The Numbers Game

I stepped on the scales this morning with much trepidation, knowing I had gained weight over the three months of ups and downs I’ve had since the start of October. However, I still didn’t expect the results I saw. I’m twenty pounds up since October. Twenty. Pounds. Up. I had no idea things had got that far out of control. 

Now comes the time of working to get healthier, just like half the rest of the world. We cling to health and weight loss as new year’s resolutions, but I feel this is a fight for my life of sorts. I feel the effects of the weight, both mentally and physically. 

As an always recovering bulimic, the desire to lose weight is particularly precarious. And this is where the numbers game comes in to play. I needed to know my weight in order to have a starting point. I don’t, however, need to start calculating every calorie in terms of how it will affect my weight loss rate. I don’t need to push it to get to a tiny shape as soon as possible; I don’t even need to make being skinny a goal. Healthy should be the goal, whatever that looks like for me. 

So here’s to health. And weight loss. And training the mind and body to make healthy choices. This is my resolution, regardless of how silly and cliched that might be, and I hope to achieve it through slow but steady progress toward my goal. 

Why Vegan?

This post, by its very nature, will probably be more controversial than my trauma posts.  People seem to have more trouble hearing about veganism than trauma sometimes.  So, to start– I am not judging vegetarians or even omnivores.  I’m simply writing about my experience in case it helps others along the way.

I went vegetarian all the way back in 2009.  A friend of mine worked in what’s referred to around here as a chicken barn.  It’s actually a large, windowless metal building where chickens and chicks are caught, debeaked, often have their wings broken, and killed sometimes in gruesome ways.  My friend laughingly told me stories about how some of the chickens died.  I was horrified, and no piece of chicken has ever touched my mouth since.

That experience got me thinking about other animals who are used for food.  What made them less than a chicken?  Why was I okay to eat those but disgusted by chicken?  I didn’t look up anything about the animal food industry, but I did decide to stop eating animals one by one.  First went other poultry, then fish, then finally beef (I didn’t eat pork anyway).  By the end of that year, I decided to try one more cheeseburger just to make sure.  Literally could not keep one bite down.  It felt disgusting on my tongue and had no taste at all.  So that was vegetarianism.  All from the story of chickens in a barn.

Veganism was harder for me.  I went on and off of it many times.  Learning about the dairy industry was enough to make me detest dairy, but I still slipped up.  When I feel tempted now– and I still do sometimes– I just remind myself that that calf’s life is more important than my desire for cheese.

I am vegan because I believe it is the only way to truly respect all life.  I believe it is the most kind way of living and that it leaves a lighter carbon footprint.  It’s best for the animals, best for the planet, and best for my mind and soul.  From one tiny little chicken in a barn came a whole new lifestyle.

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I highly recommend Alicia Silverstone’s ‘The Kind Life’ to anyone interested in vegetarianism and veganism.  Interesting facts and some tasty recipes, too!

Control

Things are out of sorts for me, and, for some lovely reason, lacking a sense of control = self-destructive behaviour for me.  This time, it has equalled the return of my disordered eating.  I’ve eaten two small bowls of spaghetti over the past two days, and I’m still obsessed with the thought that pasta is a carb-heavy food.  I know, in logical terms, that I’m not eating enough.  I just feel so overwhelmed and guilty for eating at all.

That said, I do need to lose a fair bit of weight.  I just can’t seem to do it in a healthy pattern.  I’ll go on these near-starvation diets and lose 60 pounds in a matter of two months.  Then, I’ll start eating again but start purging the minute my weight starts going back up.  Then, the weight will go up to the unhealthy *heavy* size, all in a matter of months.

So what’s the driving factor?  First, control.  I feel like my entire life is out of control at this point.  Restricting calories and obsessing over food makes me feel more in control.  Second, an offhand comment.  Someone recently mentioned something about my weight that has made me feel disgusting inside and out.  I feel bound to prove to this person that I can, in fact, limit myself and lose weight.  I guess that goes back to control, too.  Never really thought of it like that until I started writing here.  Hunger becomes a sign that I’ve succeeded that day.  Sore muscles become a sign that I’m disciplining my body properly.

I’m scared, frustrated, and so tired of not being able to handle food in a healthier way.  I have no idea how to get out of this food shame cycle, and it’s very hard to fight my mind on this subject, anyway.  *sigh*  Here we go again, I guess.

THAT Exam

My doctor has suggested it.  My therapist has suggested it.  My psychiatrist– if he were so inclined– would probably suggest it, too.  When she was just a bit older than me, my mother went in for a routine pap test and found that pre-cancerous cells were forming in her uterine lining.  Now, I need to get a bloody pap test, and I cannot seem to even schedule the appointment.

For those of you who don’t know, pap tests involve using a speculum to expand the vaginal opening so that the doctor can see the lining of the cervix.  Then, cells are brushed off into a specimen jar.  To end the exam, the doctor inserts two fingers in the vagina and presses on the lower pelvic area to feel for the size, shape, and location of reproductive organs.  ‘Written out’ it seems fairly innocuous.  Why, then, have I had to pause this post to go and be sick?

For me, the panic starts when I have to lay my head back.  At that point, I can’t *see* the person touching me.  As I was often tied up and blind-folded during sexual trauma, this is terrifying for me.  I don’t want to lie there with my head back unable to see this person who, at that point, will feel all-powerful to me.  That utter lack of control makes me physically ill.  I don’t want anyone even thinking about that area of my body, much less concentrating on it and even touching it.

Logically, I know this is a very simple medical procedure that will be performed by a female physician who has probably done thousands of these.  I know it only takes a few minutes and isn’t likely to cause me a great deal of pain.  Yet I cannot bring myself to even set the appointment.

Any strategies, dear readers?  I know this is incredibly common amongst women with sexual trauma histories.  What has helped you through?  Thanks in advance.

A Different Sort of Addiction

**TRIGGER WARNING FOR SELF INJURY**

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My arms are becoming road maps again.  Little red lines that decorate the tops and my right forearm.  The scars aren’t enough in number these days.  For the first time in my 17 years of dealing with SI, I’ve found myself in the category of wanting the outside to match the inside.  For the first time, the scars are visible unless I wear long sleeves.

In my defence, the latest cut was a direct response to a threat of violence.  I attempted to wound myself to keep someone else from wounding me.  It worked only momentarily, and, in the end, has led to more harm that I probably would have initially received.  In that moment, I was terrified and desperate to save myself from a difficult situation.  The stress was so high, and the emotions were so extreme.  Later, I realised that cutting had numbed it all.

This year has been a struggle in terms of cutting.  It hasn’t been this bad in a while.  Now, though, it’s like the addiction is back.  Mine started when I tried to cover a scar that was put on me through cult activities.  It was a means of control.  If they were going to scar my body, I was going to do it worse.  Logical, right?  Now, I’m feeling that same sense of control again.  Like cutting is the only thing I *can* control, and like it proves to everyone that my body is truly mine.

Yesterday, I almost had a panic attack when I realised the box of plasters was empty.  No plasters means nothing to cover the blood, which means not being able to cut.  The panic only subsided when I found the box I keep for ’emergencies.’  Like the sewing needle I keep in my purse, supplies are hidden everywhere.  Now, I’m back to wearing sleeves that hide my arms, flinching when people touch me, and praying no one will feel cuts or bandages under my shirt.  I’m back to feeling exhilarated,ashamed, in control, and completely helpless over the same action. Cutting is a regular part of my life again, and I need to decide to let that go.  I’m horrified at the activity and terrified at the thought of losing it as my only means of coping and control.

Eureka

This morning, I had a negative eureka moment.  You know, those times when your behaviour sneaks up to show you the negative side effects.  I was confused about side effects of bulimia and got some great information by way of comments on this post.  Today, my body is reminding me that it does, afterall, have a problem with the disorder.  I truly did not recognise the side effects until this morning.

The daily spells of vertigo got me started thinking on this issue.  That brought up the extreme aches and general fogginess I’ve experienced over the past few days, as well.  I placed it all on another health concern I deal with, not thinking for a tick that bulimia could be to blame.  There’s been no binging or purging for quite some time now, but the pattern of restricting never stopped.  It got better, but it did not stop.

I’ll use this week as an example.  It’s Friday, and, based on the freakishly meticulous notes I take on what I eat, I’ve consumed 1885 calories.  I remember having a sensation of hunger once in the entire week, so the obvious symptom isn’t there.  I think that’s one of the dangers of eating disorders, as well as my reason for writing this post.  If you have an eating disorder, don’t assume you’re fine just because you feel no overt symptoms.  This is something I’ve only just learnt.  It might sound quite hypocritical for me to point that out, but I fully recognise the issue I’m dealing with right now.  Knowing the problem and working to correct it are two very different things, though.

Raw

That’s exactly what this post is going to be.  Please take care if you’re not up for a graphic discussion of bulimia.  This is going to be one.

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Last night, I made plans.  I knew I’d have the house alone all day and spent a great deal of time planning what foods to take in based on how easy they would be to bring back up.  This morning, as I sat in my typical spot in the bathroom, a thought occurred to me: I don’t want to do this anymore.  Physically, the problems were evident.  There was blood in the toilet from irritation of my throat.  My stomach felt like someone had set fire to it on the inside.  My heart was beating so hard that you could literally see the pulse of  it through my shirt.  I was freezing and confused as the room dimmed and my consciousness slipped.  When I awoke, I was still in that bathroom and happy I wasn’t covered in my own bodily fluids.  My first thought?  Guilt that I’d got the last of the food I’d eaten out of my body but had been unable to get out the cup of cereal I had for breakfast.  Guilt that there was still food in my stomach no matter how hard I’d tried to get it up.  This wasn’t after a binge– I’d had roughly 200 calories.  Just the thought of *any* food in my stomach made me feel guilty, though.

I found out recently that some people aspire to have eating disorders.  They see it as a quick fix for weight loss.  What they don’t see or don’t think of, at least, is this side of it.  The vomit in the hair, blood in the toilet, stomach acid eating your insides part of it.  These girls (and some guys) look at the societal concept of ‘glamour’ and ‘beauty,’ and they are willing to do anything they have to do to get that body.  I hope, if nothing else, that my posts will help people see the dark reality of bulimia.  Nothing is worth this.

I hope, as well, that people can consider alternative causes.  I don’t want to look like a glamour girl or be twiggy thin.  I just want my outside to mask any sense of chaos on the inside.  My past brings with it loads of reasons to feel disgusting, and, in an ironic way, bulimia is my attempt to purge out the disgustingness.  It’s my attempt to make my outside body look ‘normal’ so people don’t question the state of the inside.

It’s a way to purge memories, as well.  Whilst we were still underground, I never knew when or if food would come.  When I was fed, sometimes it felt like a binge.  I was told I looked like a pig and shown other kids who were not getting fed because I *was* being fed that day.  Those children had to watch my group eat, and I knew the kind of hunger they were feeling.  What I didn’t realise is that our roles reversed; sometimes those children were fed when I was starved.  The fact is, neither group of children could hurt or help the other group.  The lasting impression is a feeling that I don’t deserve to eat, which leads to the restricting, which leads to ravenous hunger, which leads to the binge, guilt for eating so much, and purge as reparation.  Eating disorders are not always about looking beautiful.

I’m still not sure what the next step will be from here or whether I’ll be able to keep things under control.  The psychiatrist is quite right in pointing out the high rate of recidivism among bulimics.  For now, though, I at least have the *desire* to stop, and that is overriding (somewhat) the fear of gaining weight.  I’ll take all of this to my therapist next week and see where we go from here.

Well That Didn’t Last

Effing psychiatrist.  Mental healthcare workers in general really need to mind their words.  Now that’s said, I’ll move on to the actual explanation.

At my last therapy appointment, we discussed a conversation the therapist had in length with the psychiatrist.  The therapist misunderstood something I said, which led the doctor to suggest that I was either under-reporting caloric intake or purging more than I admitted.  To me, that sounded like an accusation.  I will *not* report anything to the therapist or the doctor that is inaccurate.  I won’t waste their time or mine for that.  I told the therapist that there was ONE DAY when I only ate 300 calories.  She told the doctor I was doing that every day, and he told her I’d be dead.  Really, doctor?  Are you sure about that?  *sarcasm*  She said the explanations he was giving her about electrolytes and various blood levels made sense.  Really? Shocking, no?  *more sarcasm*  This is beginning to sound like children at play.

Unfortunately, it also feels like a challenge.  It feels like they’re telling me to be a better bulimic.  I know with absolute certainty that that is not the message they were sending.  The completely-illogical-reason-I-am-already-effed-up part of my mind says otherwise, though.  I was already struggling to counteract those thoughts.  Now they seem to have reinforcement from the very people who were helping me.

I told the therapist in no uncertain terms that the conversation irked me.  She said it was more a problem on her behalf– that she didn’t know what she was supposed to keep up with, so she couldn’t answer the doctor’s questions about my cycle of eating.  So here I sit, 99 calories taken in over the past twelve hours or so, trying to convince myself that this should not bring me back to the abyss I was crawling out of and failing miserably in that regard.

Yup– effed up.

Monsters Under the Bed

Last night was an exercise in psychosis.  I have a recurring hallucination– a man in a long khaki coat stands in the corner and demands my blood.  He tells me there are dead people under my bed who, at his command, will rise up and drag me under with them.  When this is happening, it is so very real to me.  I’ve sliced up my arms and gathered blood on the knife to bring to him.  I’ve rubbed the blood on my pillows, walls, blankets, et c all to appease him.  Once I’ve offered my blood, he disappears.  The fear does not.

The hallucination was a bit different last night.  The man wasn’t there, but I was keenly aware of the dead people under my bed.  For the first time, two of them came out from under the bed to find me.  One literally flew at me and grabbed me round the neck.  I felt the pressure as he tried to strangle me, and I quite literally choked.  Once I got free of him, another body slid up from under the bed.  It slithered over the side of the mattress and covered me.  I felt the weight on my chest, the chill of the dead hand, and the inability to move even slightly.  I tried reminding myself that this wasn’t real, but, in the moment, it *is* real to me.  As real as the laptop on which I’m typing this post.  Fortunately, I have a very understanding neighbour who doesn’t mind when I arrive in the middle of the night to escape hallucinations.  Safe and warm in her house, I finally fell asleep for an hour or so.

Hopefully, this will stop once the risperidone gets evened out in my body.  The food issues have been disturbing my metabolism, I know.  The psychiatrist tells me he thinks the meds will stop any psychosis.  He says the hallucinations and delusions might well be tied to complex PTSD, rather than to bipolar disorder.  If that’s the case, the antipsychotic combined with the mood stabiliser should provide the proper amount of sedation to calm my anxiety and clear my thought processes.  Mental illness can be a difficult battle sometimes, but the only choice is to do the best you can to move forward.  Here’s hoping this treatment plan actually works for me.

Behind the Scenes

I’ve been working at gathering resources on suicide/suicide awareness.  Only one person responded to share a story, and she has graciously given permission to publish a link to her dissertation on this subject.  Be on the lookout for that.

In the meantime, I’m rechecking and designing some of the database, as well as some of my own stuff.  Just wanted to put up a quick post for those of you who are waiting for this section of the blog to be developed.  You’re not forgotten, and neither is the project!