My Mind on Thanksgiving

I hate Thanksgiving.

The large plates of food.

The ‘holiday diet’ trends being advertised everywhere.

Family members telling me they didn’t eat all day just for this meal even though I had to follow my meal plan and still eat breakfast plus my morning snack.

Hearing people justify why they are allowed to eat a second slice of pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving is a tough holiday for someone with anorexia.

I know the holiday is supposed to be about being thankful, but that doesn’t stop anyone from still making the main deal be about food.

Let me give you an example about what this holiday feels like for me.

Let’s say you’re terrified of spiders. Well imagine waking up completely covered by every type of spider. The spiders are everywhere. Crawling all over you and theres nothing you can do to get them off.

That sense of fear is what I get every time I am faced with a large meal. Sometimes I can shake the thought away fairly quickly, but the fear is still there. I want to escape, but there is no excuse to not participate in Thanksgiving. I want to use avoidance or hide my food, but I am now at a point in my recovery where I know hiding my food will only send me spiraling.

Food terrifies me.

I try to focus on the relationships and the memories I can create rather than the panic attack building up inside me as my plate of food is set in front of me.

I try to take deep breaths and remind myself that everything will be ok- I know I can’t just eat my safe foods every day of the year.

Sometimes I do enjoy my food. Some years I enter Thanksgiving super confident because I feel I have a strong grip on my eating disorder. But no matter how good I feel I can’t shut out the guilt after eating each time.

Recovering from an eating disorder is by far the biggest challenge I have faced.

The thoughts lurk everywhere and while most of the time they are muted; they still can come blaring without an invitation.

However, this year I will try to shake away my fear and enjoy the holiday.

This year I will enjoy a glass of wine AND have a real dessert.

This year I will not let my anorexia take control.

I just ask that whoever reads this, to be careful with your jokes around food.

You may think its harmless to mention things about restricting to enjoy the big meal, but to others like me, it can really hit hard.

I hope that everyone tries to enjoy their food without having to mention ways to compensate for it. I hope that everyone has a great holiday with the people they love.

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Full Recovery?

There are a lot of different opinions about eating disorder recovery and if full recovery is actually possible.

Some people think that yes, an eating disorder surviver will be able to live a completely ED free life. I hate to be a cynic, but I have to disagree with those people.

Some people view this mindset I have as not being ready to let go of the disorder. I won’t deny it, thats definitely a true statement to be made. Letting go of an eating disorder is scary.

When people ask me how I am doing now with my eating disorder, I am not sure how to respond. You see, I am no longer in relapse, but if I told everyone I was fully recovered, that would be a lie.

To be fully recovered from an eating disorder, in my opinion, is to no longer have ANY issues with food. To be fully recovered from an eating disorder is to be able to eat something without guilt or without the thoughts of how to compensate. To be fully recovered is to not compare my body or what I eat to others. To be fully recovered is to be able to look at food or go grocery shopping without feeling like the world is caving in as the anxiety begins to take over.

I have many days without experiencing any of these thoughts, but my eyes are still broken. I still sometimes see a different reflection looking back at me completely skewed from the beast in my head. 

I eat my meals and no longer engage in behaviors because I am focused now on the wonderful life I have created. It is a life without Ana, but Ana still finds her way in. Ana still whispers to me at night with the review of everything I ate that day.

The difference between relapse and recovery is choosing to NOT listen to the disorder. The voice won’t go away, its just a matter of making the choice to not engage in what she says. I have the strength to not listen to Ana. I have the courage to fight her back and question her motives.  I like to think that my anorexia is in remission. The symptoms are not nearly as severe and its possible that I may never relapse again. 

 

5 Things I Want You To Know

Now that I am at a strong point in recovery, I want to share some things that I still want others to know:

  • I am not always as strong as I act
      • It is really hard for me to allow others to see me vulnerable, so sometimes putting up a strong front in public makes me believe that I am in control. I am much stronger than I ever was before, but inside I still have my anxiety monster wanting to come out and play. I still really appreciate random check ins every now and then because it reminds me that I am not in this fight alone.
  • Recovery is not linear
      • I still hear Ana everyday; the thoughts really don’t go away, they just get muted. She is still in my head, but I have more strength and control to ignore her. Somedays I may listen to her more than others. That doesn’t mean I relapsed though. It just means that I hit a bump and that’s okay.
  • Sometimes I miss being sick
      • This is very disordered, but sometimes I really miss the comfort of my eating disorder. I do not know how to explain it, but there is a sense of safety that I feel with my anorexia. I have lived with this disease for so long that it has become the norm for me. Being healthy and recovered is new for me and I am not fully comfortable yet with the unexpected.
  • My coping skills are imperative to my health
      • I have my coping skills and they have become like rituals for me. For example, I need to be able to have 30 minutes of just me time everyday. If that ‘Liv Time’ gets interrupted, it really throws me off and causes me to spiral. Even if the interruption is the smallest thing like someone losing my pen cap (sorry, mom). I need to have these moments because recovery is hard and it is so important for me to take a little bit of time to do things that make me happy.
  • I have never been happier
      • I am so in love with my life and I cannot thank my treatment team/support system enough for helping me get here. I went from having to stop halfway up a flight of stairs to being able to play tennis again. My eating disorder took away so many things that made me happy and I can finally enjoy it all again. RECOVERY IS WORTH IT AND LIFE IS A PRECIOUS, BEAUTIFUL THING.