…genuine meaning and purpose

If you’re wondering about the strange title, for the next few week I’m concentrating on things that I want or don’t want in my life, so I can keep focused on why I am in recovery. This one is a want, obviously πŸ˜›

I mentioned yesterday that I’ve been having a harder-than-usual time over the last few days. I’ve been feeling quite panicky about getting back to a normal weight – I’m nowhere near my target weight yet but still, I’ve passed the half way mark, and it’s beginning to get a bit more real. I haven’t been out of the underweight category for…almost two years now. I didn’t quite get there last September before I started losing weight again. I know that there were times in my early 20s when I was OK with my body at a much higher weight than this – in fact, I think I have ONLY ever been genuinely OK with my body at a normal weight, when I am anorexic I generally don’t feel connected to my body at all. When I was 21 I was running regularly, eating properly and maintained a healthy weight for a good 6-12 months, and although I was suffering from depression and PTSD at the time I was absolutely fine body image wise. Despite knowing this, though, I have been really struggling with feeling – not ‘fat’ as such but…normal. Not sick anymore. I know rationally that I’m still underweight but I have gained almost 20lbs in the last three months, it’s hard to hang on to the idea that I’m still not done yet. Anyway, I was feeling rather crappy when something that Cacti Don’t CryΒ wrote over the weekend gave me an idea as to what was going on.

I’ve known for ages that one of the things that has made it difficult for me to give up the eating disorder is that losing weight gives me a goal and a purpose when I feel completely lost and hopeless. What I’d never really considered is that being in recovery does the same thing. At the moment I am signed off of work and my parents are happy for me to live at home and take things easy because I am trying really hard to get better. I can give myself a break from panicking about my future, what I’m going to do for a job, how I’m going to ever become a functioning member of society, because I still have a long way to go. Being in recovery is almost as time and mind consuming as being anorexic. I still spend an awful lot of time thinking about food. I have to make sure I eat enough to continue gaining at a steady rate, that I get enough protein and healthy fats in despite my ridiculous food intolerances, I have to cook all my food from scratch, I plan meals and count calories and weigh my food and look through recipes and – well, the only things which make this stage of recovery any different from anorexia is that I’m much healthier and not so hungry πŸ˜› although even that’s not always true thanks to my supercharged metabolism and IBS! Anyway, the point is, despite the discomfort of being full and gaining weight, this part of recovery is familiar and quite comforting. It’s full of rules and goals and I know exactly what I have to do every day to keep on the right track.

But once I reach my target weight and work out what I have to eat to maintain, I will lose a lot of that sense of purpose. I won’t be able to physically measure my progress anymore. I will look normal, I will feel stronger, but I still won’t know how to fill up the holes in time and energy which the anorexia used to consume. I will still have a lot of work to do in therapy but that isn’t something you can weigh or chart. I will still be vulnerable and shaky psychologically, but I will feel like a lazy fraud for trying to take getting back into work or study slowly when I don’t have a visible, physical reason like being underweight for being careful. I am a scientifically minded person, I love facts and figures and rules – I don’t know where to start when I have to make a decision based on how I feel or what I want. I feel lost just thinking about my future beyond gaining the rest of this weight back. I think a lot of my extra-strength anorexic thoughts over the last week have been due to this – I may have given up the idea that anorexia can solve all my problems and keep me sane and safe, but now I kind of wish that I could just stay in this stage of recovery forever. Once I’ve gained the weight back, I lose my purpose.

Now that I’m aware of why I’ve suddenly start treating ‘normal’ like a dirty word, it’s become easier to cope with. As long as I know what’s going on in my head I tend to be able to rationalise and deal with it. Now, the thoughts have changed back from ‘I don’t look underweight anymore, I look normal, I’m eating too much, I’m gaining too quickly’ etc, to the real problem – ‘I’m scared of the future. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know who I am. I feel lost’. That’s kind of cool – I always quite like it when I work out why I am having a particular eating disordered thought and it actually morphs into the real worry like that – but it’s also very scary. I know I don’t HAVE to worry about this stuff yet, because I do still have quite a way to go, but at the same time if I don’t deal with this at all I am going to be hit by unexplained urges to relapse, and they will get stronger and stronger the closer I get to a healthy weight. I know that remaining underweight for the rest of my life isn’t something I want to do – for a start I don’t think I could do it without relapsing again anyway – so I am going to have to accept that within the next few months I am going to reach my target and have to start working out what I want to do next. Somehow I need to start trying to make this an exciting prospect rather than one which terrifies me. It’s the rest of my life, and it’s mine to do with as I wish – unencumbered by anorexia, unrestrained by all the things I tried to make myself do because I thought I ‘should’ – now I just have to work out what my wishes are.

I did some more baking today! This is Banana-Split Tea Bread from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson:

Uh…well, it’s sort of Banana-Split Tea Bread anyway, but by the time I finished adapting the recipe it may have technically become something else altogether :p the two major changes were that I halved the quantities because I was only making it for me and the adaptations meant I didn’t know how successful it would be anyway, and that I made it gluten free. This meant that instead of 350g wheat flour I used 75g gluten free flour and 25g coconut flour. The flour got cut down by more than half because coconut flour consists of 40% fibre, so it soaks up liquid in recipes a lot more than other flours. Here’s the original recipe and my changes:

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (75g gluten free flour, 25g coconut flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder (1 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 medium size, very ripe bananas, peeled and cut into chunks (2 bananas)
1/2 cup soy milk or other dairy free milk (150ml rice milk – more than half the original amount needed because of the coconut flour)
1/4 corn oil (25g coconut oil)
3/4 sugar or natural sweetener (25g unrefined brown sugar, 25g maple syrup. I was baking using agave but it’s not very good for people with IBS, it makes me feel horribly ill!)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I used vanilla rice milk so didn’t bother with extra vanilla but I did add 1tsp mixed spice)
1/4 cup chopped unsalted dry roasted peanuts or other nuts (25g pecans – not a peanut fan)
1/4 cup semisweet vegan chocolate chips (20g vegan chocolate chips)
1/4 cup drained crushed pineapple (a 100g pot of pineapple plus the juice it came in for extra liquid)
1/4 cup dried cherries (no cherries – didn’t have any and I don’t like them much anyway πŸ˜› )

See – other than the chocolate chips I adapted pretty much everything! It came out tasting amazing anyway, I am definitely making this again. I love Vegan Planet, my only gripe is that I can’t get my head around cup measurements. I have found a good conversion table but it still takes me ages to work out!

Three good things about today:
1. The weather was boiling hot again so I got some vitamin D therapy πŸ˜› I am sure my bones thanked me!
2. I went for a walk earlier and it was much more relaxing than yesterday. I sat down in the middle of the path at one point and just listened to all the sounds around me for five or ten minutes. I love living in the country.
3. Bananas. I hadn’t eaten a banana for 20 years until about a month ago, I had a weird phobia of them! They have become my new obsession though, going in my porridge and my cakes and my snacks. A favourite snack of the moment is banana mashed up with custard powder and water and microwaved for a couple of minutes. And breakfast this morning was wonderful – rice flakes and coconut flour cooked with rice milk, mashed banana, chopped strawberries and maple syrup. I never thought I’d say this, but I love bananas!

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9 responses to “…genuine meaning and purpose

  1. Hey, it’s Aisha. Thank you so so much for my package, it made my day, I loved everything and cannot wait to try all the teas and the chocolate. The necklace is beautiful, thank you so much, it was not twisted at all. Thank you, I look forward to reading your blog.

  2. Heey Katie,I can completely understand where you’re coming from. When you’re losing weight, you know what you’re doing and you know what you have to do and you know what’s going to happen… when you have to maintain it’s much more complicated…But I’ve got faith in you! I know you can do it.And even though the future is uncertain, you can always aim for healthy and happy, even though the ways to health and happiness can be vague.Love,Tina

  3. dancelikenooneiswatching

    i relate to you so much…that is why i cant push forward as im so scared of being ‘normal’ yet i know anything is better than being like this xxxxxxxxxx

  4. I think you covered something very important here. I’ve found in recovery that I am doing the same thing as I did with anorexia — making a project. When I look at it that way, I’m more easily disappointed. Recovery isn’t really a project in that there doesn’t seem to be a “done” moment. Yes, there are goals that must be involved…but once you reach those concrete goals, there will be abstract ones…like finding out what gives you pleasure in life, finding out what matters to you. If you’re anything like me, those abstract goals are unsettling. I like concrete things. This weight gain project gives me satisfaction that is similar to the weight loss project. It’s scary, yes, but I’m very goal-oriented. I worry who I’ll be if I’m not occupied with this goal of recovery. That’s the kicker — this mentality of discipline and everything. My therapist is always telling me that looking at recovery as a project is actually hurting me. I get frustrated. I don’t forgive myself. I’m fixated on some end point. I’m starting to see it’s just a flow of life. Gaining weight is a clear-cut thing, but there is SO much after that to look forward to and work on (and I don’t mean that in a negative, burdensome way, but in a wonderful, opportunistic way). Also, I always tell myself that if “normal” is really that bad, I know how to live “the other way.” I just don’t want that. I KNOW that way is unhappy. I consider recovery to be a constant experiment.

  5. Cacti Don't Cry

    Well, I'm glad I can help OTHER people figure themselves out, even if I can't do it for myself! πŸ˜‰ Seriously, though, it's wonderful that you can move beyond the surface to focus on the real issue at hand.<3 ❀

  6. I completely agree with the whole 'goal' idea. I find myself doing that mow and sometimes think about going back since it's so much easier to lost weight than to gain and be 'normal'Dam ED thoughts :(Anything is better than being underweight and miserable so if normal is better then embrace it! :)Have a great day xx

  7. rediscoveringlauren

    hi hun, im sorry to hear your having a hard time at the moment, but your so strong and have come so far and i know you can keep moving forward and i also know you will reach full recovery 100 percent πŸ™‚ you inspire so many people with this blog, so keep doing what your doing girlie!i know feeling normal is so so hard when your sao used to being at such a low weight that your considered not normal, but none of us are normal…each person is unique and NOT defined by weight!have a great day, xxxx

  8. determinedtoshine

    I can relate to your feelings of anxiety over the future so much – this was one of the major triggers to my illness. However I honestly think that although while we are ill or in recovery the prospect of what we want to do with the rest of our lives seems far too daunting to contemplate, when our bodies and minds are healthy it will be a lot easier to think about.~HannahPs I've recently overcome a banana fear too and can't get enough of them!

  9. I can relate a lot to this Katie and posted a while ago about it (can't remember what it was called- something about "don't want to be a loser"). It's really hard to feel like there is a purpose outwith losing/gaining mindset and a whole life outwith an eating disorder. I try not to think TOO far ahead but also to keep goals in mind- I know you want to study and train for the marathon and I think those are GREAT goals and give a definite purpose/meaning to life. I've also found that I am overall much happier with my body at a healthy weight- so weird how that works?!

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