Archive for January, 2010

Kind of a lousy day

That’s how I would describe yesterday. It didn’t get off to a bad start, but in the afternoon and early evening I had stuff with my dear daughter. That put me in a bad mood. Later on, I thought to myself: Well, it’s 2 steps forward, one step back. Things were a bit better lately, and this episode was just a helpful reminder that I have to keep on track and not loosen up. That’s it.

To improve my mood, I decided to check out what was available on the pay TV. It was rather cold outside and the local movie didn’t interest me, so the home cinema was a good option. What did I find? Desperately Seeking Susan!

I’d seen that film when it first came out — was it 1984? A friend from work had an appointment early in the morning the next day — in Manhattan, and she lived in New Jersey. So I invited her to spend the night at my place. We did some shopping. She decided to buy a new dress for the next day at work. Yes, back then we wore dresses and skirts to work! And in the evening, we went to the movies.

Last night was a fun trip down memory lane. It’s a fun movie — with Madonna way back when. I also enjoyed seeing Manhattan back in the 80ies, back when I used to live there. It is a document of an era.

By the time I went to bed, I was in a better mood. It’s just another typical case of the ups and downs in life. And teenage daughters make it that much more interesting. Just because we had a prolonged argument doesn’t mean that the whole day was lousy. Just part of it.

January 24, 2010 at 6:26 pm Leave a comment

Turning Points

For quite some time I was convinced that the turning point to recovery came when I finally took the physics final I put off for a year. On that day I got the insight: “I am enough.”

Through recent correspondence with a few readers, I came to a new realization. The above turning point was when I became symptom free. But there was another, extremely important turning point that occurred nearly ten months prior to that one.

It was December or January and I was at an all-time low. I was sick and tired of bingeing and vomiting, and I said to myself: “I’ve had enough of this!!!” I acknowledged that I could not do it alone. The previous 12 years were proof enough of that. And so I decided that I was willing to do whatever is necessary to recover. I wanted therapy. That same day I found an ad in the newspaper: “Group therapy for women with bulimia/anorexia.” I called, went for an individual consultation, and joined the group.

I dropped out of school for a semester. I decided to allow myself as little stress as possible, so I could focus on recovery and whatever was needed to achieve it. I signed up for a few activities that truly interested me. Little by little, step by step, I took actions towards the huge goal of recovery.

It was all that work and willingness along the way that led to the realization ten months later: “I am enough.” So, no, it won’t happen over night. It doesn’t. Recovery is a process — with ups and downs and all the stuff of life. It’s just one aspect, one dimension, one tangent in the experience.

Since then, there have been several turning points — in areas other than food. It seems as if my life is a series of turning points. One thing leads to the next, and there’s generally something pivotal to set it off. That keeps me moving along the path.

January 21, 2010 at 6:40 pm Leave a comment

Walking through life’s forest

Lately I’ve taken to regular walks in the woods. There’s a convenient little mountain behind my apartment building, and since I realized I actually like hiking, I bought some hiking boots (on sale, of course!) and immensely enjoy the fresh air, quiet and exercise.

Yesterday afternoon was sunny and I had time, so I set out for a short hike, as I had stuff to do. At one of the forks, two people stepped onto the path in front of me — about 10 yards. They walked at the same pace, and I didn’t feel like having them in front of me the whole time. So when it came time to switch onto the shorter route and they turned, I opted to take the longer path after all.

The change over the past couple of days got me thinking that the path is like life. Often I find myself on the same path, but it’s different every time. Last week it had snowed a bit. The forest was covered with a fresh blanket of pure white snow. On the forest path, the snow crunched under my shoes. It was exhilarating and I felt pure happiness.

A couple of days later, the path was well trodden. I needed to walk in the middle, as the path was somewhat icy to the left and right. At one point, there was a pile of cut pine trees blocking the path. I wondered if I’d taken the wrong turn, circled back, found nothing, and continued forward. The second time around, I saw footprints in the snow. Following them, I returned to the path.

Yesterday it was again different. There were patches of dry dirt road, with icy patches in between (the shady spots). The pile of trees was gone, the way was clear. I needed to pay attention during the icy parts, but when it was dry, my attention wandered to other details. Thus I am getting the know the forest better each time I go.

Meanwhile my thoughts wandered to my apartment. When I first moved in, I was so excited and enthusiastic. I cleaned every nook and cranny — and enjoyed the process. The other day, I spent the whole day cleaning. A couple of hours to get motivated, and then coffee and phone call breaks in between. I just wasn’t in the mood, but wanted to get it done while I had the time. Things at work will get busier in the next couple of weeks, so now was a good time.

And I thought to myself: I can do the same thing a hundred times, walk the same path a thousand times, but each time it is different. The weather, my mood, the planetary constellation, the season, and other factors play a role in the experience.

It is up to me to be mindful and aware, to experience the difference, to go through the motions but remain open to the fact that it’s not always the same. That keeps me grounded, centered, and in the moment. My life is happening right now. Each day and moment are unique — no matter how many times I’ve been here before!

January 20, 2010 at 12:13 pm Leave a comment

Worries

At the moment, I have a lot on my mind. What will become of my daughter? How will things turn out? How is the new job going to work out? I still haven’t really adjusted to it yet, since the work itself is not as clearly defined as I’d like. The other evening I watched the new movie from Michael Moore. If one has no worries, watching that film will make a difference!

It snowed during the night. I took some pictures today. It really is beautiful. Then a thought occurred to me: Today I just want to live, no matter what happens. Then another thought came: Two months or so from now, I will look back and say to myself: “See? It all worked out! There was no need to worry.”

So today I won’t worry. I will take it as it comes. Just as I wrote that, a few rays of sun peeked through the clouds and found their way into my living room. Perfect! It’s as if they wanted to underline that thought and say: “Even if there’s a lot going on at the moment, be calm. Take it easy.”

This afternoon I’ll take a walk in the woods. That has become a habit, and it does me good. The fresh air, exercise, and the quiet are at the same time enervating and soothing. My head gets clear and I can better focus on the present moment. (And I can concentrate better when I read in the evening!)

The way it looks, this year’s motto is: “Take care of whatever is possible. The rest will fall into place with time.” So, no more worries about tomorrow. It will come either way. When I focus on the big picture, rather than let myself be irritated by the little things, I trust that I can handle everything well.

January 17, 2010 at 12:08 pm Leave a comment

Wanting to be seen

Who doesn’t want to be seen and loved for what they are? I do! Yet for a long time I was afraid. Instead, I tried to adjust and “make” myself loveable — however I thought that was. I tended to adapt to the situation and people, thus remaining closed and inaccessible.

This past weekend, I had a wonderful experience. During the week I had a lousy flu, and wasn’t sure if I would be able to attend the weekend seminar. (It was one unit of the three-year course I am attending.) I stayed home Friday, but Saturday morning decided to give it a whirl. I took my guitar with me, just in case.

During the day I was still under the weather. After dinner, we all sat together and talked. It is a special group of some 20 people. We have just finished our first year together, so we have grown rather close. A few asked me if I would sing, as they’d seen my guitar when I checked in that morning.

I went and got it, and decided to simply have fun. Since my voice was not quite up to par, my expectations were not so high. Instead, I concentrated on enjoying myself, and on feeling what the songs were about and transmitting that feeling. It was a risk.

Afterwards one woman told me she’d enjoyed it much more than my concert last spring. She said: “So much feeling came across!” Another colleague was also full of praise. That felt so good! One after the other they thanked me for singing.

For months now I have struggled with the task of putting feeling into my voice. The lyrics are written with strong feelings, but I tended to distance myself when I sang, focussing instead on singing “nicely” — whatever that is.

Shortly before midnight, I was among the last to go to bed. With amazement I realized that I felt absolutely fantastic and had no more runny nose! I doubt it was the wine or cigarettes. 😉 The good, supportive company and positive feedback after allowing myself to be seen had a strong healing effect.

It was a rewarding experience. I realize that I can only be seen if I show myself. If I hide, or adapt myself to what I believe is expected of me, I don’t give others a chance. This weekend showed me clearly how worthwhile it is to take the risk.

Of course, not everyone will respond positively. But I have some say in the matter. I can nurture and protect myself, and be aware of my surroundings. I can choose the people with whom I spend time. In situations where I have less choice (work, school, extended relatives…), it is my decision as to how much I want to reveal.

The way I see it, I have to take the risk of not knowing how people will respond. But when I show myself, when I am authentic, then I feel good. And lately I am drifting towards people who are responsive and appreciative. I can choose consciously, but subconsciously seem to attract — and find — more and more people on my wavelength. It is truly incredible! It is worth the risk! Why not give it a try?

January 11, 2010 at 9:44 am Leave a comment

A girl with a one-track mind

Disordered eaters know I’m talking about food here, not sex! Today I got an e-mail from a young woman who wanted to know if I can eat normally. She can’t go into the kitchen without thinking about food and her next binge. In her head, everything revolves around food. At the same time, she believes she is fat.

My answer: Yes, I can eat normally. And I don’t think about food all the time. But I had similar experiences. I used to think about food all day: “When can I eat again? What can I eat? Where can I puke?” Awful! But I don’t have to tell you that.

At some point, I decided: My figure is okay. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to be perfect. I am how I am. All of a sudden, it was more about the fact that I wanted to LIVE! In fact, at the beginning I was even willing to gain weight if necessary. I considered it a transition — and I needed to give my body time to adjust to regular meals. I was certain that if I gained any extra weight, I would lose it again once things normalized. And that’s exactly what happened. There was enough input and my body and weight settled at a comfortable point for all of us. And I’m still slim. I used to think that anybody who ate “normally” would have to be fat. That’s not true.

It helped me to view food as fuel. Without fuel, no engine can run. Food is something I need every day, thus I did not diet. That’s how I recovered. I made a new start. I learned to eat — regularly. On a daily basis. I accepted the fact that to live I need to eat — day in and day out. No kidding around!

As I’ve said before, there were no forbidden foods. On the contrary. I thought to myself: “Anything and everything is allowed! I can eat what I want. I can be satisfied!” Bulimarexia has something to do with not believing that I deserve things. I thought I had to make do with less, didn’t deserve to be satisfied — whether it was food, love, happiness, life. It didn’t matter what. I just didn’t deserve it. That turned around. I do indeed deserve it! It’s my birthright!

It’s not so easy to stop the obsessive thoughts circling around food. You can try to give them less space by doing nice things for yourself — listening to music, going for a walk, going to the movies, talking with a friend. Then it simply has less space. If you keep thinking that you don’t want to think about it… that doesn’t work.

Part of the obsessive thinking is due to the fact that your body is starving. It is sending signals: “Eat something! I’m starving!” When you are satiated, the signals will cease to be so frequent. Of course, habit plays a part. It took a while before thoughts about things other than food had enough space. But it did happen. It is possible.

In the beginning, I concentrated on when I’d had enough. I ate extremely slowly, and stopped as soon as I had the slightest hint of being full. The feeling of being “too full” was unbearable. I don’t like it now either. That’s why I always eat enough, but never too much. I want to feel good.

Try to enjoy it! Think about it: What is a normal breakfast, lunch and supper? Eat that — no more and no less. (At the moment, your perception of hunger and satiation is probably off-balance, so you may need to focus on an objectively normal amount.) Allow yourself to enjoy it. It tastes good! Eat slowly and think: “I’m doing something good for myself, and I need this.” Since I was concerned about not getting uncomfortably full, but admitted that I love food, I did my best to fully experience the food — to smell it, taste it, let it melt on my tongue. It was (is) a positive experience. That’s when I learned: It has nothing to do with the amount. Even when I eat something I LOVE, one serving is enough.

As mentioned elsewhere, as a teenager, I counted calories. During the time of recovery, I turned it around. I found out roughly how many calories I need to survive and used that as a daily goal that needed to be reached. I don’t know how many it is, as that was a long time ago, but it was at least something to work with. It calmed me to know that even while sleeping I was burning up calories! Since I didn’t yet have a feeling or sense of what I needed, that objective number helped: “I need so much energy every day. My body needs it.”

Something else just occurred to me: My immediate environment was not in a conspiracy against me to make me fat. Those people who were concerned and wanted me to eat, were not bent on getting me fat. No. They “only” wanted me to stay alive. That’s a big difference. But way back then I used to think: “They’re jealous. They want to be skinnier than me. They want me to be fat.” What a load of garbage! But that’s how and what I thought.

There was a time when I ate normally. I jumped around, played, had fun, and came in for lunch and supper when my mother called. It was much less complicated then. The next time around, it needed to be learned. But it was possible! It is possible! You can do it!

January 8, 2010 at 9:11 am Leave a comment

But something good did come of it!

There was one very good thing about the previously described interaction. (See “How could I?!” below.)(No, I haven’t heard from him since. Just a text message along the lines of: “It has nothing to do with you, I’m just very busy right now…”) The good thing was: I lied. We were talking about sports and outdoors and I said I don’t like to hike. I much prefer sitting out on a terrace with a cup of coffee, looking up at the mountains. I thought I was telling the truth.

Well, the funny thing was, the next day, I got to thinking about that and realized: I used to really like to hike. I used to really like to do a lot of things. But over the years, for whatever reason, I stopped liking to do a lot of things. The joy was gone. I didn’t care anymore.

Thus I decided to buy a pair of hiking boots during the end-of-winter sales and see what happened. Well, since I had to work New Year’s Day, I spent a quiet New Year’s Eve at home with the cats. It wasn’t exactly exciting, but it was nice. And when I stood out on the balcony at midnight watching the fireworks, I nearly burst with joy. “I did it! I’m standing here on the balcony of my own apartment. Wow!”

Like I said, I worked the next day. The day after that, I went out dancing with a couple of girlfriends. We had a great time. Since we took the train there, we were all able to have a few glasses of wine or beer and dance away. In fact, we had so much fun that we missed the last train home by a whole minute! Luckily we were able to crash at the apartment of my friend’s grown-up son.

I got home around noon, and it had been the third night in a row of very little sleep, so I was tempted to take a nap. Still I followed my intuition and decided: It’s now or never. Try out the new hiking shoes. It was a beautiful winter’s day: cold, crisp, clear, cloudless sky, sunny. I went out.

After a brisk 45 minutes, I saw a familiar face approaching me: my yoga teacher! We stopped and exchanged greetings. Then I asked if she was up to company or would rather walk alone. She accepted my offer and I turned around and walked back with her. We had a nice conversation — with a good measure of depth and lightness. It was the first time we spoke at length, although I’ve been going to her classes for a few years now.

As it came time to part, she invited me over for a cup of coffee. I happily accepted. It was a wonderful afternoon. And I take it as a sign: The first time I went out hiking with the new shoes, I had such a nice experience. The message: “Walk in the woods! Hike on the trails! It will do you good!”

There are several trails almost outside my door. Like a little kid, I am excited and look forward to exploring them all — one by one. The lack of sleep and coldness caught up with me, and I spent the past two days in bed. I felt absolutely ghastly! The worst part was, I couldn’t go for a walk! Imagine that! After only one walk, I am hooked!

This afternoon I had to go to the drug store, so I put on my hiking shoes — just in case. Perhaps I would have the energy for a walk. Sure enough, on the way home I headed uphill and took a slightly different path than the last time. I didn’t meet anyone, but thoroughly enjoyed it. It snowed last night, so I had the sound of snow crunching under my boots while I walked through the quiet forest. Incredible! And I eyed the paths I’d like to explore next time — when I have a bit more energy. Maybe tomorrow?

So, there are two messages. One is: Fresh air and exercise do me good. The other is: Even screwed-up encounters are good for something.

Oh, as a little aside. You know how they say we tend to be irritated by people who remind us of ourselves? Or who have something we don’t? Well, I used to make fun of those silly people who always say: “Isn’t it beautiful today? Perfect weather for a hike!” 😉

January 7, 2010 at 8:33 pm Leave a comment

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