The Truth, the Whole Truth…

“Saying my problems out loud is the main way I am ever able to let go.” Anne Lamott

I’m afraid to write this. I’m afraid to post this. Because I’m supposed to be better. I’m supposed to be all the way better. That means no blips, no anxiety, no anxious and obsessive thoughts.

Yesterday evening I told my husband that I’d had a hard few days. I said I felt like a fake, that I started this blog to show the world how recovered I was and that I was letting everyone down.

He told me I should blog about it, that that’s the reason I started this blog, to be honest and open and vulnerable. Not to show everyone that I’m perfect, but to show the world the complete opposite.

Even if it makes me feel like I’m teetering at the edge of a cliff without a net to catch me.

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Even if it makes me feel weak.

Even if my friends and family read this blog.

Even if.

And damn it, he was right.

My entire being is railing against putting this out there. Even after all the support I’ve gotten on my other blog posts. Even after the confessions I’ve made and the way I’ve opened myself up and out.

Because my other blog posts talked about how I struggled for years and am mostly better now. Mostly to all the way better now. Just about completely better now.

And having a bunch of unwelcome thoughts pop into my head over the Christmas holidays made me realize that maybe I’m not “just about completely better” now.

It also makes me really sick of trying to define what “better” means, of having to present myself a certain way so my family won’t worry. Of having to beam out an image to the world because I have this “beacon of hope” blog.

Because I can be a beacon of hope in another way. I can be a beacon of real. A beacon of truth.

The truth is, I restricted on Christmas. Not in the “starving myself” way that I did when I was sick. To be honest, I probably ate the way a lot of people would have on holidays. I ate the things I wanted, but dished out reasonable portion sizes. I only had a few desserts. I didn’t overindulge.

I did exactly what all those magazine articles and Today Show segments tell you to do:

Put things on your plate that you don’t have all the time!

Don’t have seconds!

Eat, but still feel satisfied!

That’s thing–I did eat. But I was also thinking. And measuring. And that meant that I wasn’t satisfied.

I didn’t let myself go. (Cue up the Frozen soundtrack. True fact: that song applies to eating disorders like you wouldn’t believe.)

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I didn’t let myself have more when I wanted to.

I was still hungry when I went to bed on Christmas Eve.

I was nervous about two big food-based events in two days.

I felt big.

I felt guilty that I didn’t exercise on Christmas.

I worried about all the changes to my “routine.”

None of these were major. I didn’t let it affect my day or my mood. I didn’t freak out or starve or panic. I didn’t “repent” the next day. I don’t think anyone even noticed anything was going on.

But the noise was there in the background, in my head. It changed my behavior the littlest bit. It took some of the joy out of Christmas. I hate that.

That’s why I didn’t want to share any of this–because I feel guilty about what happened. I feel mad about what happened. I’m supposed to be beyond this. I’m supposed to be normal.

But what if there is no normal and abnormal? What if there’s just a progression? What if I’m not a failure because I had a few hard days? What if having hard days actually does make me normal?

Abnormal

When I was sick, I always felt like my friends were looking down on me, feeling sorry for me. While they were off living their lives, going to college, and going out on dates, I was in a treatment center. I was “poor Jen,” who was weak enough to get sick and miss out on life. I was like one of those celebrities on tabloid covers, the ones who go to rehab and people laugh about how messed up they are.

She was me. I was her.

Part of me never lost the belief that I’m still like that, that even with a husband and a family and a career and goals, I’m still that poor little sick girl who wasn’t strong enough to fight back.

I did fight, though. I fought hard. Maybe not all the time, and maybe I didn’t succeed in the time period that people expected me to, but I did fight.

Most of the time, I know that I’ve won.

Except for on the bad days.

But doesn’t everyone have bad days? Even those so-called “normal” people?

That’s the funny thing. I seem to think that 99% of the population is composed of “normal people,” that me and a few outliers are the lone crazies. But then I post something like this and realize that everyone is crazy. That crazy is normal.

I still feel like a failure, though. I still feel like I’m not supposed to struggle anymore. That I should be far beyond that.

That’s why I have to write this, though. To transform my failure into a success. To be the change I keep saying I want to be.

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That’s why I created this blog. Not to show the world more of my fake perfection. Not to show anyone anything.

I created this blog to be. Not to be perfect. Not to be normal. Just to be, whatever that is on any given day. To share what’s happening, no matter what label or category it does or doesn’t fall under.

Here’s the category those few days fell under: life. The holiday season, when lots of people get stressed. The aftermath of my two-year-old’s four-day-long fever. Family and smooshy-close togetherness.

So my mind got stressed. So my mind thought about stuff. So I maybe didn’t eat that extra cookie I wanted.

That doesn’t mean I’m sick again. It’s just what happened on a certain day.

I still feel guilty about it, though. I still want to work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

But I’m going to share it anyway. I’m not going to keep it inside. Because that’s when things fester and mutate and grow, when feeling big and not having an extra cookie can become something else altogether. Something scary and monstrous.

The-Incredible-Hulk-TV-Show-Writer

So here it is. The truth. The whole, not perfect, crazy-normal truth.

I’m writing this post.

I’m pressing “publish.”

 

 

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9 Responses to The Truth, the Whole Truth…

  1. Joan says:

    I don’t have an eating disorder. I have some disordered thoughts around food – enough to make me feel guilty about eating, about indulging, about having dessert or a couple beers on a day I don’t run. I eat those cookies, but I feel immense guilt over it. I actually hid my scale because I was teetering on obsessing. I’ve been struggling, as I knew I would, this holiday.
    Know you are not alone. Lean on those you can lean on and give yourself credit for the progress you have made. Do not dwell on the steps you still have to make – they will come but you are still good and strong in this moment, right here, because of the steps you have made thus far.

    Like

  2. Jenna says:

    I’m ten years out from my eating disorder and I still have days like that every now and then. Thank you for being so honest and helping me realize I’m not alone in my feelings.

    Like

  3. Sarah says:

    I have never seen this blog as you claiming to be close to all the way better, even if you did in your head. I have always seen it as you being honest about how it is something that keeps popping up and how you cope with that. That you want to make the “normal choices” but it’s hard and you have both good and bad days. (Think about the stomach post.) I’m sorry you felt so guilty about your thoughts over Christmas, that it put any kind of damper on the holiday, but I’m glad you posted it because it is real and part of your journey. That’s how people can connect with you – especially those suffering with eating disorders. I am willing to bet that 90% of people without disorders, with all different body sizes and levels of activity, have guilt and disordered thoughts around food and weight at times. I do. I feel uncomfortable with my body and extra weight/flab after baby number 2, however, it doesn’t stop me from eating Christmas cookies ALL DAY LONG. I just feel bad about it at times and what I look like. (These are my “normal person”thoughts) Society and media are constantly bombarding us with messages about what we are supposed to look like and how we are supposed to eat and act so those thoughts always pop around in our heads. By the way, that same Today Show you referenced is also filled with segments about cooking delicious, not healthy, foods and as the anchors taste them, they always make little guilty remarks. Keep working on and taking care of yourself and keep being honest on your blog for yourself and others!

    Like

  4. Tricia says:

    As someone who is mostly comfortable with their body, the holidays are still full of triggers–that blouse I pull out of the closet for holidays that I realize will never fit again, the fact that I ate cookies for 2 meals a day for a week or more, not fitting in exercise. The holidays, while hopefully happy family-centered occasions are also really stressful and HARD. You are doing great. And thank you for writing this and sharing all of you.

    Like

  5. Ali says:

    The old phrase “you can’t be perfect in your recovery” is annoying, but true…and recovery evolves over time, it’s never static. Sometimes it takes up 90% of life, sometimes it takes 2%. There’s no real benefit to saying, “I’m recovered” just to say it. Personally I don’t think recovery is ever done…it’s something you integrate into your life. My main, persistent struggle is that what I see in the mirror can vary from day to day. Like, bordering on Alice in Wonderland kind of variance. It’s frustrating, especially since I want to believe what I’m seeing in the mirror, being the rational being that I am. But it is what it is. Some days I react to it and agonize, other days I don’t. Most days I don’t and that’s the key. You’re doing amazing, and you’re seeing the forest through the trees…

    Like

  6. Michelle says:

    Know this – there is no normal. There are so many invisible ‘ailments’, whether minor or severe, and we all have them. Some people just choose to share their struggles more widely than others.. As you have found, keeping it inside is the best way to make it worse. Letting others know of your insecurities feels exposing and relieving at the same time. That’s why I love your posts. They inspire me to do the same.
    I am trying in my own way to achieve this balance of recovery and progression. Do I admit I can’t feel OK being a Mom without anxiety? Postpartum mood disorders wreak havoc on the memories of my children as infants. I’m coming around but its hard. I know your struggle is different than mine but take this as my own little way of saying, “I hear you.”

    Like

  7. gae polisner says:

    Sharing the blog link with a friend whose daughter suffers… seems like a wonderful resource. thank you for being real and honest about it all. ❤

    Like

  8. Nancy Weber says:

    Jen, I truly admire your bravery in writing this blog. I don’t think I would be able to do it. While we all have our own issues to deal with, by sharing yours please know that you have helped others deal with theirs. One day at a time…by not moving forward every day, it does not mean you are moving backwards…it just means you are holding your own for the present time. Hang in there…

    Like

  9. @txmere says:

    Not long after I left the treatment center, the local paper wanted to do a story about eating disorders and my therapist and one of my professors referred me to this journalist. Something a close friend said shortly after it was published that REALLY pissed me off was, “It’s as if you’re trying to paint a picture of perfect recovery.”

    But I appreciate it in hindsight because that was a legitimate concern and, more importantly, I think most people (not just eating-disordered people) do this. It’s one of the reasons I quit Facebook 5 years ago–what people post isn’t reality… it’s their airbrushed version of reality, carefully edited and curated for public consumption.

    Everyone has good days and bad days. Everyone wants to be viewed as normal and competent. Everyone is also crazy on some level. (Some just do a better job of disguising it than others.) (My PPD rant is another thing for another day but we as a society need to do a lot better at normalizing that.)

    Be kind to yourself. No one is perfect and no recovery is either. It’s a journey, not a destination.

    Like

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