E is for Eating Disorder

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Friends - meet Monica! Monica and I became friends through Facebook actually. We found each other on the I Run 4 group - as she runs for a little boy named, Jake. I saw Monica posted to her buddy Jake one morning and I saw it was posted from "Souderton, Pa." I said, holy shit balls, we're neighbors, who are you and do you wanna run with me sometime?! And just like that the rest is history. We've been inseparable since December 2014 logging endless miles together, going on dinner dates, shopping, having serious talks about life, making each other laugh and the list goes on and on. Monica is my "sole" sister and one thing I treasure is her oh so caring heart. Her heart is HUGE and she's always wanting to give back, always worried about everyone else over herself. While this may be a flaw of hers, it's also one of her strongest characteristics which I adore because no matter what, I know she is ALWAYS there for me! Monica, I am extremely proud of you for writing this post and I hope it helps others going through the same struggles as you. You know I'm always here for you!

Thanks Amanda for letting me be a guest on your blog!

Most people have fears, right?  You would be hard pressed to find somebody who does NOT fear something.  There are quite simple fears such as spiders, heights, tight spaces, you get the idea.  And what about addictions?  Many people struggle with some sort of addiction from nicotine, alcohol, and gambling to name the biggies and even some on a smaller scale as a certain TV show - you cannot stop binge watching the latest season in a weekend because you crave more and are actually upset when it’s over.

The good thing, when you fear something, you can avoid it.  When you are addicted to something, you can cut the addiction out of your life, albeit difficult, and even find support groups for said addictions. BUT – what if one of your greatest fears and addiction is food? The compulsion to want to consume food until you are going to explode yet is the very thing you need to survive. The thought of eating brings on more anxiety than you thought possible.  Obviously you can’t avoid it.  Everyone needs to eat to survive.  The only way to handle it is to relearn how to eat properly and deal with the feelings and thoughts that come with it.

I have been struggling with my weight since I was a teenager.  I always had a love of food that I realized over time became an addiction.  I was able to control it though.  Yeah, I would over eat, or have ice cream for dinner – you get to do that when you are an adult – but I never would sit down and just house everything in sight. Over a few years I had lost 60 pounds but there came a point where it stalled. Then things got worse.

I cannot pinpoint the exact date, but May 2015 is the closest to the beginning I can determine.  At that time, I had been to 4 funerals in 5 months and every loss led to me to “sweep it under the rug”.  I would tell myself I would see these people later, that they were still around, nothing happened.  I know, ridiculous thoughts.  But it was May 1, 2015 that the hardest loss hit.  My dad’s best friend, TP.  He was 54.  He was younger than my dad and so much like him.  I believe it put mortality into a huge perspective at that point as I couldn’t get past the thought that one day I would lose my father.  I didn’t deal with TP’s death.  Sure, I cried like crazy, but after a couple days, I had to bury it and move on thinking that there is no reason to deal with it since the outcome would not change.  (I promise, I will get to the eating disorder part soon).

I began to eat.  A lot.  Weight was creeping back on.  I thought the stress of life was getting to me.  Who cares if I went out and got a big meal, I could always start over tomorrow.  Then came June.  Another loss.  Then came September, another loss. He was a schoolmate, turned co-worker, turned friend who died tragically in OCMD over Labor Day weekend at just 37 years old.  That was it.  I was done.  I ate and ate and ate.

Around October I started to see articles and information through social media about binge eating and how it was beginning to be recognized as an eating disorder.  I mentioned it to a couple friends, and well – the binging stopped!  It was like telling people out loud made it “real”.  Plus I was training for a marathon in November and had to get my act together real quick.

The marathon came and went.  I found myself binging up to 5 nights a week.  And when I say binging - I mean binging. Approximately 2500 calories in one sitting (nearly 1000 calories over what should be my daily intake!).  I’d be beyond sick to my stomach but had to finish.  As I look back now, I guess the food numbed me.  It took pain away for a fleeting moment.  I wasn’t just hurting from these 6 losses in less than a year, but realized I still have yet to heal from my divorce.  It hurt watching life go by for everyone else when I felt stuck standing still not knowing where I was going in life and wondering would I ever be happy again.

In January I cleaned up my act again and cut the binging from 5 nights a week to 2-3 times.  It was an improvement but still not enough.  I had to deal with this.  After talking with a nutritionist and being referred to The Renfrew Center, a facility that helps women with eating disorders, I went for my assessment.

I left the assessment being told I should go to their Intensive Outpatient Therapy (IOP) for 6 weeks, every Monday 4-8:30, Wednesday, and Thursday from 5:30-830.  The first 2 weeks were very overwhelming.  I just thought I binged and needed to figure out how to control those urges.  Well the emotions that were being unleashed made for a very stressful and anxious time.  I realized too, that much of what I thought was “normal” was not normal at all.  The rules I created for myself regarding what I could and couldn’t eat, what I omitted completely from eating - was not normal.

At Renfrew I was taught about intuitive eating, how to allow myself a dessert and it NOT be the end of the world.  There were some stressful sessions.  Unannounced challenges in which you had to eat the cookie you were given with dinner.  You may think, “How can a center help someone if they force them to eat a cookie?”  I thought the same thing.  It was about being part of the community.  Showing a sister that restricts, it’s ok to eat the cookie because you did too.  We all had to finish our meals for the same reason.  We all had nutritional goals through the amount of exchanges to have at each meal (2-3 protein, 1 dairy, 2 starch, 2 fat, 1 fruit or veggie, for example).  We also had to realize how to eat a cookie and deal with the emotions that came with it.  If we ate the cookie we could process our feelings with the group so we would know how to deal with it the next time we would be faced with this.  Cookies are a part of life!

Learning how to truly eat meant watching my hunger cues, being mindful of my choices and portions, knowing there is no “good” or “bad” food, and to get rid of the idea of “food police”.  You see, eating is not supposed to be scary and riddled with anxiety.  At times, it still is to me.  Recovery is a long journey.  You never lose the urges to act on certain behaviors; for me - binging, but for some restricting or purging.  I have been fortunate in my journey to have gone since March 29 without a binge.  There may be a day where it happens, but I was given tools to help me process the emotions and thoughts when it does.  I have a great support in the friends and family I have chosen to share this with.  Amanda has been a huge support to me.  She even came to “multi-family group” with me to experience what dinner and a group session were like.  For that I could never thank her enough.  Love you for that and so much more “sole” sister!

I could go on and on here, but I think you get the gist.  I have made great friendships with the other women from group.  Each with their own issues and different set of circumstances, but the bottom line – we all face the same issues with our own addictions surrounding how we deal with food. I am grateful for their support. I will always have an eating disorder, but I have finally decided to not let the eating disorder have me.

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