Me, reflected through friendly eyes

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My amazing sister and I!

Yesterday was one of the best I have had in a really long time.  A day that made me remember how it feels when you are seen by people who love you.  My sister and her family came to visit me for the day (we are separated by a ferry ride that costs far too much to see each other nearly as frequently as we would like).  We spent the day doing touristy things, being outside and just enjoying happy family time.

In recent years, I have felt my sister and I drift apart – there are many reasons: distance, my all consuming relationship, the eating disorder, her busyness with two kids, two pets and a husband.  All have contributed.  I am sad to think how easily it happened.  How we both know how much we care about one another and yet other “things” got in the way of holding that sacred.

My family has always been important to me while also being a source of insecurity.  I have always admired those who freely embrace and pronounce their family ties.  I, on the other hand, have felt embarrassed by how much I needed them and how large a role they play in my life.  My bias is always to believe that I am somehow flawed and that my experiences are “nerdy” or “weak”.  After all, the North American goal is independence and self sufficiency, right?  So how could I allow for any flaws in that armour?

That self doubt crept into even the one place where I knew I was valued and loved and tainted the safe haven that family could be. I could not separate myself from the views of my parents, or my sister.  At the same time, I was trying to be the person I thought I should be for my friends and peers.  Running in tandem with all of this was some ideal self that I snatched from fairy tales and magazines.

I attempted to distance myself from my family because I didn’t know my own voice.  It was easier to hide than to try to sort out how to be the “right” person.

The reality is so far from my past perception.  My family provided me with strength.  As I am growing, I am learning and embracing the support and love they give me.  I am also learning that their voices, either as a collective or as individuals within, are not MY voice.  Since I am just learning to tune into that voice, it can be hard for me to tune in to myself.  I believe it is more important than ever to do so, though.  In learning to trust myself, I am better able to turn towards the people who love me while not losing my sense of self identify.

I am grateful that I am learning this lesson.  Learning, slowly, to use my voice and trust that those who hear it, will continue to love me BECAUSE it is my voice – over time I will learn to see my true self as worthwhile and loveable, just as they do.

 

When I’m old

Many Sundays, I attend a Buddhist meditation group.  During yesterday’s session, we meditated on who we will be when we are old.  The practice was to encourage us to think now about the parts of ourselves we would like to discard and the parts we would like to cultivate and grow as we age.

I didn’t realize it would be such a powerful mediation for me.P1000581

As I sat there and imagined my ideal self as an old woman, it was easier than I thought to evoke the image.  Given my general tendency toward indecision, I at first feared I would not be able to call forth the qualities and nature of the woman I would like to grow to be.

Surprisingly, the image arose easily and clearly in my mind.

So, who is this person I wish to be in my old age?

I’ll take a chance here and post directly from what I wrote in my journal after the meditation:

I see myself as a calm and peaceful presence.  Full of confidence and wisdom, in part because of my openness to new experiences and new opinions.  I see myself with a life partner who I adore and who adores me.  Someone who has his own interests but love to play Scrabble with me and have game night and laugh with friends.  We are vocal about our feelings and always respectful.  We have dinner parties.  He laughs that I always want the dishes done right away and obliges (most of the time).  He has quirks that alternately amuse and frustrate me.  There is love.  Solid, consistent, unquestioning love that embraces solitude and friendships.  I am involved in the lives of my niece and nephew (and also friend’s children).  I write and meet with a group of women who write and blog.  Meditation is a regular part of my life.  As is good red wine.  I am whole.

Notably absent is any obsessing about food. And in my mind’s eye, I am comfortably solid. I wear skirts and flowing clothing. I walk a lot, both alone and with my partner. That is what I want for myself. Very clearly.

I wanted to write about this in a public space because it is so powerful to me.  It is also so very possible for me.

 

An opportunity

I’m going to be going on disability until later this year.  I’m simultaneously incredibly relieved and also dizzyingly scared.  Which is rather fitting given my love of contrast.

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It means I don’t have to go back to work yet and I am so grateful for that.  I am slowly, slowly beginning to heal and recover.  My anxiety about returning to work has been weighing heavily on my mind and there is such relief in knowing it is not imminent.  I am also thankful to the woman who is nudging me down this path.  I don’t actually know if I could have said “no, I want to go back to work instead.”  I didn’t try.  I heard her concern and her belief that this is the best decision for me,  for now, and I chose to simply let that be.  I chose to not resist what she was putting forth.

My fears are rampant right now, though.. what about money?  what about all this time on my hands?  what about school? what will other people think? What if, despite this gift of time, I still can’t recover?

Big questions.

Ones that I don’t have answers to right now.  Right now I am going to trust the process.  Really, it was not long ago (days, really) that I was imagining how wonderful it would be if I didn’t have to go back to work right now.  And now I don’t.  Sounds like synchronicity to me.

So if you are out there, help me to see this as an opportunity.  Tell me about a time when you have faced something you really wanted and yet also really feared all at the same time.  Give me hope.

Can I turn frustration into motivation?

Today I feel frustrated.  And a little lost.  It feels as if I am so close to grasping some sense of meaning and direction; my fingers brush up against such purpose but never establish full contact.

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So many loose threads in my life and I feel that each gets a brief shot of attention and focus before I move on to the next without ever really solving any one.

Today’s energy is directed at the convergence of diabetes and anorexia.  Lately, I’ve been seeing more media discussing diabulimia and bringing it into the public eye.  In diabulimia, insulin restriction is used to manipulate blood sugars and so avoid weight gain.  It is as if the calories consumed “don’t count”.  It is a very dangerous and potentially deadly practice.

This is not what I do.  Instead, I have diabetes and overlaid on top of that I have anorexia.  This does lead to inconsistent blood sugars but I do not intentionally manipulate my insulin in this way.  As an anorexic, my mind is constantly engaged in thinking about food; for many, recovery means relinquishing the numbers game.  As a diabetic, I need to be vigilant about food in order to maintain good control; I can’t relinquish the numbers and have good sugar control.  You see the problem here?

Whether it be diabulimia, anorexia + diabetes ,or any other combination of eating disorder and diabetes, it is disheartening to see the lack of resources with specific and specialized knowledge on the overlap.  The increased prevalence of eating disorders in those with diabetes is acknowledges, but there remains very little in the way of support for how to recover and how to normalize eating again, without upsetting the control of diabetes.

I desperately want to somehow learn more, and recover myself, so that I can be a resource for others.  So that others don’t have to try so hard to figure it out alone.  I see this as a possible turning point in the direction of my life, but what I don’t know is what I am turning towards.  I can’t yet make out the boundaries, the lines, the vision.  For now, it’s just a blurry destination away off on the horizon.

Where is the action?

It’s rather ironic that one of the stumbling blocks with my relationship was that the words he said were not resulting in action.  I loved what he was saying and I wanted to believe but the follow through was lacking.

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It’s ironic because that’s exactly what keeps happening with respect to my eating disorder recovery.

Here are some of the things I know to be true:

  • I am underweight
  • Being sick is different than being cared about
  • I think I look too skinny
  • I am embarrassed by how others perceive me
  • I am tired of this disorder
  • I don’t want to be old and still have anorexia
  • I think better when I eat better
  • I am cold so much of the time
  • I am the only one who can take the actions to change
  • I can not gain weight without eating more
  • I am frustrated by my self imposed strict structure
  • I am “sick enough”
  • My anorexia affects my diabetes
  • “Tomorrow” as a starting day will never come
  • I cannot explore my identity and my life without recovery
  • I like food.  A lot.

All of this is true and I know it.  Which is why I am so baffled at my difficulty in actually making changes.  With all of the above being true, it seems that I would be able to increase my intake and start gaining weight.  I see the rationale, I see the logic, I want to change.  And still I find myself setting a daily limit that will not allow me to gain.  Will not allow me to move on.  I sabotage myself.

It’s no wonder people have such a confused and inaccurate view of eating disorders.  Those who know them intimately are still not able to understand them.

I have to believe, though, that there is hope.  That I can do this.  I do believe that.  With the help of a strong and committed counsellor, I am learning that I am making small changes.  I’m also learning that of the people who know me and know of my struggles it is just me who believes I am not doing enough.  The shift in thinking starts with me.

I can take on the rest of the world later.

 

Anger. (And fear, and hope, and pain, and…)

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So many changes happening in my life right now.  I just broke up with my boyfriend of almost 4 years.  Not because I don’t love him but because I need to take time to focus on my health and learning to hear my own voice.  I tried to do this while I was with him, but I found myself so easily swayed.  When I don’t really KNOW what I want, it’s so much easier to just go along with what someone else suggests.  Then, of course, comes a feeling of resentment when I realize it maybe isn’t what I want after all.  But whose fault is that?  I complied with someone else’s vision.

I’m angry though.  At myself.  At him.  At life.

In the moment he seemed to understand.  This has never been a smooth relationship, with roller coaster ups and downs.  I need stability.  Which he now claims he has achieved; he claims he is now committed and committed for life.  But I can’t forget the past.  I’ve tried.  But I can’t and I don’t know that I want to.  He is convinced that if I could recover from my eating disorder that we could work things out.  I think that he’s fallen in love with the person I presented myself to be because I knew he’d love her.

A person who doesn’t really exist.

So I’m angry.  And scared.  I am so frustrated with him for not understanding that the anorexia is a symptom of other issues.  It’s resolution doesn’t make everything else go away.  I am so frustrated with me because I have supplied him with this vision of who I am.  I am confused because I am still learning how to tune in to myself so I remain so very doubtful all the time.  Then I am angry with him for being so sure right now in the midst of my dismay.

Then there’s the hope.  Hope that is tinged with heartbreak and sadness.  Because the hope is what surfaces when I push forward on my own path, without him.  My own voice being the one that is directing me.  This is extremely difficult as sometimes I think my own voice is speaking in a foreign language.  I’ve been on my own before but this is the first time I’ve really looked at who I am and what I want, rather than moving wherever I think I “should” go.  There is power and terror in equal measure.

Is this what it means to grow up?

Fear… of failure and success

Winter

I woke up at 3 am today.  Suddenly terrified that I have to go back to some semblance of “normal” life in the next few weeks.  I feel like I am supposed to say that “I am getting bored being off work and that I feel ready to have some structure to my daily life”.

But I don’t feel that way at all!

I like being off work and school.  I like having unstructured free days.  I’m not filling them with crazy adventures, unless the adventure of getting to know oneself can be considered a crazy adventure.  I *should* say that I’m sure this feeling will pass, and that, yes, eventually I will want to engage and be productive.  Maybe that’s true.  I have spent the last couple of years thoroughly burning myself out and my body and mind need a rest.  Yes, other people are also burnt out, and yes, many other people have to push through it and just get by without having a break.  Which I feel guilty about.  I also feel, strongly, that my guilt stems partly from my ongoing reliance on other people’s opinions of me.  I don’t want others to scoff at me.  I don’t want others to think I’m selfish.  I want people to see me as strong and enduring.

I’m tired of all that pretending though.  I’m just tired.  So I am striving with all my being to let this time be, without making it into another project.  This time is my time.  In so many senses of truth.

My time to find out who I am.  My time to refresh and recover in whatever way makes sense for me.  Am I lucky to have this time? Yes. Is that all the more reason to use it in ways that are healing to me? Yes.

It may sound like I am trying to justify myself (partly because I am), but if I return to the old routines and schedules and way of living, I won’t last.  I have been killing myself slowly (yes, that’s what I believe I’ve been doing with my anorexia and I will write more on that in the future).  Nobody’s opinion or judgment matters if I am unable to live and function – I need to see that, feel that, live that.  For me.

As I re-read the above text, it feels as if I am rising to some awe-inspiring conclusion of life changing, self-affirming proportions. Something worthy of Oprah.

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I want to bring myself back down though.  Some of the important learning I am gaining involves failure.  My view of what counts as failure, unsurprisingly, involves someone else’s judgements. I remind myself, now, here, that life involves constantly changing purposes and paths.  My early morning fear today centered largely on my readiness to return to school in May (I register for classes today).  My insight over the last 4 hours is that I want to try.  I may not be able to finish.  I can still try and I can be kind to myself if I doubt my ability as I go on.  I can be kind to myself if I decide that my health can not sustain the rigours of graduate school.

This little insight dampens the terror of “real life re-entry”.  I don’t have to do it perfectly.  What a relief.  I can work to change and adapt to life in the ways that make sense for me and with the supports I am so lucky to have.  I will be worthy of those supports primarily by using those supports.

Peeking out, shyly.

Since the time I left home at 18, I don’t think I’ve ever really let myself be seen.  We all have aspects we hide and aspects we show, and I think that’s the only way I know how to live.  Behind a curtain.  The problem is that even I don’t know what lies behind.  So this is my scary foray into being honest, into owning my voice and my life.

I’m terrified.

It’s one thing to post anonymous comments on blogs that move me and to speak in generalities and vagueness about my struggles and challenges.  It’s another, entirely to say this is me.  And though I’m not yet going to “name” myself, for fear that will cause me to filter too much of what I write, I am going to include details and aspects of my life that I typically hide.

So please hear me and hear me with kindness.