It can bo good to learn a lot in recovery. To see what you have to change and know to get better. But sometimes the overload of information makes you go crazy. There is too much information and you seem to get more stressed and anxious about the complete life change you have to make. So sometimes it is ok to take a step back and breathe! Do not make recovery all about searching on the internet for days and days, do not forget about focusing on other parts of your life too! And living your life!
All The Recovery Stuff Is Driving Me Crazy!
July 14, 2016/
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2 thoughts on “All The Recovery Stuff Is Driving Me Crazy!”
Hello from Canberra! I recently stumbled upon your youtube channel and wanted to say THANK YOU so very much for running it – it certainly makes me ponder on my mind & body issues but more importantly, a lot of what you say really resonates with me.
Just to share a bit of background about me: I am a 29 year old Malaysian Chinese, living in Canberra, Australia. I battled anorexia since I was 19 – when I first moved to Sydney for university. It all started with a genuinely innocent attempt at losing some of the ‘freshman weight’, which then spiraled out of control. However, whilst I did lose a good amount of weight, I stopped after a friend rebuked me (out of concern). I also didn’t have much time to walk for 1.5 hours everyday, especially when I “had” to excel and achieve high distinctions for all my subjects (the usual perfectionism trait). I still practiced food restriction and avoided all carbs, so I didn’t put on any weight and was still very much controlled by my ED. At that time, I wasn’t aware of what an ED was! I had lost my period and was diagnosed by an endocrinologist with PCOS. The recommendation of going on a low-GI diet further fueled my ED as I explained to everyone that I couldn’t eat carbs due to insulin resistance.
Anyway, this persisted for years until 3 years ago. I started exercising and like my dieting, what started off as a healthy 2-3x a week approach intensified into a daily regime of “must, must, must ; do, do, do;harder, harder, harder”. Every morning, from the minute i opened my eyes, the first thing i had to do was as many burpees as possible. If i reached 30, it was a “good day” – i felt happy, “strong”, assured…when i couldn’t, I felt weak, shit, like a failure, etc. At work, everytime I was not seeing a patient, I would close my office door or go to the bathroom so I could do a myriad of burpees, push ups, jumping jacks, lunges, etc – anything to get my heart pumping and make me feel “alive”. The first thing i did after work was rush back home and do a workout DVD. No rest days. Social events were a no-no; unless I could rush back home, exercise then go back out. If i had to, I would starve myself all day so I was “allowed” to eat dinner out that evening.
Suffice to say, I became very very sick and underweight; and I was scared! Scared that I was going to die, angry that I was getting weaker and not able to “give it my all” when exercising, tired and distracted. It was in November 2013 when I was forcibly admitted into hospital.
To summarise, I spent 2 months in hospital and thereafter attended an eating disorder outpatient rehab. I wanted to get better. I wanted my life back. And also as a people-pleaser and ‘achiever’, I strived to do everything my medical team told me to do. I got better (weight wise) and with therapy, was in a better headspace. I met my husband shortly after that and life seemed good. I was around someone who didn’t give a rat’s ass about food – ate whenever and whatever he wanted.
My period returned, I fell pregnant the month after (unexpectedly), and was over the moon with joy! In december last year, we welcomed our gorgeous son, Oliver. This story seems like the ultimate success story, except it doesn’t end there – I wish it did!
Nothing could have prepared me for parenting. I knew it was tough (people always tell you that), but I have always wanted children and I felt I could do this. People tell me now that I’m doing great, but all i can think about is how I ‘fail’ everyday. When Ollie cries and screams (as most babies do), I rebuke myself for being a ‘shit parent’. I notice myself ‘punishing’ myself through food restriction, self-hatred and exercise. However, with a baby, there isn’t much time to exercise at all! That makes me feel more anxious, ‘lazy’ and that unlike other mums, i don’t have my ‘shit’ together. But i also struggle with guilt; the guilt of even giving my ED an iota of attention; especially when Ollie should be my priority.
My brain is constantly filled with thoughts. the ED voice, the guilt, anger, resentment, uncertainty, fear, anxiety, sadness, and to top it off, physical exhaustion from lack of sleep. My husband also works night shifts at the hospital; so I frequently feel like a ‘single parent’ (though i know i don’t have it as hard as one!) I try to employ distraction strategies but find my mind so preoccupied with thoughts of what I should be doing (aka exercising/housework/anything that requires physical movement) that I can barely concentrate on said strategy (mindfulness, colouring, writing, emailing, etc). Does this get better with time? or is this another issue in itself?
I find this video really strikes a chord with me as I have recently been listening to recovery podcasts and whilst they are all inspirational, the abundance of information is mind-boggling! Sometimes I find the more information I gain, the more convoluted my mind gets! I have certainly noticed the increase in personal online courses/consultations/training for recovery – the thing is, like yours, they ALL sound awesome; each promising food, body and exercise freedom, greater self-confidence and esteem, a new perspective on body image, etc…how do i know which is the “right” one for me? Whilst I would love to do them all, it would be financially impractical for me.
I came across this article (http://www.thehealthymaven.com/2016/03/happened-stopped-exercising-month.html) 2 days ago and pretty much 90% of what this blogger wrote were my exact thoughts. But just like with everything else, self doubt crept in with 1. This blogger looks much skinnier and fitter than me. Losing weight and fitness in general is a challenge for me – I just generally suck at it! I never liked fitness when I was a kid – I recall my mum having to force me to jog down our street and even then, when she wasn’t looking at me, i would sit and pretend I had run! To reflect on how obsessive i have become with exercise is still mind-boggling to me! 2. Which makes me think that I, unlike this blogger, actually have no true interest in fitness! This sends me in a panic because if i let my true self through, I would not exercise, be lazy and put on weight; which would make me hate myself even more! I guess this is why ED still has a grip on me…
Lastly (i promise!), I am currently struggling to find out who or what my true self is! With 10 years wasted via anorexia, I am unsure about who I am, my self identity. Since being on maternity leave, I realise that studying and working as a clinical audiologist was not something i enjoyed. I didn’t love my job; i did it because i had already done a degree in it and it was a safe, secure job. But my passion for it was nil. What is passion anyway?!! I don’t seem to have any passions! my whole adult life revolved around food restriction and exercise obsession that I didn’t have anytime to really think about passions! And now with a baby boy, there seems to be no time for that either! I fully marvel and admire how you seem to have turned your life around so significantly! Not only have you found success, but you are truly doing what you love! I want to find what i love, but how do i do that? where do i start?
Elisa, do you have any advice for me? I would love to hear your thoughts!!!! I am currently seeing a private psychologist – we are working through things together. But its the moments in between my appointments that i struggle so much.
I do apologise for this incredibly rambly (and mostly negative-sounding) email! Thank you for being such an inspiration and role model for me!!! Keep up the fantabulous work!
With much love from a tired parent fighting an ED, xxx
1. when you have a baby it is very understandable to struggle, feel tired, depressed, worry and all that, its all part of being a mother to a little baby! you have to understand that every single mother struggles with a baby crying, not knowing what to do, feeling like they are doing it “wrong” etc etc. its NORMAL, do not think it’s only you! 🙂
2. But because of your ED past, your mind goes back to the familiar pattern as soon as things get really tough and challenging. this is how you can see if a person is really recovered or not. typically, as soon as things get hard a non-completely-recovered person experiences all ED thoughts and patterns again. it means its still in your mind, in subconscious. it’s nothing “mystical” it’s purely a bad HABIT. and you CAN root it out 🙂
3. i also explain this is my book, have you read my book? there I talk about ED thoughts and how to break them. the basic explanation is that when you have repeated all those thoughts throughout the years it becomes very automatic in our brain. just like riding a bicycle. you repeat the riding process many times and soon you do not even have to think about it, but you can just do it. it becomes subconscious. this is how our brain works. there is nothing “wrong” with you, it’s just a bad habit created by the years of repetition and conditioning, it has become a pattern in your brain. it requires some practice to undo it. many people do not realize that it’s a habit and they just stay stuck with ED thoughts forever especially when otherwise they are recovered physically, not restricting, not compensating, but just having the ED thoughts over and over again. they will not likely act on it, but its still there. it is a big subject i could write another book about 🙂
4. and know that nobody HAS to “exercise” to maintain a healthy weight. our weight is regulated by our hunger cues and other factors. your body regulates its weight, you do not have to do it! in fact, if you TRY to regulate your weight by food control, exercise, you can mess it up! BODY MOVEMENT is enough. for example, taking care of your baby is PLENTY of exercises, as you said it requires a lot of work 🙂 if i were you i would rather worry about my sleep and having some down time and rest! as you said you are tired! also, doing some general housework, making dinner, going out to play with your kid, walking around the city. you do not have to be running 60 min, doing crazy cardio, gym exercises, lunges, burpees, pushups, crunches!!!! nope! so do not worry. i do not do almost any exercise but just some general stuff that i do not even count as “exercise”. and my weight is the same as when i was exercising like a crazy person. body movement is enough.
5. about finding your true self. this is also normal and understandable. you have spent a long period of your life in ED and not finding your true self. now when you can leave ED behind you can start that journey! 🙂 it is never too late. i am still in this process actually as well so you are not alone 🙂 and do not think i have everything in place, sometimes i feel im faaar from it, but that is ok. people even without ED experience this and they may wake up when they are 50 years old and think: who am i? what is my passion? i hate my job! OMG! 😛 so if you can start finding yourself now, it’s good progress! you do not have to figure it out today, but it can be a start 🙂 take it day by day. hope it helped! <3