I’m back after a year+ long absence! As some of you know, as soon as I made the decision to go back to school to become a therapist (!!!) I got really nervous about blogging. I’ve gone through and taken out most identifying details (although I still use my first name) and I feel okay for now, but I may go back and do another round of edits once I actually start seeing clients (in 3 months!!!). I’m also open to any words of wisdom about how to navigate the online world as a therapist…
The past year has been quite eventful. I just finished up the second semester of my MFT grad program and I’m on track to graduate next summer (2019). I start my year-long practicum this August– I’ll be counseling high school girls. This June I’ll also be leaving my Research Analyst job that I’ve been at for the past four years. As sad as it will be to leave, my passions/priorities have changed and I’m ready to move on with my life.
Probably the biggest change, however, has been with my recovery. Ha, I finally feel like I can use that word without being scared someone will call me a fraud! So, as I’ve written about before in this blog, I consider the starting point of my recovery to be in late 2012. That summer I hit (one of?) my rock bottoms and went inpatient for the very last time. The circumstances weren’t the best (roommate drama overload) but that aside it really did help my depression and got me thinking more clearly. It was only after leaving that I started making any real sustainable progress (i.e., I finally committed to life and gave up trying to kill myself). Eating disorder-wise, things stabilized and I managed to somehow finish my master’s degree and get a really awesome job soon after graduating.
By 2016, I was feeling pretty good but I knew by all DSM accounts I still had an eating disorder. I thought I was okay with that. Then last August something incredible happened. I broke a tooth. Again. Crumbled in my mouth as I was brushing, one of the few natural teeth I had left. And to be honest, I have no way of knowing if that particular incident was a direct result of my purging behaviors (which were way down but still pretty regular), but for whatever reason that was just IT for me. Too many lost teeth, wasted dollars, and lost years over this stupid disease. I decided right then and there that I was DONE with purging. And yes, I had made similar declarations countless times over the years, but this time was different. My eating disorder was no longer serving any real purpose for me, and I didn’t NEED it anymore. I finally had a fulfilling job, dreams, passions… the eating disorder was no longer the main plot-line of my life. It was just getting in the way and draining my money, my time, and my dignity.
That was August 19, 2017. Over eight months later and I’m happy to say that I am STILL completely purge-free. WHAT?!? And the crazy part is, it feels almost completely natural at this point. There is no way in hell I would ever choose to go back to my old life. In the past whenever I’d have a string of a few good days my best friend would be scared to ask how I was doing the next time we talked, or she’d see that I was up all night and would assume I was back at it. However, a few weeks into this good streak she was like, “I don’t get scared to ask anymore, because something is just so different this time and I know you’re never going back.” She felt that 2,000 miles away and I’m not surprised!
So what made this time different? Several things…
- I started eating more. It really was that simple– well, kind of. 😉 In the past when I tried to stop b/ping, I would wonder why I still had such strong urges to binge even with my “completely normal” daily intake of 850-900 calories. After 20 years of dietitians telling me that was still very restrictive I finally accepted that fact myself. It wasn’t like I just started eating a normal amount of food one day, but gradually I increased my calories each week and within about 2-3 months, my urges were almost completely gone. At about month six I stopped tracking my calories altogether and now I kind of eat… intuitively? That sounds so weird to say, as I never thought that would ever be a reality for me. Who AM I?
- I stopped obsessively weighing myself. In the past, whenever I imagined stopping b/p for good, I thought I could only do that while remaining under some arbitrarily chosen low weight. The whole “of course I want to recover but only if I can still weigh XX” thing. I finally accepted that was never going to be possible and I kind of just said “to hell with it.” I knew I still needed to gain weight and I finally started being more okay with that idea. At the time I still thought I for sure wanted to work with eating disorders professionally in the near future so that definitely helped. However, instead of trying to meticulously control every aspect of the weight gain process (because that’s just triggered different disordered behaviors in the past), I started just gradually eating more– enough so that I wasn’t always starving and on the verge of bingeing. And I did gain weight, but not nearly as much as I feared, and I was honestly surprised at how quickly my metabolism bounced back. Eventually I stopped weighing myself altogether, which was… pretty terrifying at first but honestly, after 20 years of my crazy weight tracking and measuring systems, I have the (sometimes unfortunate) ability to estimate my weight accurately even without a scale.
- I let myself eat previously forbidden “b/p only” foods. A big fear was that by stopping b/p, I would only be able to eat a super boring diet of my safest foods. ugh, why even recover? For a while, that kind of was the case, but I slowly started letting myself eat riskier things and at this point I will let myself eat pretty much anything I crave. Seriously. I have no urges to binge on such foods anymore because I never let myself get too hungry and I don’t completely deny myself.
- I stopped avoiding food-related events and started eating more in public or with friends. This was already a ton better than it had been (there was a time when I was super weird and refused to even talk about food), but it’s gotten even better over the past eight months. I think by now most people know better than to make rude food-related comments directly to me but I’m not afraid to shut them down even if they’re made in general or to other people. Like, if you shame someone for eating a cupcake or feel the need to loudly read off the nutrition facts of the cookies someone nicely brought into the office to share, I may politely tell you to STFU.
These were the four biggest things for me, and I realize some people may be thinking these are all pretty food-based things for a disorder that “isn’t actually about food” (ugh, but that phrase…). Keep in mind that I was already well into the recovery mindset back in August 2017, and after 20 years of on-again-off-again therapy of every variety, I had pretty much worked out all the complicated “whys” of my eating disorder and could write a book (or two or three) on everything my ED does for me, the ED identity, blah, blah blah… And that’s not to say that I have it all figured out or that I have stopped going to therapy or anything (never!), but for me at the time the biggest thing was actually taking action with the food part.
So am I “recovered” now? ugh, that term still makes me nervous and knowing how weird people in the sometimes judgey “recovery community” get about it, I usually just avoid it altogether. I don’t intentionally engage in any eating disordered behaviors anymore and haven’t for over eight months. I no longer place ridiculous standards on myself in terms of weight. I don’t “love my body” but I’m honestly less bothered by it now than ever before. I have so much more time and space in my life. For the most part, food has just become food and not something I waste precious brain power obsessing over every day. My worst days now are almost always still better than the best days in my eating disorder. I could go on.
I have no idea if I will eventually see clients with eating disorders. I’m no longer stressing over that idea because I know my experiences will help me regardless of what population I work with.
I’m not sure what the future of this blog will look like (open to suggestions), but I felt a strong urge to bring it back to life and let people know that I may have been wrong two years ago when I preached that “full recovery” wasn’t possible for me or many people. Maybe it is? Maybe I am? Who knows, but I no longer claim to know everything!
Just… wow. I have to pinch myself every so often to remind myself that this is actually my life now. Not that it’s some super glamorous life or anything. I still have problems– lots. But I’m no longer doing THAT. I got through an entire year of grad school without once reverting back to the thing that just a year ago, I never thought I’d be able to live without. I’m on my way to finally having the career I always dreamed of but never believed was possible. I’m going skydiving with my best friend in July… my friend who has been through every bit of this with me who is now rocking her own life after decades of this shit. There is hope, and I’m so glad I made it this far to be able to say that.