Sometimes…

…I just want to say “fuck it” and lose myself in the creation of an intricate plan for losing weight. Sometimes I want to cut myself more than anything else in the world. Sometimes I have to force myself to sit at my desk all evening because if I move I will just go to the cornershop and buy something alcoholic, which I will then drink by myself. Sometimes I wonder what the fuck I’m doing training to be a counsellor when I still get these urges, and occasionally act on them (the drinking one anyway). Sometimes I resent having plans which require me to remain healthy because I want to restrict, and it was so much easier to self destruct when I had nothing meaningful in my life.

I’m nothing if not honest.

Even so, having only been in recovery for the last two and a half years, it would be odd if I didn’t sometimes freak the hell out and want to go back to what I know. It’s not an indication that recovery doesn’t exist (some of my good friends are living proof that this is not true) or that I personally am incapable of recovering. It’s just that I can’t expect to go from chronically ill to totally fine in less than three years, no matter how much I like to believe that I should be the recovery version of superwoman. And anyway, the presence of such thoughts doesn’t matter as much as their frequency, intensity and what I do about them. My life is not a day to day struggle with an eating disordered head and a healthy body. My head is free of all that bollocks 95% of the time, and during the other 5% I just grumble and distract myself by refreshing Facebook and twitter until the thoughts give up and leave me alone. I don’t buy into them. I don’t act on them.

Funnily enough, I think the counselling course is triggering some of this, as much as I love it. It’s like…I feel that I’m not allowed to struggle any more because that would be proof I’m not ready to do this course and I would be irresponsible to continue training. I’m also partly tempted to sabotage my chances at completing this course to avoid the potential disappointment of something out of my control forcing me to quit, just as happened in York (the “jump before I’m pushed” instinct – totally irrational given that so far there is no indication that anything will stop me finishing college). Telling myself that I can’t have certain types of thoughts and urges is like telling myself not to think of Β a polar bear. Of course trying to force something out of my mind like that is going to cement it front and centre. But I’m just at the start of a two year course, and it is not a requirement for trainee counsellors to be totally mentally healthy. We are expected to be able to handle our various issues and not become unfit to practice/study, but that is very different from being completely sane and sorted. I don’t have to become a perfect human being just yet πŸ˜‰

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16 responses to “Sometimes…

  1. Hello Katie,
    Thank you so much for your honesty, I frequently feel the same way, and though I’m certainly not as far along as you in recovery, I have a hard time accepting that I do sometimes want to press the self-destruct button again. With making the decision to begin a math phd program, I’ve felt quite overwhelmed and have (dare I say) backslid somewhat simply because I know that I would not be able to complete the program if I was not well. Oh just jumping before I’m pushed. Sometimes it seems so much easier.
    But neither of us ought to do this, because then what after? You want to be a counselor so much (and would be an amazing one, as far as I can tell) and I really truly want to sleep and live math, and teach of course, too. Just because we’re doing something difficult that we have a chance of failing at does not mean that we need to make ourselves fail – that would be the easy way out! And so disappointing, too.
    Thank you for telling me again not to walk that path again.
    I hope that you continue to follow your dream this week.
    With care,
    Katrina

    • It’s hard to accept that you can’t instantly put the ED behind you for good once you make the decision to recover, right? I think sometimes trying to pretend that everything is going well and you NEVER get any thoughts or urges like that can be dangerous, because it means that if you start to slip it’s a hundred times harder to accept, and you just end up in denial that anything is happening. Well, I say you but I mean me πŸ˜› I did that last year! I got loads of stomach bugs and lost some weight accidentally, and REALLY struggled to get back on track afterwards. It nearly killed me to admit to it because I felt like a total idiot after all the positive stuff I’d written about recovery on this blog. That was last summer – so far this year, although the thoughts still pop up sometimes, I’ve not acted on any of them or lapsed behaviourally, so I am making progress!

      I hope you manage to get back on track too πŸ™‚ the whole “jump before you’re pushed” thing is such a stumbling block for me, but usually once I’m aware that it’s this which is making me anxious and wanting to self destruct I can sort my head out again.

  2. There was always arguments going around about the state of a counsellor; some people say it’s unrealistic and unhelpfull to have someone who is, in essence, ‘perfect’ and has a perfectly composed face, body, mind and soul. Others say it’s hard to take advice from those who have their own problems, with the whole ‘who are they to speak’ debate. There’s also the quote; ‘takes one to know one.’
    You shouldn’t let your disorder try perfect your profession as well, because like most things, it does it undercover to try convince you it’s not really happening. It’s about becoming the ‘perfect’ counsellor, right?
    You’re troubles and emotions and so called ‘failures’ which are not even so-they give you an incredible insight into life that nobody else has, and also provides you with experience and advice that could be extremely helpfull. Use them to your strengths, don’t feel you need to block them and become ‘perfect’ at counseling like everything else your Eating Disorder instructs.
    Best of luck x

    • I’ve been thinking about this for the last 15 minutes (between checking my blog on my phone while still in bed and getting up πŸ˜› ) and actually, while I relate to many of the typical personality traits of a recovered anorexic (I’m obsessive, a dreadful worrier, a total pedant, find it hard to ask for help, have trouble coping with change and so on) I’m not much of a perfectionist. My ED (which doesn’t influence my behaviour any more, either in regards to food or the rest of life – now my anxiety is a different matter, that still tries to control me!) was never about unrealistic ideas of perfection and although I’m quite an academic person I was always happy with a 90% on a test rather than beating myself up for not getting the whole 100. So despite that last rather jokey throwaway sentence, I don’t think either I or my ED expect me to become a perfect counsellor. Of course some therapists would suggest that there’s no such thing as a throwaway comment, but I like to take the piss out of myself so I’m going to allow myself that one πŸ˜‰

      I do personally agree that people who have been through various problems make better counsellors though. Not if their problems are active – if my ED were still symptomatic I would be running the risk of accidentally conveying my own irrational thoughts to clients, and I’ve had that done to me by counsellors with weight issues before. But if you’ve been in recovery for a few years and you are stable and behaviour free I think it becomes a plus rather than a negative. I think this worry is more about feeling “trapped” in recovery than wanting to be perfect – I feel like I CAN’T struggle because it could lead to me having to drop out for the twenty millionth time, which is actually a really black and white way of looking at it. I’m allowed to have unhelpful thoughts and urges, I just have to make sure I don’t act on them (check!), work on what’s going on to make me anxious like that (check!) and not beat myself up about them (erm…well, half check!).

  3. Ah yes, I very much empathise with the 95% feeling. Yesterday I was asked to sign a consent form to participate in teaching sessions, which informed me in no uncertain terms of the likelihood that material covered can bring to the surface ‘previously well managed mental health difficulties’. They then went on to describe how, while we are expected to be in a robust enough place to deal with this sort of thing, there were a number of avenues we can take if any sessions were found to be intolerable. Naturally I had a bit of a wobbler at this thought, but at the same time it was useful to know the course is supportive and well aware of these things.Β 

    We are supervised up to the eyeballs already of course, but personal support is somewhat different. Are you offered any sort of outlet/support system in your course? If not, perhaps getting together a small reflective group between a few of your classmates might be an idea. It’s natural that these feelings pop up, to differing degrees, Β in people when faced with new challenges. Β I think as you say, acknowledging them rather than telling yourself theyre ‘not allowed’ is really important. You’re not supposed to be superwoman. But accepting this is sometimes the hardest part.Β 

    ❀

    • We’ve been told the same thing about our course – we do a lot of counselling each other, using all our own stuff rather than role playing, and of course because we’re all a bit rubbish at it at this point it’ll be natural to be left feeling a bit weird and exposed after classes. I think those teaching future therapists/psychologists are probably well aware that people who have experience with MH problems are likely to be drawn to the professions, so it’s good that they are accepting of that! I’m thinking about checking out the college counselling service actually – we are encouraged to have personal counselling while the course is going on, regardless of how much previous experience we have with it. It would be useful for me to have that extra support, and I’ve not seen a therapist for about eighteen months now, so I’m probably due a top up πŸ˜›

  4. I like your honesty, Katie πŸ™‚

    Sometimes I feel almost recovered from anorexia (though not recovered from the OCD or anxiety that pre-dated my AN by many years, and which I believe will always be with me..). I have gained more weight in the last 3 months (thanks to bodybuilder’s protein drinks and lifting a few dumbells) and I am very happy about that πŸ™‚ Most of the time, I have no anorexic thoughts.

    However, a couple of weeks ago I was quite ill with a nasty chest infection. A couple of weeks before that, life got on top of me for other reasons, which you are aware of (because I sent out a desperate e-mail to friends who I thought would understand…). My mood plummeted on both occasions and anorexic thoughts spilled into my mind. It would have been easy, while sick to take note of these thoughts, because I had no appetite. But I ate against my will and am pleased that I did.

    BTW, there isn’t such a thing as a “perfect human” πŸ˜€ xx

    • I get frustrated by feeling virtually recovered some weeks and then struggling at other times, I want it to be one or the other πŸ˜› which is such a black and white way of thinking about it! I’m really glad that you’re feeling a bit better now Cathy. It’s a pain in the butt that people become more vulnerable to relapse when they are vulnerable in other ways, it’s like heaping an extra completely unnecessary stress on top of all the other crap. I’m the same – too much stress or too little food due to a virus makes all those anorexic thoughts come back, albeit temporarily. They always go away again as long as I don’t act on them though πŸ™‚

      • You and the other ‘FEASTIES’ were a lifesaver for me the other week, Katie… Thank you for helping me out πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

        That’s such an important point you make – about NOT acting on anorexic thoughts. It is so hard to do, because the urge to restrict (or whatever other behaviours one has ‘used’) is so great, and it is unfortunate that these behaviours DO bring temporary relief. But that relief IS only temporary…

        BTW, it would be great to meet up again πŸ™‚ I know you are hugely busy now, but maybe I could come over to Newcastle one Saturday or Sunday?

  5. P.S. There is such a thing as a perfect cat though. I believe my two kitties to be 100% perfect πŸ™‚

  6. A good counsellor is someone who has experienced those feelings, those urges and has come through the other side. you ARE NORMAL!!! nobody is perfect and those feelings of needing perfection just stem from the ED’s idea of warped perception, never satisfied and never quite finished… but the fact that you dont act on these feelings shows your strength, recovery isnt a “done and dusted” deal, its an ongoing process that we have to live with and fight for.
    So keep fighting lady, cos you’re my miss motivator :-p

  7. Oh my – thank you for your honesty and sharing this with us. I can relate so much to the urge to say “fuck it” and resort to self-destructive behaviours, even though in lots of ways I do a reasonable job of impersonating a functioning adult.

    As you, (and anyone who reads my blog), know(s) [arggh – grammar freakout! What is the correct usage here?!], I do still frequently act on these urges even though I know that it just heaps a whole shit-load of extra crap and despair and difficulty on top of whatever difficult circumstance I was experiencing to begin with. I am so glad for you that you have managed to get some decent coping mechanisms in place so that you don’t have to deal with the fallout of engaging in destructive behaviours. Much love and good wishes for strength to continue fighting, even when things feel tough.

    I relate hugely to the self-sabotaging ‘jump before I’m pushed’ thing too. But nothing good ever comes from ‘jumping’ so again I wish you all the strength you need to keep going. Some contact with the uni counselling services sounds like a really good idea so I hope that goes well :-).

    I definitely think that some continued struggles (as much as I don’t want you to have to be dealing with them!) are an asset as a counsellor as it prevents that horribly superior “you do this and then you get better and that’s what i did and now i’m like all amazing and stuff” kinda attitude (not that I think you’d be like that!). If you still need to employ strategies to cope with difficult thoughts etc then it’s like ‘practicing what you preach’ kinda thing.

    Aargh – this is why I don’t write many comments anymore – I just ramble and what makes sense in my head sounds like utter bollocks when I read it back. Hope you get the gist anyway :-/.

    If not, I’ll just offer some bear-hugs, x x x

  8. Thank you for your honesty.

  9. Hey there!
    I only recently recovered from my eating disorder and I work in mental health! It’s totally do-able!
    Sometimes I feel like a massive hypocrite but I figure as long as I can still do my job it’s all good. Most of the time I find I can relate to my clients so much better because I understand some of the thoughts/feelings/behaviours they are experiencing. I’ve never had to work with someone with an ED – I would be interested to see how that went. Could be brilliant or disastrous.

    I still struggle every day with disordered thinking, but I am able to compartmentalise I guess. So don’t stress out about it! I’m sure you will be fine. Just keep dealing with those thoughts as they come and then move on with your day.

    I’m excited I found your blog!!
    All the best, eliza and harry

    • Hi Eliza (and Harry!), thanks for commenting.

      I hope my history will be a positive rather than a negative when I’m qualified too. Funnily enough I DON’T struggle with disordered thoughts on a daily or even weekly basis most of the time – they only really come to get me when I’m really stressed out or anxious these days. So hopefully one day it’ll be the same for you, because they’re a pain in the ass πŸ˜‰

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