Disappointing

Forgot to mention, if you want the password to the protected post from last week send me an email. I would appreciate advice/feedback on it but didn’t want to make it public. Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to sit through one of my rants about my job need not bother 😉 you’ve heard it all before…

*******

Here’s a catch 22 situation for you:

Once I reach a certain level of mood-rubbishness, I lose my words. I have no motivation for blogging, no pressing insights to share through comments (being facetious there by the way), no ideas, no sense of humour, no confidence in myself, my thoughts, my opinions, my social skills, even as they pertain to online communication. I also start worrying that I’m annoying people by being too negative and angry and irritable. Half of that is clichéd depressive paranoia, but part is grounded in realistic assessment. Anxiety and low moods do make me grumpy and put my ranting tendencies on a hair-trigger. I’m not a likeable person when I’m stressed out.

All of this is highly unfortunate considering that writing and having supportive friends are even more useful than usual when I’m feeling crappy. Instead I end up feeling like I’m stuck in a little glass box, alternately banging on the walls and sitting in a corner feeling rather helpless. The lower I get, the more isolated I feel, both because I have no energy or brain power left with which to communicate, and because I am terrified of upsetting people or convinced that I already have, which makes me feel like I should do the world a favour and stay out of everyone’s way. And this perpetuates the problem by making me feel worse about myself. Simple to understand, harder to change. It’s taken me over an hour to write these last two paragraphs, I feel like my neurons are firing treacle rather than electrical impulses.

And here’s another tricky problem:

At 24 years old I felt like I had nothing to be proud of. I had a few good academic qualifications from my school years, but had completed nothing after my A levels. I had no friends, no social life, no personality to speak of, since the manifestation of my personality seems to be inversely proportional to the severity of my eating disorder. Since then, I’ve managed to accumulate quite a bit of self esteem through blogging, my voluntary work, my counselling courses, my move away from Dorset and so on. All of this has been a direct result of my recovery: it is only when I am healthy that I am able to act in a way that makes me proud of myself. I’m not making any generalisations to other people with eating disorders here by the way, I am just saying that personally, my eating disorder was incompatible with any form of achievement or contentment other than the brief thrill of waking up at a slightly lower weight than I’d been the day before, which made for a rather empty existence. My concept of myself is based on my recovery. And it feels like other peoples’ views of me – all of that stuff about bravery and strength which makes me a bit wary anyway – are also largely based on my recovery. It makes me worry who would stick around if I got ill again. Probably no one, after I’d finished snapping at them all repeatedly from a combination of hunger and self hatred. It’s not only my survival but all my quality of life which depends on my ability to stay healthy.

Given all of this, it really messes with my head when I suddenly realise that I’m displaying all sorts of eating disordered behaviours which weren’t there two weeks ago. I also want to smack myself upside the head when I realise just how predictable I am – my anxiety and mood got to the point of feeling really intolerable and overwhelming a couple of weeks ago after months of chronic stress (mostly work related), but have been mysteriously much better this week, improving quickly in tandem with my slipping back into restriction. To give myself credit, I’ve not had even a slight lapse since January, and in 2010 it was happening every couple of months – so I guess that’s some improvement. However, patting myself on the back for that is not helpful at all if it makes what’s going on seem any more excusable or acceptable. This is why at this stage I much prefer the term remission to recovery. I can say that I’m in full remission when I’m behaviour, thought and urge-free without doubting the crap out of myself and feeling like my entire life is a lie if I later stray into the borderlands of ED territory for a few weeks.

Full remission is not exactly a term I could apply to myself retrospectively for the last couple of weeks. It’s more like, if-you-know-what’s-going-on-and-are-doing-nothing-about-it-you-can’t-really-claim-to-be-in-any-form-of-remission-at-all. And you’d think the doing something about it part wouldn’t be all that difficult considering what I’ve just written about how anorexia screwed up every aspect of my life and recovery has led to me to finally getting back on track with where and who I want to be in life. Then again, looking for rational thought processes in relation to eating disorders is a bit of an exercise in futility. They are designated mental illnesses for a reason.

I never understood the self-acceptance approach to recovery. That whole thing about how you just need to learn to love yourself and believe that you’re worth taking care of. To me, restricting was showing respect for and taking care of myself. It calmed me down, stabilised my mood and made me feel invulnerable and capable of coping with anything life threw at me. My answer to every single problem was to eat less and lose more weight, so nothing other than gaining had the potential to upset me. It was a second skin, deadening my senses and emotions, stopping me feeling overwhelmed and bombarded. Recovery was a fight; it was hard, painful, panic-inducing work. Every time I lapsed back into restricting I felt like I was finally back in tune with my body. Even my digestive problems would disappear, and I would no longer go to bed in pain and wake up feeling sick. As time progressed I could tell that my body was in pain and I could feel that no volume of vegetables was going to satisfy the massive energy deficit which had accumulated, but it was more like the discomfort associated with having a filling in an anaesthetised tooth – I knew it should hurt, but I was too numb to feel it.

I never mean for this to happen. It’s always a stomach bug or stress, a few days of accidental undereating, and then this deep sense of everything finally being okay and the feeling that I must hang on to it at all costs. Two weeks later I suddenly wonder what the fuck I’m doing, but by that point I’ve lost weight and my hunger signals, cut my intake well below where it should be and am in rather deep water. By the time it occurs to me that I really shouldn’t be doing this if I want to continue having a life, both in the literal and colloquial sense of the phrase, it is incredibly difficult to pull myself back over the edge. I can do it – I did so several times last year, and I still remember doing so in January. I nearly asked a good friend to come and stay with me on the first day (for distraction rather than support) because I felt so panic-stricken at the idea of eating more, but my pride got in the way and I managed to do it alone. I never make things easy for myself.

One of the central dilemmas in anorexia is that having little to no motivation to recover is an intrinsic part of the disorder. It doesn’t feel like an illness, it feels like a choice – but that in itself is a symptom. When I’m doing well it’s obvious that I was thinking and behaving in all sorts of ways which completely contradicted my personality, values and goals during my eating disorder, and that there is no way a healthy version of myself would ever want to go back there again. But once I’m a little undernourished for whatever reason, that way of thinking suddenly becomes terribly persuasive. It’s completely bizarre to have this understanding of the mechanisms of the illness but STILL catch myself buying into the eating disordered thoughts. There’s no loss of insight here, no switch from one way of thinking to another – instead, there’s this weird co-existence between intellectual knowledge and delusional belief. Both are in there. Both are shouting at me. I just want to cry.

I hate to disappoint people. I’ll sort it out, don’t worry – I just hate that this can still happen at all. It worries me that I can slip back so quickly, despite usually being the champion of relapse prevention. All it takes is a few weeks of taking my eye off the ball because I’m concentrating instead on not letting my job-related stress turn into a mini breakdown. I’m sure I’m being too hard on myself, but at the moment I feel so incompetent and ashamed that I can’t seem to keep myself stable and healthy. Is it really too much to ask that my job not destroy my mental health? Is it really the job or is the problem me? Am I really so weak?

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13 responses to “Disappointing

  1. Charlotte Bevan

    The minute I hear “weak” spoken by an anorexic is the time my heart starts thudding, my stomach knots and I get PTS. Here’s how I see it, my friend. You feel your job is crappy, your life is crappy, nothing to say, etc etc etc. That is not how I see it. I see a beautiful, eloquent, passionate and, most importantly, honest young lady.

    You are stronger than you think. Besides, I am standing beside you willing you, Katie, on. Take hold of a bit of my strength and BREATHE!

  2. I think the very fact that you can recognise a slip relatively quickly is a positive thing. The ed has been a part of your life for a LONG time and its understandable that its not going to go away nice and easily…but it will go away. you do keep fighting and you’ll be okay. Why? Because you’re an extremely tenacious person who knows her needs for her body and has learnt slowly that you’re worthy of having all those needs met.

    So I say, sit down and have a cry, nothing bad or wrong about that, and then work out an action plan and hop back on the tracks.

    Love and hugs
    Telly xo

  3. I am probably not the right person to be leaving a comment today because I am also feel kind of crappy, both physically and mentally. I know that feel crappy mentally because I am ill. I have had an URT virus for the last few days and now it is doing what it always does: hit my tonsils. So my throat is sore and I don’t desire food. But I also don’t desire food because I feel calmer and more in control of my anxiety when I restrict. I actually don’t see restriction as a choice; I know that it has made me really ill in the past and is only a short-term ‘solution’ (and a bad one at that).

    The way I see life for me after many years of fighting anorexia, anxiety, depression and OCD is aiming for longstanding remission. Thinking that way helps me to remain vigilant.

    I ditto the two awesome commenters above. You have good insight and are stronger than you think. That is important for me to remember.

    Please e-mail me the password to your protected blog post. I would like to read it and help if I can.

    xxx

  4. Hi Alison 🙂

    It’s good to “see” you again, and thank you for your helpful comment! I do find it amusing that I’m currently training as a CB therapist (thank goodness there’s another 2.5 years left before I qualify!) and whilst I can absolutely apply my degree to my own situation, it’s just an issue of there being a rather large gap between what I know and what I feel. In part that’s quite natural – I’m not scared of stress so much as the effects I know it has had on me in the past. I have a long history of severe reactions to stress, some of which ended in years of depression for which I had to be hospitalised, anxiety with psychotic features and of course the stupid bloody eating disorder. I understand that all humans have bad days/weeks/months, the problem is that due to my particular vulnerabilities those bad days can snowball into genuinely life threatening illness. What I’m trying to do here is unpack the reaction while it’s still at a mild/moderate stage, rather than trying to ignore it and press on until I end up unable to stop crying/get out of bed/eat.

    However, while I’m granting myself that realistic worry over the effects of stress, I DO know that the way I talk to myself is unhelpful and adds to the problem. I am much better than I used to be, but I still forget the basic tenet of “thoughts are not facts” sometimes. Because people have been unable/unwilling to support me before I assume they always will be. I also have this massively ingrained horror of being labelled manipulative or attention seeking, as many, many people who have been through the mental health system have – so the idea of asking for help and possibly having people tell me that I’m asking for too much is disproportionately terrifying to me. In the last couple of years I have started taking risks by sharing things with friends/family/acquaintances which I would never have dared to in the past, and the response has been overwhelmingly supportive. It’s just taking a while for these new positive experiences to override all the negative ones from years back.

    Glad to hear you’re doing better now anyway 🙂

  5. Erm, what Alison said?

    I am once again stuck for words but I couldn’t not leave a comment, even if this comment IS lame.

    Disordered coping mechanisms aren’t logical, or rational. I know logic and rationality are things that you prize very highly, but it’s the same no matter what you do: I know bingeing will make me feel like crap, I know that running to the point of snappy-bones isn’t going to end well, but in the moment when nothing else will make the world Right, the temptation draws you in, and you forget the long-term consequences for the short-term relief from whatever triggered the anxiety from which the coping mechanism provides said relief. And, in the short-term, you do feel good, and afterwards, in my case 2 hours and not 2 weeks because the ‘good’ feeling doesn’t last as long, and the painful side-effects are more immediate, you do look back and curse yourself for resorting to that method of coping again.

    I would be around and be your friend however grumpy or grouchy you were – it IS human, you don’t have to disappear every time things are tough. If anything, it’s more annoying that you won’t let anyone be there for you! You’re never a burden on anyone, you’ll put up with endless ranting and crabbiness from everyone else (erm, me, for a start) – please apply those same principles to yourself, dammit.

    I’m going to mail you about that password now.

    *hugs*

    xxx

  6. hey hon
    I know we tackle our EDs in different ways and understand them in different frameworks, however in OA there’s a line “self-knowledge availed us nothing”. that’s not to say awareness and understanding aren’t helpful, but they don’t give us the power to necessarily turn things around. Your awareness and understanding of how this illness operates in your life is valuable, but as you’ve said it doesn’t stop the delusions of the illness. I’m feeling tongue-tied (knotted fingers?) because I’m aware of how differently we approach the illness. I guess I want to say: call in the troops! Whoever the troops be. Dare to ask friends or anyone you trust to be alongside you as you put in the action to nourish yourself as you would if you were treating someone else you loved with the illness. It’s so hard to have to be both in the illness(es) and to be the grown up version of yourself, to fight through the inertia, the hopelessness and implement the help you need.

    Will you let someone/some people support you? I just know there are those kind of people in existence in your life if you could dare to ask, if you could bear to let them be there. i don’t know if you would find me of use at all but i am here if you felt i could. It takes courage and humility to let others be alongside us in our weaker, still-broken places, especially when you are also very capable in other areas. Some people can hold all those parts of us in mind at the same time.

    I hope you can allow yourself to have company on this road.

    Do you have an emergency plan? Even if you don’t want to/aren’t willing to implement it?

    Sorry if this is off-base or unhelpful. take what is useful and leave whatever isn’t! just know that the sentiment is one of warmth, concern, care and empathy.
    Louisa x

  7. I want to say something but am tired so scared that it will be rubbish.

    Sorry if it is but please believe that people want to be with you whether you are being a shining star of recovery or struggling because they care about YOU not the disorder. I like what Louisa has said about calling in the troops although I do understand your horror of labelling. It’s the fault of the services who have let you and many of your friends down, not your fault at all, that you have been made to feel like that, but it is still a possibility that has to be faced when calling in professional troops. It could still be worth the risk.

  8. Sorry if it’s a little inapproriate to comment. Lots of people have said really good things and I don’t have a whole load of insight to add. Just that you are in no way a disappointment. Life is sometimes rubbish and everyone regardless of their mental health status has times when they cope with it badly. But you’ve noticed it’s a problem and have been open and honest about it which is pretty impressive given the nature of disordered thought processes. These things are not weak. Eating disorders are sneaky so even just recognising it can sometimes be hard, especially when it can seem so automatic. I hope things get easier for you soon x.

    • I’m struggling to work out why it would be inappropriate for you to comment! Did I reply to one of your posts once and then not come back? My blogger dashboard has refused to save any new blogs I add for the last several months, so this is possible (apparently it’s a common bug which hasn’t been solved yet). I liked your comment anyway 🙂

      • No it’s just I feel like maybe people wouldn’t want me and it would be annoying. Apologising is one of my many vices.
        And now I want to apologise for apologising. Sometimes I am quite silly x.

      • Aaah, now my brain has put two and two together and worked out who you are 😉 I keep meaning to email you back, but I’ve been exhausted and grumpy every time I’ve gotten home for the last few days and have been neglecting all my emails. I’ll get there!

  9. I’m feeling pretty rubbishy too so forgive me if this is tinged in negativity in anyway but I couldn’t *not* comment!
    I think I’m just repeating the very good points that have already been said but you aren’t weak or a disappointment. What you are is human and you’re going through a tough time that would probably make people without mental illness stressed and awful to be around, I don’t know what’s happening with your job- but I’ll email you for the password if you don’t mind- but to me, it’s entirely understandable that you’re slipping into restriction. It’s been part of your life for a long time and as amazing as your strides have been in recovery, you’re probably going to have these moments sometimes. The good thing about this is that you’ve realised what’s happening- it’s incredibly difficult to do that sometimes, especially when the ED catches you unaware. And about you wondering if people will stick around if you get ill again? Put it this way, I followed this blog because of your writing about recovery but I kept reading because you’re awesome! :p You’re funny and clever and smart and kind and sensitive (and I could go on… :p) and that’s not your ED or your recovery, that’s YOU. This is coming from someone who only knows you through the words you type.

    I really really hope you feel less shitty soon.
    *loooooooads of hugs*
    Michal xxxx

  10. Beverley Osborne

    I hope you’re feeling less sh*tty by now… There are some lovely and insightful comments by the others above, so I won’t repeat what they are saying. But what DID come across to me loud and clear on reading through your post for the second time is that you DO have the strength inside you to cope with this. It is no accident that you have studied your illness in such depth and have such a strong understanding of it – nor that you have provided others with such insightful and positive thinking over the past months.

    You have a superb advantage in the push for full and permanent remission.

    It may not seem this way to you at the moment when you’re feeling stuck in a hole, but it is a massive strength and a great foundation. You already possess the ‘tools’ you need to pull yourself out of this – and to stop yourself falling further.

    I know it’s easy for me to say this as I haven’t been through this illness personally myself but you know how closely I’ve ‘been through it’ with my son and I know how he has responded and is responding, and probably will respond in the future. I know him and his ED pretty darn well – and, as you have alluded to in the past, both your experiences have been – and indeed are – very similar.

    He has this massive strength which I always knew was there, even in the depths of the illness when ED had him well and truly trapped.

    You have too.

    And your many friends of all ages and backgrounds will stand by you no matter what and no matter how often you ‘snap’ at them. Boy, I’ve been ‘snapped at’ and ‘beaten black and blue’ by ED over the past 2 years, yet I never gave up. Okay Ben is my son and it’s in my job description to never give up. But we ‘virtual mums’ are also here for you too. We’re made from strong stuff and are thrilled to be ‘shoulders to cry on’ should you need to do this. And we’ll never bullsh*t or say stuff that we don’t have direct experience of or believe to be true. You can trust us.

    You’re made from strong stuff, too. I know because you’ve helped me enormously with your comments on my blog.

    Sorry for rambling on… hope it was some use… (sorry but someone interrupted me towards the end of the above and I lost my train of thought!!!!!!)

    Big hugs BM xx

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