On Feeling Fat

Content note: The following post contains descriptions of weight (specific numbers), eating disorder behaviours, depression, and fat shaming. Please proceed with caution if you are triggered by any of the above. 

Over the last five years, I have read countless times that it is impossible to feel fat. I am almost certain that I have written a post somewhere along the line called Fat is Not a Feeling. But then I look at myself in my sisters’ full-length mirror and I feel Fat. I go shopping and try on clothes that are never consistent sizes between shops and I feel Fat. I pinch my stomach and I feel Fat. I weigh myself and I realise that not only am I 160 lbs, I am actually 163 lbs and two weeks of running around after tiny children have not counteracted all those sweets you ate alongside the tiny children. Activities that have nothing to do with weight – singing, writing, working, socialising – may contain tiny mistakes and inconsequential unpleasantness and I blame it on being Fat.

It’s possible that I will never be confident in my ability to regulate my own eating. I don’t trust my hunger signals. I don’t trust my university-acquired nutritional knowledge. I forget about the peer-reviewed research that states that it is ridiculous to assume that someone is unhealthy on the sole basis of their weight. I convince myself I deserve a treat and then hate myself for it and then hate myself for hating myself and continue to eat more. The constant question: is this healthful behaviour or is this bulimia’s pesky way of creeping back in? Last October, I was extremely confident that I had cracked this conundrum. By November, I was purging after more meals than not.

When does it start?

When does it end?

I try to fake it til I make it:

“Life doesn’t start 10 lbs from now”

“You are exercising as best as fibromyalgia will allow”

“Your bloods and vital signs are better than ever”

It feels like a lie. Each line is overlaid with “163 lbs”, “27 BMI” and “fat fat fat fat fat.”

To be so obsessed with my own weight feels egotistical and selfish. To ignore it feels shameful. This element of recovery is already five years old and there are days which are like those at the very start.

Motivation is a pain. Chronic fatigue is a pain. Early-20s-I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-my-life-existential-angst is a pain.

This current breakthrough of food-related distress will fade into the background once again and something new will occupy my attention. It might not go away but it will not be as blatantly obvious and I will muddle along just like I always do. After five years on this journey, I accept that this is what recovery is. Coping rather than curing. Living with rather than hoping it will all disappear. Making room because there is no going back to before. You live in the after or you die. I’ll take the former.

On Being Aware Of Disordered Thinking

I checked before writing this, but this is my only confession of 2013. Which means that Kate, of sharing all her thoughts and feelings on the internet fame, felt no need to cry about eating disorder thoughts in a public forum all year. Well done me. This has a lot to do with a) Jesus, b) dealing with underlying problems rather than masking them with maladaptive coping behaviours and c) deciding to face problems head on. But enough of that.

Last weekend was a difficult weekend. Not for any traumatising or psychologically damaging reasons. Quite simply, I had to see the American off as he returned to Texas, and this was contrary to my desire for him to be near me. What worried me, however, was that although intellectually I knew I was upset, I was actually quite chipper. Sunday morning I woke up super early, relatively perky, and with the strong pervading thought of starting a new diet. What the hell, brain?

(Side note: Thanks to FYP stress and two vomiting bugs in quick succession, I lost about a stone quite quickly in the last semester. I found this great. Christmas is undoing all this unhealthy weight loss. My brain is not responding well.)

The point of writing all this is the importance of being aware. Of being aware of your reactions to unpleasant situations. Being aware of your own maladaptive coping mechanisms. Being aware of the subconscious habit you have of not wanting to feel sadness (for reasons or for no reason). Being aware of the fact that losing weight will not make the Atlantic Ocean one iota smaller. Being aware that losing weight will not make you one iota of a better person. Being aware that you are no less valuable as a size 16 than as a size 4 (thank you Mary Lambert). Being aware that you are a work in progress but that you are beautiful just the way you are. Being aware that being sappy and lame doesn’t make these things any less true.

Why I Stopped Blogging And Why I May Start Again

The last time I posted anything was over two months ago (I’m not counting the Queerbash post. Promo is promo.) The long and short of it is I had a setback. The melodramatic part of me wants to write ‘breakdown’, but setback is a better word. What happened was this: I went on placement, read about mental illness for 8 hours a day, and started having panic attacks. I returned to college and this advanced to flashbacks and derealisation and depression. A few doctor appointments later and I had my medications revamped and a diagnosis of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD.) I took the rest of the week off and did nothing with myself.

Things got better from there: the meds kicked in, I learned coping skills from my new counsellor, I talked through my flashbacks, I joined a church and threw myself into service and learning more, I got on top of college work, and my mother and Andrew ensured I remained a human being.

This improvement came at a price: I had to stop writing for Gaelick (and the blog), I cut down on committee things, I am still completely unmotivated to run or play music or not engorge myself on sugar. My IBS has been playing up, I had a period of touch phobia, and I am getting the shakes from another medication adjustment.

But things are looking up.

Life seems good again.

Detachment

I started my mental health placement today. Its nice, the nurses are lovely, and its right down the street from my mom’s office which means I have a built in lunch buddy. What I didn’t realise is how I would handle being in an environment where mental illness is treated.

It’s very close to home. I sit in on clinics and listen to clients with depression talk about their lives and I recognise myself. I ask the psychiatrist hypothetical questions and then freak myself out by jumping to the conclusion that he just predicted my future. I read MIMS and wonder why my doctor didn’t put me on this or that drug and ponder on whether I would have recovered more quickly had he.

I hate these trains of thought because it shows that I am living in the past. I am scared (not least because of my off kilter moods and thought streams which have hung around for the last fortnight.) I wish that I was in a better place for this placement (and all of the placements because the routine change is really killing me in terms of staying stable.)

So I am going to detach a bit. Not from patients, not for one second. But from myself. This is not life. Not anymore. And I have to remember that.

Flashbacks and Forgiveness

I have talked about forgiveness before and have posted a basic healing ritual you can do by yourself to help work through some of your issues. Last week involved a lot of panic and anxiety, flashbacks to my childhood, flashbacks to last year, and general weariness, all leading mindless eating to distract myself and no motivation to do anything once I had come home from work.

I was dwelling. Dwelling on those who I felt had wronged me, and then feeling guilty for thinking ill of people, and then questioning whether any of this had even really happened or had I made it all up in my head for attention, credibility, and a whole host of other meaningless reasons.

I was spiralling. I was with Andrew and I had to move away from him and just sit in my panic for a while the other day. And I’m lucky because I’m with someone who isn’t easily scared by things like this. He talked me through my flashback, rationally repeated my main points, and brought me back down to the ground. I am better this week because of it.

When I was 13, I saw the boy who used to bully me in school out in town and it took all my effort not to cry. I saw him years later and was fine because I truly had let go. I have intellectually forgiven the personas in my flashbacks, but I have been nurturing these worries with shame and fear for 16 months and fourteen years respectively. The more I peel way the comforting layers of destructive behaviour, the more that such thoughts surround me.

I worry because I hadn’t given my panic heedance in a while. I worry that time has made these events seem worse than they were in real life. I worry I am making a big deal over nothing. I worry that I should have been a strong enough person to prevent these things happening. I worry that I am a bad feminist and that I am a fraud.

But I have made it this far. I think I can forgive and let go, even if I never forget. It will just take a few more steps.

A Confession Of A 180

When I first started doing confessions all that time ago, I was in the height of striving for recovery. I was waiting for the day when I would wake up and feel better and act better and just do better at life. I wrote about the struggles, I wrote about the mini successes, I wrote about the mini relapses.

My eating disorder began when I was 17. But in a way you could trace it back a lot further, back to the low self esteem and body hate that followed me through my childhood and teen years. Growing up, I just didn’t want to accept who  I was. All I wanted to do was change.

In the last two or three weeks, I find my body checks have significantly reduced, my eating is not dictated by emotion and is not a starve nor a binge, I am exercising for the craic and for the relief it gives my anger and my leg stiffness, and I can look in the mirror (like I did for 30 minutes today while the stylist cut my hair) and not freak out about what a stain my reflection puts on this earth.

I can see some dark circles under my eyes which suggest that I could get a little more sleep. Sometimes, I pinch an inch somewhere between my waistband and my bra line and wonder if I could adjust some things to lose some weight. There are moments when I feel like I am more hair than woman. But these are fleeting moments in comparison to the ease I feel on a regular basis.

I’m not quite sure that this is exactly loving my body. But it is a major step in accepting my body. There have been moments along the way in which I hoped that a day like this may arrive. It was more realistic once I realised my idea of recovery was too perfect and too ideal to be a true possibility. This non-extremist approach is helping. So are the unrelenting opinions and support of the people I love (especially A.)

For the last while, I have felt like I have been right at the end of the tunnel but still stuck where I was. Now, I think I might be able to finally leave.

Hypocrisy?

Sometimes I wonder what the hell I am doing. I write here about positive body image and eating disorder recovery and having no regrets in life and then I keep the rest hidden away.

I have spent the last month counting my calories daily, weighing myself, body checking, not actually losing weight, planning everything I was allowed to eat, and feeling like crap and going off the wall with binging if I ate chocolate or had a pint with my friends. And I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to lose weight without watching everything I eat. It is taking all my willpower to ignore the bulimia thoughts (which I am still doing at least) and I’m alternating between over eating and diet eating every day.

Last Sunday, I stayed up until 2am looking at diet plans on the net. This is 2 days after I was reminded of how dangerous and fatal eating disorders can be. No, I am not in danger at all. But I feel like I am perpetually on a slippery slope and I don’t know if I can scramble back or whether I am going to fall off.