

Letting Go

Today, I realized I’ve been seething about something, wallowing in deep resentment. Now, I pride myself (oops, there’s that dangerous word ‘pride’) on being pretty clean of resentments. I acknowledge them when they come up, look at them closely, see my part in the problem and let go. Usually that means that I have to change my thinking about the situation and so I do, and I am free of the anger.

However, this one thing had been eating away at me. And I realized that not only was I seething, but I’d been pretty mad about this for quite a while. AND, I find, I’ve been itching for an opportunity to complain about it bitterly. Finally, I saw that I didn’t really want to let go of it – if I did, I’d have to face the truth of the situation. And I’d have to realize the situation wasn’t going to change – I was going to have to accept that and change myself, my actions and my reactions.

So, I had two options. I could continue to seethe and be miserable and make everyone around me miserable too. Or I could face the truth, change and be free.

I chose the later, thankfully, and I let go of the resentment. Once I let go of that one issue, everything seemed to lighten up. The whole world seems less difficult. Everything’s rolling off me, left and right. My step has a little spring again. I feel so much better.

Why did I wait so long?

On Starving

In my starving days, I convinced myself that I didn’t need to eat – eating was weak and a sign of low moral character. The less I ate, the better. I also told myself that nutrition didn’t matter for me. (It was important for everyone else, but somehow, not for me.) I liked sweets, so I would skip breakfast, eat a small piece of cake for lunch and one scoop of ice cream for dinner. That’s how I ate for a long time.

During those years, I was starving and weak most of the time. Half the time, I felt ready to faint and sometimes I did. And yet, I kept on starving AND convincing myself that it was great. As long as I didn’t eat, I was okay.

Eventually, I couldn’t live like that, and I started to binge. My body was, pretty literally, dying for food. At first, I’d binge once a month, and then go back to starving. Soon, I was bingeing once a week, and I’d take a few laxatives. Once bingeing got to a few times a week, I began to throw up. Soon, I was bingeing and purging as often as possible.

The whole cycle is a completely failed attempt at control. Sure, it started because I’d been heavy and as I starved off the weight, I was bathed in constant compliments. I remember at my aunt’s funeral years ago, half the women wanted to know how I’d lost so much weight.

But then, it took on a life of it’s own. Starving felt powerful – I, unlike everyone else, didn’t need to eat. Purging had it’s own power – I could eat mass quantities of food and not gain (much) weight.

And yet, when starving, ALL I thought about was food. I wasn’t controlling it – food owned me and my brain. And when binging and purging – I COULD NOT STOP, no matter how much I wanted to.

Control was delusion. I had to give up. And change my thinking completely.

Just a question – I do wonder, however, if everyone hadn’t fawned over me as I starved myself sick, would this all have started. And if i hadn’t been crucified as the fat kid…?

Such madness – all of it.

Perception

When I started this blog, my wonderful sister told me not to worry about writing about our family. I didn’t need to edit anything about my childhood – I could air our dirty laundry as much as I need. The thing is – I have nothing bad to say. Through the process of the 12 Steps, I have freed myself from the troubles of the past and have seen the truth.

While most of my life, I railed bitterly against my mother, I can truly not remember one negative thing. Through the process of healing, I realize my mother was a good woman who had her own troubles, and she did her best. If I compare the life I led and the deeds I did, my mother is a saint. Besides, how can I continue to blame her for stuff that happened when I was like eight – I’m almost 53, it’s time for me to take responsibility for my grown up life. I developed a whole new way of thinking about my past.

Now, that’s a shift in my thinking sufficient to recover from all the resentment and anger and fear that kept me blocked from freedom. If i can let go of my resentment of my mother. well, believe me, I can do just about anything – INCLUDING putting down the food, the eating disorder and the scale.

It’s my perception that’s off. In high school, I thought I went to the worst school ever. The teacher’s were terrible; the classes were weak. For years, I’ve railed about the crappy education I received.

Recently, our class valedictorian (who went to MIT) mentioned on Facebook that she had some of the best teachers and classes in high school. She learned more in high school than she did in college – MIT!!!! Another classmate roundly agreed with her that our high school bested college in education. I was stymied. I sat side-by-side with these two in most of our classes. If Denise K., who has at least 50 IQ points on me, thought she was getting a great education, what was I thinking? Perhaps I was thinking about my weight, what I was eating, what I wasn’t eating, why I kept gaining weight, where I could get diuretics……I didn’t crack a book or pay attention or go to school much. Hmmmm, what if I had paid attention? What if I had studied? There’s a new way of looking at it!

For most of my life, I firmly believed that FOOD WAS EVERYTHING – best friend, lover, therapist, parent – even, enemy. I also believed that food would solve my problems. I went to it when lonely, sad, scared, angry, hurt, desperate, and miserable. Turns out, once again I was wrong. Of course, no amount of ice cream could take away fear. And I’d only end up more terrified because I’d eaten so much and was gaining SO much weight, so quickly. I thought food was my problem, but it wasn’t. I had to go deeper and shift how I saw things – everything.

To get well, I need to change my thinking. Once my perception changes, I see that the world and it’s people aren’t out to get me. I, me, Melissa, am responsible for my own life.

Finally, I see the truth. Food isn’t my friend – it’s fuel. It won’t solve my problems – those I can face and get through. And so, there’s nothing to eat over. And so I don’t.

Finding Power

Today, I am truly free from the obsession of food. My freedom comes from engaging in the 12 Step process.

The heart of 12 Step recovery is: First I have to quit playing God. Which means I must stop thinking that I can control the world, other people, events – just about anything.

I am willing to stop playing God in my life because I am miserable, desperate, sick and tired of being sick and tired and hopefully, done. Done with the endless loop of my addiction – starving, bingeing, purging, starving, bingeing purging, starving….

This desperation is a gift. The gift that finally allows me to admit that I am powerless over it. Powerless, meaning when it comes to food, I have no power, choice or control. When I put food into me, my body wants more. Often, the foods my body wants more of are carbs and sugars, but I can also gobble down more carrots than a battalion of bunnies. My body is different than the normal person’s – it always wants more, more, more. And there is never enough food to comfort me. I eat until I can’t move and can barely breathe.

But if it were just a physical problem, I’d give up sugar and carbs, and be fine. But I can’t on my own. Lord knows I tried. I went on every diet I’d ever heard of – if you email me the name of a diet I’ve never tried, I’ll send you $20 right now. And I’m completely sure I’ll keep my money!

None of them, not one, worked, because my body really isn’t my biggest problem. My real problem is my mind, obsessed with food. So, every morning after bingeing all night (which became EVERY morning.), I’d swear to myself that I’d NEVER eat like that again. In fact, I planned, I’d never eat again. And i meant it this time!!!!!
But every night, I’d binge again, because my mind tells me I need to eat. It lies to me, day and night, telling me that I need the relief I think I find in food. It tells me that I deserve to eat – that my life is so hard, I need the comfort. It promises me that this is the last time I will EVER binge, so I’d better eat EVERYTHING I possibly can, since I’ll NEVER eat like this again.

That was my life – waking up with the firm resolve never to binge again and then bingeing every night. Only a sick mind could believe a sick mind every single day and day and every single night.

And a sick mind can’t help a sick mind. So I can’t solve my problems. I am powerless. And if I am powerless then I must find Power greater than myself or else I am doomed. If I don’t find Power,I continue to run my life and I never get better – I get worse. And I was getting worse.

So, I gave up. I surrendered and admitted I couldn’t run my life. And I was willing to seek Power greater than myself.

And now I am free.

What does “Power” mean. Well, it means something different to different people. I want this concept to be workable for all – from my friend’s mother who spends most days in church on her knees to the most vehement of atheists, which is how I showed up at my first 12 Step meeting.

Here is a definition I really like for spiritual growth. It’s written in a book called ‘Recovery’ by Rami Shapiro. He is a Rabbi, but the book includes Buddhism, Hinduism, Old Testament, New Testament, Native Indian beliefs and more. Shapiro notes that his definition does not include the word God and he writes:

What I mean by spiritual growth is this: an ever-deepening capacity to embrace life with justice, compassion, curiosity, awe, serenity and humility.

This very definition allowed me to develop my own initial concept of a Higher Power. This was God to me – these qualities.

Twelve Step recovery is all about a spiritual solution – a God guided life. So for me, it began as a life guided by justice, compassion, curiosity, awe,serenity and humility. I then added kindness, goodness, love, tolerance and patience. Through the years, my definition has kept growing.

Where do i find this ‘God”. Twelve Step recovery tells me I find it deep down within, that is where I discover the fundamental idea of God.

For myself, I began by connecting to the intuitive thought. Here’s an example:

You know when you write a self-righteous, angry email, and you go back and forth about whether or not to actually send it? Your mind talks you into it, telling you that you’re justified, because after all you’re right, you should send it, for sure. You hit send. And then right away your whole body cringes desperately, “Oh no. I shouldn’t have done that”? Well, that’s the intuitive thought deep down within that always knows the right thing to do. And that intuitive thought is the hand of God, wanting to guide me. If I learn to quiet my racing mind and listen to the intuitive thought, I’m connecting with Power greater than myself and beginning to live a God-guided life.

There’s got to be something bigger than me, or I’m in big trouble. If I don’t find Power, then I’m still running the show and making all my (warped)decisions. I was 40 years old, a drug addict, an alcoholic and a bulimic. I wasn’t working. I was living on my brother’s couch, until he kicked me out for stealing pills from his wife. AND I WAS MISERABLE.

When I entered the rooms of a 12 Step Fellowship, I heard a speaker say that I had to find ‘God’ (as i understood God)or i was doomed to repeat my addictive behaviors. After the meeting, I, a 40 year old atheist, asked the speaker if she could help me find God, and she said yes with complete confidence. Doubtful, I asked her how. Here’s what she said:

First, I had to lay aside old prejudice. All we’ve believed up to that point. (I figured I could do that. I was so miserable, and I had nothing to show for the life I had believed in.)

Next, I had to be willing to seek God. Just willing. I didn’t need to know anything or have any idea – I just had to be willing. (At that point, I was desperate. What the heck did I have to lose? Sure, I was willing.)

And then I had to pray. (Oops, I’m out. Prayer. I’m an atheist. No way.) But then I remembered. How many nights hanging over my toilet after bingeing my brains out, did these words come out of my mouth, ‘Dear God, please help me.) And then I’d recoil, how ridiculous, there isn’t a God. And if there were, He wouldn’t help the likes of me. But that fundamental idea of God, deep down within me, was there.

Finally, the speaker said I had to pray from my heart and pray with my feet, through the actions I take. These actions are very specific in Step work – the honest self appraisal, the amends to all those that I have hurt and the necessity of working with others.

It’s miraculous stuff. It took the obsession away from me, and freed me from the clamors of an addictive mind.

My own concept of Power assuredly doesn’t match the Pope’s or even Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s. But it does guide me, hold me and keep me safe.

More on the process in future posts.