Tag Archives: Eating Disorder

Withdraw in Prayer

“But whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” (Proverbs 1:33 NIV)

I found the above verse in yesterday’s devotion for dieters. Since the verse was taken out of context, I decided to read the entire chapter. Proverbs is in the Old Testament, which to me, who knows very little about the Bible, mostly means it’s based in fear. Before Jesus, people were taught to fear the Lord, and those who did so were seen as wise. That’s also what this chapter seems to say.

However, this particular verse is quite positive. The author of the devotional uses it to make the point that, when we are troubled, we can and should turn to the Lord in prayer.

As I wrote in an old reflection, Jesus himself suffered human temptation. There were, like the author of the devotion for dieters says, also many times when he was persecuted. He didn’t answer in destructive ways, either by attacking the people who persecuted him or by giving in to temptation. Rather, he withdrew and prayed.

The people of the Old Testament may have had a hard time turning to God, because God hadn’t forgiven humanity yet. At least, if I lived in the time of Proverbs 1, I’d not be led to turn to God for guidance that easily, despite what is written in the last verse. However, through Jesus, we can be assured that a loving God will guide us and help us overcome the pressures of life and our human temptation. Jesus knows what it’s like to be under pressure and he also knows what it is like to resist temptation – successfully. By turning to our Lord and Heavenly Father when under stress, he set an example.

Willpower, as I said last month, is the will to turn over the reigns of our life to God. We don’t have to do this thing called life alone.

I have been doing okay’ish in the eating disorder and self-harm departments lately, despite having been under a lot of pressure. In part, this is because I’ve been withdrawing from the pressures of daily life more. That still doesn’t mean I’ve turned myself over to God. I withdraw into ordinary things, like books, writing, pampering myself with body care products, etc. I don’t say this is wrong, but it isn’t doing anything but temporarily distracting me from the pressures of life.

God can help us truly overcome our suffering. He teaches us to pray and, as is written in Proverbs 1:33, listen. If we listen for God’s guidance, we may realize that He will take care of us. I’m not there yet. I’m working on it, praying about it though.

Willpower

I am a member of a few general recovery groups on Facebook. Most of the members are addicts or alcoholics. I am not. I consider myself addicted to food in some ways, but it isn’t like I can just stop eating, like an addict can quit their substance of abuse. I’m not saying that’s easy either. That’s my point of this post.

Most recovery groups are based on some twelve-step model. As such, we see a lot of references to a higher power or God in the posts. One that I came across recently was that we have to redefine willpower. Willpower is the will to turn over the reigns of our life to God.

I like this statement. It doesn’t mean we don’t have to attempt abstinence (or in the case of an eating disorder, balance). We do still need to refrain from engaging in addictive behaviors. The difference is, God is guiding us on our journeys. If we turn over the reigns of our life to God, we are realizing that we need to follow His lead, not the road of addiction.

I am a person who often turns over the reigns of her life to other people. I allow others to make decisions for me and in some ways, I’d like them to make the decision that I can’t have binge food, too. Staff won’t do this, as I’m an adult and responsible for my own recovery. My husband sometimes gets me a small bag of candy when I’d intended on eating a far larger quantity. This may lessen the physical effects of a binge, but it still means I engage in compulsive eating.

The first step of Overeaters Anonymous is to say we’re powerless over food. (The same statement is used in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, with “alcohol” or “drugs” instead of “food”.) Therefore, we need to find a power greater than ourselves to help us recover from our addiction. Note that this higher power doesn’t necessarily have to be God: for atheists and agnostics, it can be the OA group they participate in. This signifies that, while no-one is taking responsibility for another’s choices, it is the guidance of our higher power, be it God or the group, that leads us into recovery. Even as believers, we believe that we have free will, but we can still turn the reigns of our life over to God. If we do this, we learn to rely on Him for paving the way for us into recovery. It isn’t that we are no longer ourselves in recovery or not, but we rely on God for facilitating our process of recovery.

I am nowhere near recovering, as regular readers of this blog know. My last binge was last Friday, and I was tempted to give in again today. I didn’t, which is a small win, and my thoughts on willpower contributed to that. I realized that God doesn’t want me to binge, and He gives me the means to resist the urge. Today, I was led to write this post instead of binge. It may sound like I don’t practise what I preach, as someone who’s still pretty deep in her eating disorder, but it personally helps me to preach recovery.

Book Review: Believarexic by J.J. Johnson

I have published a few posts that were inspired by my reading of the book Believarexic by J.J. Johnson already. I didn’t share many opinions on the book itself though. Early this morning, I finished the book, so I’d like to post a review. This review contains some spoilers.

Synopsis

Fifteen-year-old Jennifer has to force her family to admit she needs help for her eating disorder. But when her parents sign her into the Samuel Tuke Center,
she knows it’s a terrible mistake. The facility’s locked doors, cynical nurses, and punitive rules are a far cry from the peaceful, supportive environment
she’d imagined. In order to be discharged, Jennifer must make her way through the strict treatment program – as well as harrowing accusations, confusing half-truths, and startling insights. She is forced to examine her relationships, both inside and outside the hospital. She must relearn who to trust, and decide for herself
what “healthy” really means.

Punctuated by dark humor, gritty realism, and profound moments of self-discovery, Believarexic is a stereotype-defying exploration of belief and human connection.

Review

This book is an autobiographical novel. The author describes this quite poignantly at the end of the book as “true make-believe”. What this means is that the author did really get inpatient treatment for her eating disorder in 1988 and 1989, but the details and characters may’ve been changed or simplified. I haven’t yet checked the bonus material, so I cannot be sure whether some of the pretty intriguing events in the book did really happen. For instance, one of Jennifer’s fellow patients is signed out by her parents because they don’t believe the program is working. They decide instead to take her to an orthodontist to have her mouth wired shut. Even though this book takes place in the dark ages of the 1980s, I find it hard to believe such a procedure would be legal even then. I do still see the stark contrast between psychiatric treatment then versus now.

Sometimes, I find that characters have been oversimplified in terms of them being either good or bad. Dr. Prakash, Jennifer’s psychiatrist, is nice from the beginning to end, whereas nurse Sheryl aka Ratched is bitchy and controling throughout the book. Still, some characters make quite a transition through the book, and there are incredible twists and turns.

The book starts out a bit triggering with for example the hierarchy of eating disorders being quite extreme. Nonetheless, this book is clearly pro-recovery. At the end of the book, the author encourages people who even have an inkling of an idea that they might have an eating disorder to seek help. As may’ve become clear through some of my previous posts inspired by this book, Belieivarexic led me to some interesting insights.

Book Details

Title: Believarexic
Author: J.J. Johnson
PUlbisher: Peachtree Publishers (eBook by Open Road Media)
Publication Date: October 2015

For more information on the book and its author and for resources for people with eating disorders, go to Believarexic.com.

Disordered Eating: A Cry for Help

One day when I was probably in seventh grade, I read an audio magazine for blind teens. It was really a mixture of its own content with content from other teen magazines read aloud. One of the articles from another magazine was about an eating disorders unit. I just remembered this as I read a passage in J.J. Johnson’s Believarexic, in which Jennifer remembers learning about anorexia for the first time in fifth grade and wondering how the celebrity who died of it, got as skinny as she did. Later on, Jennifer learns about people being hospitalized for eating disorders. She envies them because of their size but also because of the attention they get.

This hit home with me. Back in seventh grade, I had already firmly embarked on the binge eating boat, but since I was at a healthy weight for my age and height, I didn’t notice my eating had spiraled out of control already. I remember once, probably in the same year, being confronted by my classmates about getting five candy bars out of the vending machine and eating them all in one sitting. However, I just got annoyed and didn’t realize that my classmates may have wanted to protect me from unhealthful choices.

We didn’t learn about binge eating disorder or compulsive overeating in health class. All we learned about eating disorders was about anorexia and bulimia. I even did one of my gifted program projects on these eating disorders. I didn’t tell anyone that, as I was writing the paper, I was trying to figure out how I could become anorexic.

No, I didn’t “want” anorexia, like some teens say they do. No-one consciously decides to develop an eating disorder. But I did want the perseverance that I perceived anorexics had. So I began keeping food diaries. This was before I had access to the Internet and I couldn’t read packaging, so I couldn’t check calories. In truth, as I look back at my food diaries of the time, they show a pretty typical overeater’s pattern. But I wanted to have some control over my food intake by keeping these diaries. Not that it worked, of course. Over the years, my binge eating got worse.

Back to the article about the eating disorders unit. For some reason, I felt compelled to be like these patients. I don’t know whether it was pure attention-seeking. I mean, I got plenty of attention from my parents and teachers. What I might’ve been missing was someone who saw how much I was struggling. Maybe, if I became anorexic, they’d see how miserable I was.

The other day, I had a meeting with my psychologist. She wa spushing me to take steps towards independence in preparation for my move in with my husband. I can’t remember whether she said so, but she gave me the impression that she felt I was doing better because I had much fewer meltdowns and emotional outbursts. In truth, I may be a little better, but I still have a pretty miserable life and feel pretty crap. Instead of becoming self-destructive or aggressive, I lie in bed or resort to overeating. A fair quality of life is not just not being a pain in the neck, but also being able to experience pleasure every once in a while. It isn’t that I never do, but it’s quite rare that I do things that bring me any sort of satisfaction. For example, I don’t craft nearly as much as I used to, because I can’t handle the noise and crowdedness at day activities.

I was also telling my psychologist that I’m completely dependent on my treatment team. What I meant was close to the exact opposite: I have no control over what goals are set for me, but it is my sole responsibility to reach them.

In a sense, maybe this whole disordered eating thing is a way of showing peope I need help. It sounds so pathetic though: someone who’s nearly thirty-years-old needing to be taken care of like a little child. IN truth though, often I feel that vulnerable.

Fighting My Disordered Eating

“Fight” is one of the writing prompts from Mama’s Losin’ It for this week. The first thing that came to mind as I reflect on this word is my fight against my eating disorder tendencies. This fight has been on my mind a lot lately.

Last week, had a bad binge and then in the evening, a fellow patient gave us cake. A nurse was joking about all the calories in the cake, poking my tummy as she asked: “Do you want whipped cream on your cake?” This was extremely triggering to me. At first, I thought “screw you” and decided to indeed get whipped cream on my cake. As time went by and I ruminated on what had happened, the nurse’s words and actions took on a life of their own, causing me to doubt my will to recover from binge eating. Not that I didn’t want to lose weight, but my initial instinct was to move back in the direction of bulimia by starting to purge again.

I later told the nurse that what had happened had been immensely triggering and she assured me that she’d just been fooling around a bit. Usually, this nurse has quite good ideas for helping me recovr from my disordered eating tendencies, so I took no further offense.

This doesn’t mean the doubts about how to fight my obesity have gone. In fact, the only thing holding me back from starting to purge again is my chronic heartburn, for which I’m getting an upper GI endoscopy done to see what might be wrong. I don’t have that long of a history of purging, but that doesn’t mean that the purging I did do can’t have caused damage. It certainly won’t get better if I resort back to purging now.

However, eating disorders are not just about preserving one’s health. After all, they often do the exact opposite. There is this hierarchy in eating disorders where restrictive anorexics rank as most perseverant and stubborn, followed by binge/purge anorexics, bulimics depending on their weight and the biggest losers (no pun intended) are the compulsive overeaters. In other words, as someone who suffers from binge eating only, I’m a total failure of an eating disorder sufferer. Yet I am not just an eating disorder sufferer, I am a person who happens to have disordered eating tendencies and who wants to fight these tendencies.

This hierarchy of the eating disordered is, however, also reflected in how seriously I take myself and am taken by other people with regard to my disordered eating tendencies. When I still purged, my GP put in my file that I had bulimia. I didn’t – bulimia has very strict criteria that I didn’t meet -, but it was in my records nonetheless. Now that I probably do meet the criteria of binge eating disorder, I’m commonly seen as just a little overweight at best and as an unmotivated, lazy fatass at worst. It’s probably crazy that I’d rather be seen as sick than lazy.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Bar of Expectations #MondayMusings

Last week, I was readig the book Believarexic by J.J. johnson. I have not been able to get far into the book, because I got easily triggered. The book is about a girl, Jennifer, probably the author as a teen, who has an eating disorder. She eventually decides to tell her parents and have her Mom call a hospital for help. At the intake interview, Jennifer’s Mom is skeptical that Jennifer really has an eating disorder and isn’t just seeking attention. The psychologist tells them that only time will tell whether Jennifer’s eating disorder is legitimate. Legitimate. As if it were some rite of passage. In the hospital world of course, it is: without a mental illness, you aren’t admitted to a psychiatric unit.

This all reminds me of my own experience being admitted into the psychiatric hospital in 2007. The psychiatrist had to practically make up a diagnosis to get me admitted. That is, she diagnosed me with an adjustment disorder, which is really an extreme, debilitating reaction to stress. It is serious, but it is not a severe mental illness. Basic health insurance in the Netherlands as of 2012 no longer covers care for it. Of course, there are exceptions. I was suicidal, so I probably would still get care under these new insurance guidelines.

The story goes on with Jennifer being admitted to the eating disorders unit. One of the rules of the unit is patients having to resign complete responsibility over their eating habits. That was another trigger. In today’s treatment models, patients are usually required to take a lot of responsibility for themselves. Certainly patients with eating disorders are. So are patients with, well, borderline personality disorder, which is what I’m diagnosed with.

It isn’t that I’d like to resign all my responsibility. In truth, if I could, I’d be completely self-reliant. But I can’t, and I’m stuck in the middle between self-reliance and dependence. This is terribly hard. It means I constantly need to negotiate the right kind of help and the right level of independence and assistance.

Today, as I was on the edge of a meltdown, I told a nurse I’d rather be sent to the locked ward and stay there for the rest of my life. Regardless fo the fact that no-one can just stay on a locked ward without any sort of participation in their treatment being expected of them, I’ve not had good experiences on locked units. I rather meant that I’d finally like to make a choice between being completely self-reliant and responsible and being completely dependent. As I can’t choose complete independence, I’d choose dependence instead.

More so, I don’t want people’s expectations to constantly exceed my abilities so much. Currently, I’m constantly reaching for a bar of expectations that, no matter how high on my toes I stand, I just can’t reach. I’m thinking of jumping to the bar so high I fall flat on my face. Then at least people have to lower the bar.

#MondayMusings

A Letter to My Body

Dear body,

I am sorry. I have not been taking good care of you lately. I have not been exercising regularly, have been binge eating a lot and have slept at all the wrong moments and been awake at night.

Of course, I could blame my eating disorder and see it as something entirely separate from myself. I could blame the holiday season. I could blame the winter blues (or general blues, since I’m not sure if it’s seasonal at all) for my laziness regarding exercise, my increase in binge eating and my poor sleeping habits. Then again, that’d be avoiding my responsibility.

Sometimes, I feel as though you don’t deserve to be taken care of. I feel you’re ugly, fat and unheathy anyway. You’re fat, but at least my husband doesn’t consider you ugly and you could be a lot less healthy than you are.

Besides, right now I don’t have as poor an image of you as I had before. I like my skin feeling softer when I apply shower cream, then scrub it, then apply body butter. I particularly even like my belly, which is the part you seem to be storing most of your fat.

I want you to know there’s nothing you did to deserve me stuffing you with binge food and depriving you of the exercise and sleep you need. I’m stressed, but you didn’t cause me to be stressed. I’m slightly depressed, but you didn’t cause me to be depressed.

So I want to thank you for being relatively healthy while I don’t take as good care of you as I should. All your major functions (except for vision of course) are intact. You keep your vitamin and mineral levels okay. You haven’t developed diseases like diabetes or heart disease in spite of your obesity, caused by my lack of proper care. You are okay.

As I said, I could look at your negative attributes: your not being as fit as I’d like you to be, your causing me acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome and random pains and aches. Then again, whether it’s you causing me these problems or me causing you these problems, could be debated. The thing is, I can’t change your functions without taking better care of you first.

As dialectical behavior therapy also teaches, I can’t change you witout accepting you as you are first. You are okay as you are. Now I can work on improving you.

Yours,
Astrid

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Mom's Small Victories

Change Is Inevitable: Your Attitude Towards Growth

Handling change is hard for me. I don’t like transitions, as they bring about a lot of uncertainty and therefore stress. I’d rather stay in my comfort zone and live my life as if the world weren’t changing arund me. That’s not realistic, however. I grow older with each passing day, even if I only realize it on my birthday or on January 1. Change is inevitable.

Growth is intentional. Many people make annual goals to make sure they do not just change, but grow as well. If you are anything like me, you are more interested in the process of writing about your goals than the process of meeting them. If you are antyhing like me, after all, you’re better at writing than at overcoming big challenges like overeating or mental health probems.

It can be overwhelming looking back at your annual or even monthly goals and seeing how few you’ve met, especially if you’re a pessimist. It is much more helpful in that sense to look at each day as it comes, appreciating the growth you’ve made that particular day. I may not have lost ten to twenty pounds yet and most likely will not lose them this year either, but each day without bingeing is a good day in the eating disorder department.

When you look at the future, like I said yesterday, you can have an attitude of hope or one of fear. When you look back at the past, the same is true: you can be appreciative or disappointed. When you do look back at your annual or monthly goals, you can have an attitude of appreciation for the goals you did meet or one of disappointment over those you didn’t. For example, I could focus on the weight loss and eating disorder recovery goals I did not meet (yet!), or I could focus on my blogging and writing goals. In these areas, I far exceeded my expectations.

Not only does growth help you reach your goals and thereby help you be more appreciative, but the reverse is also true. If you look back on your goals and decide you didn’t meet some, it is easy to allow your motivation to go down the drain and retreat into your comfort zone. When, however, you look back at your goals and see you met some, you feel more motivated to continue striving to meet your future goals. Like I said yesterday about passing or not failing Latin, having met some goals and having not met some goals, is essentially the same. It’s your attitude that makes the difference.

mumturnedmom
Everyday Gyaan
A Fresh Start

 

Prayer and Reflection: Jesus Helps Me Through My Eating Disorder

I have had quite the urge to engage in eating disorder behaviors today. It’s raining, so I can’t go out to the town store to get some candy. Besides, it’d not be right in the long run. After all, I’d not be caring for myself well by indulging in the urge to binge.

So I paged through Journaling in Eating Disorder Recovery. The book is explicitly Christian. Since I am a Jesus follower too, I have felt very much touched by the questions and suggestions in the book. At several points, the author encourages the reader to find Bible verses or other inspirational material that will help them through their recovery journey. So I looked online for some Bible verses that help me strengthen my willpower to overcome this urge, at least for now.

“For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the
sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17-18 NIV)

This is so powerful. Jesus was human himself, suffering all the usual temptations us humans face on a daily basis. Jesus did not have an eating disorder, but He was undoubtedly tempted to indulge overeating every once in a while. After all, everyone is tempted ot overeat at times. Yet Jesus overcame this temptation. We could say He did so because he is God, too. That would be disempowering ourselves, because we are saying: “I coud never resist temptation like Jesus did, because I’m not God.”

What this Bible verse says, however, is that Jesus is able to empathize with us and thereby help us. We may not have the Godly powers Jesus has, but we can lean on Him, and He will care. After all He knows what it is like to be fully human. He cannot just sympathize, but truly empathize.

As a mental health sufferer, I tend to look to people who have a lot in common with me for guidance and support. I look to people who have had the same experiences and struggles I face. I look to people who cannot just sympathize, but empathize.

How wonderful is it that God HImself, through His son Jesus Christ, can empathize with all of us! He knows what it is like to be tempted, so He is willing and able to help us through.

God, help me through the urge to binge for just one day. Help me face the reality that, in the long run, bingeing will be bad for my body, and I need to take good care of my body. Help me realize that, through your son Jesus Christ, who suffered human temptation, I am able to overcome this same temptation. Amen.

After Recovery

This week, the One Word blog linkup has “after” or “pretend” as the choices of words. I could write a post inspired by both of these words, but I need to choose one. When I found out about this week’s words, immediately an idea popped up in my mind, inspired also by my eating disorder recovery journaling project. What would my long-term goals for recovery be, and what would my life look like after I fully recover?

The answer to this question of course depends on the question: recover from what? Just my eating disorder or mental illness in general. In the latter case, I need to note that recovery is not the same as cure. Recovery means living beyond the illness, not necessarily without it. In Dutch, the word for “beyond” is “voorbij”, which in most cases connotes the thing we go beyond has passed. In English, the word “beyond” does not have such a connotation.

First, let’s pretend (ha, the other word sneaked in!)j that I can be fully cured of my eating disorder. This is in fact not just pretend, as people do live past their eating disorders. What would this look like?


  • I would be able to snack without losing control.

  • I would not feel guilty (most of the time) after eating.

  • I would no longer compensate for (over)eating in an unhealthy way, such as by purging.

  • I would feel okay about my body. This does not necessarily mean I’m at a healthy weight, as weight loss is a completely different journey from eating disorder recovery even if your main behavior is bingeing. It would simply mean I’d no longer hate my body.

  • I would have and use healthy ways of coping with stress.

This is where recovery form mental illness in general, in my case borderline personality disorder, comes in. After all, one of my primary goals in recovery is to develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Suppose I developed those healthy coping mechanisms. What else would I want to have accomplished after recovery? First, I’d like to feel mostly stable. I’d still have down days and up days, would still get angry at times, because that is human. I would, however, no longer experience those intense states of hopelessness which usually lead to destructive coping mechanisms or feel chronically empty.

Another way of looking at recovery, however, is to look at what I want my life to be like beyond my illness. In other words, what would I like to achieve in life in spite of my mental health problems. Here goes:


  • Live with my husband.

  • Be able to do a volunteer job>

  • Be able to spend enough time on my hobbies not to get bored, but not so much that I get overwhelmed.

  • Be grateful for the smaller and larger joys of life without immediately second-guessing myself.


Lastly, this is somewhat unrelated to recovery. It is more a general life goal. I’d love to write my autobiography.