Just Eat

It’s Eating disorder Awareness Week… I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people. “Just eat”… “I wish I had THAT problem” … Two of the most frustrating, rude, cavalier and insensitive phrases I hear whenever ED’s come up. Eating disorders are serious. Serious like addiction. And it’s not because “we” are selfish, vain or conceited. It’s because we have no self love, self worth and no grace. It’s because we feel out of control in life and take it out on our bodies. Because we feel guilt when we take care of ourselves. Eating disorders are not a joke.

(I rewrote the paragraph above a few times changing the “we” to “they” and the “our” to “their” because I’m struggling with whether or not I want to own my own struggles right now. #VigorousHonesty)

Eating disorders come in many forms, restricting, binging, purging, over exercising… these are the symptoms, the whiskey to the alcoholic, the meth to the addict, the abuser to the abused. If you’ve ever known or loved someone who struggled with addiction, you’ve probably thought, “Why can’t they see what their doing to themselves?”

“Why don’t they just stop?”

“Why doesn’t she leave him?”

“She doesn’t love me enough to quit.”

That’s pretty much the same thoughts you might have when you are close to someone with an eating disorder. It’s frustrating. Maybe a little more frustrating because it’s harder to understand. Harder to relate to. I grew up in a home where addiction was talked about often. My dad is over 30 years sober and has worked in treatment for my entire life. My sister has been in rehab a few times, my mom, too. Addiction, recovery, 12 Steps, meetings, amends…. This is all the norm to me. Addiction, we can handle. We have the tools. But about 12 years ago when I was diagnosed as “Anorexic with purging”, none of us had any idea how to deal. My dad was very proactive, he got me help immediately. A therapist, treatment… What I didn’t have was anyone in my life who understood. In a world where everyone was on the Atkin’s Diet, I didn’t fit in. It was really lonely. For me, going to a 12-Step meeting was not useful. I didn’t use. Not like them. For me, not eating served the same purpose, however, I was not offered the same grace. People rolled their eyes, because their addiction was “worse”. Because “all” I had to do was “just eat”. (I am rolling my eyes as I type this!)

I have forgiven everyone who’s ever belittled my disease because I understand that you DON’T understand. I would like to give a little insight though. So maybe you can have more grace with someone who is walking a road you’ve never walked.

I have a friend, a good friend who also has an eating disorder, and she is the only person besides my therapist who “gets it”. The irony is that she over eats and I under eat. (I’m actually in recovery… see here is where it’s hard to compare addiction and ED’s because when an alcoholic drinks, they’re no longer sober. If I have a bad eating day, I’m not off the wagon necessarily. It’s not THAT simple. Hence ED awareness week.) However, if you sit us both down and talk with us, or, hear us talk with each other, it’s the same words, it’s the same feelings. We just have literally opposite reactions. When I am sad, I lose 15 pounds. When she is sad, she gains 15 pounds. I’m not saying like I feel sad today and magically 15 pounds evaporate. I mean like, when I am going through depression, stress, anxiety, etc. I can’t eat. Like physically, I cannot swallow food. I will chew for ages and just can’t swallow. And I and not necessarily even upset about my body during these times. In fact, if I’m in that place, I am not even thinking about my body. I am too absorbed in my misery. Yes throughout my life I have acted out my ED because I have had a “fat” day (a word I avoid). I have also noticed that my “fat days” directly correlate to my emotions. The scale has not changed, but for some reason today I fucking HATE my body. Nothing looks right, nothing feels right. I want to rip off my skin. I literally want to take scissors to my thighs. I want to vacuum the fat from my belly. These are the images I get when I look in the mirror on a “fat day.” Meanwhile my brain is saying, “You’re worthless, you’re weak, you’re not lovable, nobody takes you seriously, you deserve to feel lonely, nobody needs you. You’re too outspoken, you’re too opinionated. You’re not smart enough or pretty enough. You’re just not enough. Oh- except your thighs, those are too much. Jeez, Justine, what’s wrong with you? You’re a shitty anorexic. You ate WAY too much yesterday and LOOK at your ass! You can’t even eat right. You’re so stupid. You need to control yourself. You are an embarrassment.” You see how it’s not actually about my body? My body is the scapegoat. Internally I feel like I can’t fix my uselessness, and all the things wrong with who I am, but, I CAN fix my thighs. So here I am desperately hating myself, and truly needing someone to love me, someone to affirm me. Not my body. ME. and I don’t know how to ask for that. And I sure as hell don’t believe I deserve it. So I am sad. So I can’t eat. And not eating serves a purpose. Not eating ,makes me feel successful subconsciously. Eating literally makes me nauseous, so NOT eating makes me feel better.

Meanwhile my friend who over eats has the SAME thoughts, only her coping skill is to make herself feel better by eating. Because when she is eating it FEELS GOOD. It smells good, and looks good and fills her. It literally fills the emptiness. So she will eat fast food, and thus PROVE to herself, all the things her brain has been chanting. That she isn’t strong enough to lose the weight, that she is worthless, that she’s fat. That she doesn’t “deserve” to be healthy, because if she did deserve it, she could eat like a “normal” person. She “proves” her worthlessness to herself every time she gets on a scale and hasn’t lost any weight. Every time her doctor is disappointed. Every time her nutritionist overwhelms her with lists of food she “can’t” have. It’s overwhelming. And what’s the point anyway, right? She feels like a failure. Maybe she is? Oh, is that a Mc Donald’s? French fries will help. And she’ll try again tomorrow.

I don’t know if my sharing this is helpful. I just thought, in the spirit of the week, maybe I can shine some light on a subject that you just can’t grasp at face value.

I want you all to know that I have been working my recovery, seeing my therapist, and learning to love myself. To change the way I talk to myself. To recognize the red flags and seek help when I start going down the rabbit hole. My recovery really doesn’t have a whole lot to do with food. Food is just the way I show the sickness. As a mom I have been good at maintaining a healthy weight… but masking the real issue. I am in a place where I want recovery, and I understand that just because I am not acting out my ED, does not mean I am cured. I understand that every single day I need to work to make the right choices. Because, magically, when I am doing what is right and healthy for me, I don’t hate myself so much. In fact, I start seeing the good. I have recognized that my decisions directly effect my self worth. And I am worth being happy. I am worth love. I am lovable. And so are you.

Fighting Food Demons

I read this article today on “orthorexia nervosa”. Haven’t heard of it? Neither had I, although I had a sneaking suspicion it was a thing. It’s having an unhealthy (go figure) obsession with eating clean. Generally when someone gets on a health kick, they are trying to be healthy. Evidently the issue here is that this drive towards ultimate health can actually make you UNHEALTHY. Well, that sucks. Particularly if you’re me. Having struggled with eating disorders for many years, resulting in rehab, then outpatient, groups and lots of therapy, I finally found peace with food. However, my “peace” with food has become increasingly “unpeacful”. When I built a healthy relationship with food, I decided I needed to have a better understanding of food. What is it? Where does it come from? What’s in it? What does “processed” mean? How does my body react to certain foods? Answering these questions helped me to not dwell on the calories, however I have noticed that I still feel just as guilty (and judgmental even) when I eat certain foods. And it’s not like a regular person who would not even consider that they have a relationship with food, (because you normies just EAT food.) and maybe feels some guilt when they go to a drive through, or eat ice cream. I feel guilty when I eat a sandwich. I feel self loathing when I eat bread. I hate myself when I eat cheese. And it’s not just that I do have a fear of gaining weight, but in my head I am thinking that I am causing inflammation which will undoubtedly lead to every health problem imaginable. And it will be because I ate a slice of pizza. I will die a miserable death because I had mozzarella sticks. You may be thinking that I am insane… But you may be like me and you maybe literally won’t EVER touch demonic foods that contain gluten, dairy or GMOs. (And I am over here feeling sickeningly jealous of your strength…. *You see, I wouldn’t ever buy these satanic tempestuous treats, but my husband literally won’t live without them. He thinks that no meal is a meal without carbs, in fact he thinks it’s ridiculous when me and my daughter don’t eat sandwiches. He would like to know what will fill us up if we don’t eat bread?*…And lucky if you don’t have have a partner who eats clean as well.)  It doesn’t stop there, I feel like like I am bringing bad karma onto myself for eating certain foods! (namely animal products)

I can compare this overwhelming guilty conscious to religious people. In fact, I believe I am so sensitive to not “doing what’s right” because of my past in churchianity. So if you feel bad because you missed church, or forgot to say your prayers, or whispered a curse word, maybe you feel a fraction of what I feel when I eat food (that you may even consider healthy). I feel like I have to go to confession after eating black bean soup! AND IT’S VEGAN! Why? I read that beans cause inflammation. I start planning a cleanse after eating quinoa. Yeah… quinoa. We all thinks it’s so healthy… but is it? I listen so carefully to my body after eating a food because I have to know how it effects me. I have slight depression when I see a carton of milk. I mean, those poor cows. And the meat isle?!? It’s a graveyard, It’s the dead animal isle. I don’t like it. I feel like I am literally driving the nails into Jesus’s hands when I eat cheese that isn’t organic. And I have nausea even if it is organic because I’m a little grossed out by the concept of cheese. And simultaneously, cheese is my weakness, it’s the equivalent of the shame you may feel watching porn.

OK so you see my insanity. But here’s the deal, I don’t eat perfectly. So far I am healthy, even though I cheat sometimes. I can and do go to restaurants. I will find food that I can/will/want to eat. (Except fast food, but if we are going with the religious comparison, fast food is like a whore house, right?) I generally bring my own food to a BBQ, this isn’t that weird because I don’t eat meat, and it doesn’t bother me. I would like to say that my food standards are reasonable. I felt bad a few weeks ago when a friend asks me to feed her kid lunch and I knew already that he wouldn’t eat what we had. When I asked what he liked to eat, she suggested something like, mach n cheese, buttered noodles, pb&j, chicken nuggets, cereal and oatmeal. I had none of that. Or I and pieces… no butter, no bread, organic funny looking noodles, no milk for cereal, no peanut butter…. I apologized (don’t worry he was fed!), I honestly felt bad, but in reality, it’s not that big of a deal. These things happen, and I don’t think those are necessary foods. I don’t think that makes me extreme, either. I think that maybe my intense feelings on dairy seem extreme, but not buying chicken nuggets, not so much.

You may be wondering what this means for my kiddos? What do they eat? Well, if we go to a birthday party or a bbq, they eat pizza, hot dogs, cake and chips. The only thing I really put my foot down on at a social even is soda. At home my kiddos eat a balanced healthy diet, and I try to buy organic. They get dessert 2-3 times a week. My kids don’t eat as strict of a diet as I do, and that’s ok. I have had to loosen the reigns on that one, I wasn’t always so nonchalant about that.

Am I orthorexic? No, I don’t think so. I think that eating this way has helped improve my health and is better for my family. Do I think it’s a fine line? Yes. Considering my history it’s not weird that I have unhealthy emotions about food, however, it’s pretty awesome that I have not taken my obsession with health to an unhealthy extreme. I will be mindful, and I will continue fighting my food related demons.

Mommy Issues

So this morning as I scrolled through my facebook newsfeed, sipping my coffee, I come across a new single written by Pink. You all know I am a Pink fan, so I was excited, I click the link and read the article, turns out, this song was written for Pink’s mom… My initial reaction to this news was conflicting. I have serious mommy issues (You’ve heard about my daddy issues already.) and I have hesitated to blog about them because… Well for one it fucking hurts. As I type tears burn my eyes and and my throat is tight, also, this stuff is personal. I know I have been open about a lot, but this is the most sensitive subject for me, I’ve told you about the time I was attacked, and I don’t even cry anymore when I talk about that. I have told you about my history with the cult, and I have even publicly apologized to a friend (<—- I even mentioned some mommy issues.) But this mom stuff is really hard to choke out.

My sisters and my mama at my wedding
My sisters and my mama at my wedding

“No one ever held you, no single moment of truth, but if you were mine I would have looked into those eyes and said, tell me the words you long to hear and I’ll sing them loud and clear, let me heal the wounds you’ve held onto for all these years. Break the cycle break the chain, cause love is louder than all your pain.”

It’s like she took the words from my heart, words I have never been able to even think. “But if you were mine….” right there, that’s when I broke, that’s when the tears came. When I was pregnant and didn’t want a baby, I promised this baby that I would be the mother that my mom couldn’t be. I was so afraid to continue the cycle. Every day since Jo was born has been therapy for me, I have spent the last 5 years cleaning up the mess my mom left, I have loved Jo, and hugged her, and connected with her in all the ways I SHOULD have been loved, all the ways I DESERVED to be loved. I don’t have memories of not being wanted, but it became clear while I was in CFD, you may remember the Justine Doll Incident:

“When I was in treatment for my eating disorder I was given an assignment, to make a doll that represented me, a baby Justine doll, and nurture her for a day. It was supposed to be me when I was 2, around the time my mom left us. After making the doll, I promptly threw it over my shoulder, and did not touch it for a week. The next time we had group with all of our therapists, mine asked me if I had completed the task. I said I made the doll, and no I did not nurture it, it’s not even real, after all. I should have known better because my next assignment was to nurture that damn thing for the next WEEK! My therapist asked me to go get the doll. I got it and put her down in front of me.

She asked me to hold her…
I picked it up by it’s hair.
She asked me to hold her like a baby.
I did.
She asked me to look at her.
I couldn’t.
“Why won’t you look at her?”
Me: “I can’t.”
“Why not?”
Me: “I don’t know, I hate it.”
“Why?”
Me: “I don’t know.”
“Look at her.”
Me: (I looked at her, and started to cry) “She is ugly, and fat, and I hate her.”
“She is only a baby, how can you hate a baby?”
Me: “I don’t know… I hate her.”
“Hug her, tell her you love her.”
Me: (Hugging her) I can’t, I don’t love her.

At this point I broke down. It was crazy to me that I could HATE a doll so much. I had never realized how worthless I felt, how ugly, and disgusting I thought I was. Those are the voices in my head when I look in the mirror sometimes. When I got out of treatment I threw that doll away.

I can’t imagine my beautiful, perfect, smart baby girl feeling the way I felt towards that doll… I mean myself.”

I’m not saying it’s ALL my mom’s fault that I literally hated myself and did not think I deserved to be nurtured or loved, there were a lot of factors, but I’m pretty sure being essentially abandoned is a huge contributing factor. Thinking back on that doll I have such a sick feeling, who can leave their little girl? I look at my daughter and I have a hard time imagining a day without her, I cry every time she goes to her dad’s house. Jo changed me, she changed my perspective on life. I could’t help but wonder… why didn’t I do that for my mom? Why didn’t I change her? Why didn’t she look at me, and fall in love? It’s not very fair is it? I can’t imagine walking away from my baby girl, but my mom felt that I would be better off without her. She may have been right, but that’s not really the point is it?

Break the cycle break the chain, cause love is louder than all your pain.”

I have spent the last 5 years breaking the chain. I could have been my mom, I could have left when it was hard, I could have given up at any point, but I promised Joliene while she was in my belly that even if I didn’t love her, I would ALWAYS do everything in my power to make her feel loved, and I would never EVER leave her. I promised to show that her she is perfect and beautiful, that she is essential and loved. I vowed to be better and to give her everything I should have had. I broke the cycle.

Me and my Jojo <3
Me and my Jojo <3

“If you were mine…”

I have spent the last 5 years wishing I had been my own mom. Wondering what it would have been like if my mom had been like me, would I have been more confident? Would I have still starved myself? More importantly, would I be the mother I am today? What I never thought until hearing those words was, what if she was mine? What if I could go back and nurture my mother? What if I was HER mother? Would she have stayed?

Disclaimer: “Too many missing pieces, that’s always been your reason to justify how you feel inside” To be honest, I know my mom can’t help who she was. She has more than enough reasons. She was dealt a pretty shitty hand in life. It just sucks that I had to suffer because of HER past. But I love her, and have come a really long way. I think this song really reminded me to be compassionate.

 

 

Food = Fat… I mean FUEL.

62769_586113811400656_1018779610_n

When I was in treatment for my eating disorder it was hammered into my brain that it is healthy to eat 6 times a day. Try telling THAT to an anorexic! I thought these people had lost their minds!!! I had trouble eating at all, and here I am basically being force fed. If we did not eat we were threatened with hospitalization, and being tube fed. If you are hospitalized you cannot work off your food, and you are bored. Nobody wanted that… but at the expense of eating 6 times a day… It was scary. That might sound so silly to you, but for me this was one of the scariest things I would do. In my mind, food = fat. I had spent a very long time restricting and and brainwashing myself that if I did not eat I would be skinny, and finally love myself. I have been on a life long quest to love myself and for years I thought if I was skinny enough I would. It didn’t work. I had been hating myself for so long, no pant size could change that. I put conditions on myself that to this day make me cringe. I am scared that one day my daughter will feel the way I did (and sometimes do.) I’m watching her play right now and thinking that I never want her to be obsessed with body checks. In fact, I never want her to know what body checks are. (For those of you who do not know about body checking, it’s when you see how many fingers you can fit into the waist of your pants or measuring your wrists with your fingers, I used to start with my forefinger and thumb, then my middle finger, my ring finger and my pinkie, then work my way up my arm until my fingers could not touch anymore. I also body checked my legs, fitting my hands around my thighs, and looking in the mirror to make sure my thighs did not touch. I would touch my hips to make sure they stuck out at all times, and anytime I passed a mirror I would sneak a peak to make sure my tummy was flat. Body checking is a way to reinforce your illness. I still catch myself from time to time.)

I did eventually make some sort of “peace” with eating. Eventually I came to a healthy view of food. It is still hard for me to eat, but I look at food as fuel now. I understand that food = energy and, energy burns fat!!! Yes, I still don’t like fat, yes I still want to like the way I look in the mirror, but I have made healthy changes. First of all, I want to be healthy for my kids. That means eating responsibly. I know, it sounds silly, but for me, restricting IS addicting, and without proper fuel I cannot parent. I get cranky and impatient. It is simple to say, not an easy thing to do. If I am having a “fat day” (Fun fact the “f word” is not allowed in our house… not the f*ck word… lol although that is an adult word, that is not used frequently and has been replace with “frog” usually. You should hear me when I am upset “frogging frog!”) I do not want food. I immediately go back to my illness and I am afraid to eat. I have to reason with my eating disorder. It is not easy to reason with an eating disorder. My eating disorder is mean, she tells me how ugly and fat and useless I am. She points out my flaws, my stretch marks, my microscopic, yet sagging boobs, my enormous rib cage that just does not fit with my body, my teeth, my acne, my stomach, my thighs…. She reminds me, she waits until I am feeling just a hint of insecurity and floods my mind with all of my physical flaws, and then starts on my personality, I’m too honest, I lose friends, My temper is too quick, and explosive, I can’t even control it sometimes. I forgive people who have hurt me, even after they won’t admit what they have done… am I that lonely? I attack people verbally for disagreeing with me. I am impatient and insecure. Some days I wonder how to get out of bed with this list of negativity. There is ONE thing that is stronger than that entire list. My kiddos. They are MY reason. The reason I listen to my brain, the brain that tells me that food is fuel not fat, that I need fuel for them, and that beauty resonates from the inside out.

Do I eat 6 times a day? Nope. I do, however, eat. I chose food that is going to benefit me, and, as my fiance pointed out last night, “You don’t eat anything because you love it.” I don’t really, I am not a food person. I could happily live on pills that had the right calories given the opportunity. I try to eat things I like. What do I love? Moments. Time with my kids and my fiance. I can’t have those if I am not getting proper nutrition.