To figure out my ‘self’

Addictions are, in most cases, ways to dodge life. Coping mechanisms to avoid facing the truth, to avoid feeling difficult feelings, experiencing hurt and sorrow, making choices, etc. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that our addictions can make us forget who we really are. Or were. Or wanted to become.

I know that, when I embarked on the road of recovery, I found myself completely clueless of who I had become and who I once was. Was there a me left or was it just my addiction? Who was I without my addiction? Who was Sooz? What was her core? Her values? What was she good at, what did she like, what didn’t she like? What were her goals, motivations, plans? I was completely lost for any of those answers.

So I made lists. Religiously. About anything and everything really, but also about ‘me’. And I made others’ do the same. My mom, my best friends. I asked them, too, to make lists or ABC’s of things that reminded them of me. Just so I could get a grip again on who I was, who I was to others, who I was to me and to figure out who I wanted to become. You can’t make choices if you don’t have a clue of the direction you want to go. In order to recover and ‘find myself again’, I had to understand where it was that I was heading. To lead the life of the woman who I wanted to become, I needed to understand who she was.

In learning to find, accept and eventually love myself, I needed an understanding of what that ‘self’ was.

green green grass

If you struggle with the same thing, find that you  are lost in who you are and who you want to be in the future, maybe doing something similar could help. Like making lists or collages or mood boards or ABC’s etc of things that you like or love. Things that suit you, that make you happy, that mean something to you. You could ask others to do the same thing as well. What things spur to mind when they think of you? What do they appreciate about you? My collages had quotes, colours, fabrics, words, photo’s. My ABC’s (my own and others’) were not focussed on physical references (“tall”? I knew that!), but words like “truth”, “mom”, or, “bare feet in cooling grass”. Things that feel close to your heart, or that once did and with which you would like to reconnect. Memories, plans and things to figure out. It doesn’t have to be clear, or even ‘graspable’, as long as they mean something to you.

What makes you your unique and beautiful and amazing (and maybe sometimes annoying) you? What are some words that spring to mind when you think of ‘your self’?

PS: I am linking this post to the gorgeous Anne-Sophie, who is hosting a ‘self-love blogging carnival’ this week. Do check it out!
 

Stop waisting time!!

Yes, you read that correctly.
Yes, I wrote that correctly.
I am going to STOP WAISTING MY TIME.

Even though it’s been incredibly low on comments here lately, I just need to write it down. So, here I go.

chartgo
Number = year, S = summer, W = winter. That means this is a 5-year overview. Before = a stable BMI18, I Always hovered around the same weight as a teenage girl. I had lost a miiinor bit early ’08 due to exam year, stress and too much partying. The post 13-S? Ha……… Let’s talk about that for a moment.

I have no idea what my weight is right now, so the BMI20 is my guesstimation. It might be 21 to be honest. I don’t know, and I don’t care. Plus, does it matter whether it’s a 20 or a 21? Both are healthy, and both are a lot more than I have ever been. It’s also both double of what I once was. Yeah. I halved myself, and then doubled myself. Both weight as well as BMI wise.

I haven’t been on a scale since………… I wouldn’t know! Honest to Lord, I can’t remember the last time I actually weighed myself. I have never owned a scale in my life, but when I moved back in with my parents (Autumn ’10, now you can guess why that was judging by the graph above), I had access to a scale again. Thats when I managed to get hit my most ultimate low (winter 2010). Yeah, me and scales aren’t buddies.

When I went to the ER that cold January morning, I wasn’t even weighed. My father was furious, but hey, it’s not like they needed a scale to see that the girl standing there wasn’t exactly a healthy weight. Nothing much you can do to hide the fact your half your healthy weight. When I enrolled into the local eating disorder facility, I was supposed to be weighed every time. They didn’t always do so, because sometimes I wouldn’t let them (I felt so humiliated, being ordered to take off my clothes and step on a scale in a cold, dusty bathroom with a double lock on the door in their facility), much to the dismay of my father again, but alas.

Weight became something to be obsessively focussed about, and this didn’t start being a thing until I decided I had to gain it. Weight, ironically, was never an issue until the moment I had to get it back on. At the clinic, they taught me to set myself goals. All these goals, however, were weight-related. I got myself a present (ridiculously expensive perfume) when I hit a certain mark. That mark was what I thought would be my ‘perfect weight’. Never mind that it was a BMI16, but that’s where I thought I would “naturally balance out” (ha, ha). And the facility agreed it was a lovely goal. But then again, they never took me seriously anyway.

My point is, that my recovery was all focussed around weight. All my goals, all my slip-ups, everything that was monitored by a psychiatrist and a nurse, everything I had ever put on paper with them as guidelines; everything was weight-related. And my eating disorder had never been about weight!

This is (part of) the reason why therapy never worked for me. If your eating disorder doesn’t focus around weight, how can weight function as the centre and the measurement of your recovery from it?

Exactly, it doesn’t.

I waisted my time. I wasted my time on measurements. Of body-size, body mass, weight etc.

I left therapy after a few months. I hadn’t gained an ounce in the entire period. None. I had gained a few kg before I entered, and gained everything else after. But this also means that I had lost all faith in professional help, as well as I had never really gotten to the core of what my eating disorder (and thus it’s ‘fix’) was all about.

The past few months I have been actively trying to let myself eat without set rules and limits. No, that is not the same as bingeing. Yes, it did involve a lot of bingeing. But hear me out.

dejamoo - source unknown(I know this is what you’re thinking while reading this post)

Eating without set limits and rules means learning to no longer fear foods. Mind you, I didn’t really manage to do so until I had FULLY stopped any form of restriction/compensation. None! But even then, a meal plan which tells you what and when to eat doesn’t tackle the fears and the varieties. So when I had managed to eliminate compensatory behavior, and after I had reached a BMI20, I opened the floodgates of hell. Kiding. Sorta.

It means some days I eat nothing but junk. Some days, I eat a lot of junk in one go and that’s it. And some days, I eat none. And that’s no longer because I read that ‘your body will balance it out naturally’, which my mind would then interprete as ‘today I will not crave anything chocolatey because I already had some yesterday’. I just went with what was réally going on instead of forcing the craving (or the lack thereof) on myself.

It took a giant leap of faith. And a change of mindset from my parents too. Whereas before, they would clear the house before I came, or come barging right into the kitchen if I was there for longer than two nano-seconds, I asked them to just leave me be. Yes, the beginning mostly meant I had to eat everything in sight, or at least have a few bites of everything in sight, so I could ‘get it out of my system’. Because if there was food I hadn’t tasted before/hadn’t tried this time/hadn’t allowed myself since forever/caught my attention/caught my craving or whatever, I couldn’t ignore it and go do something else. It would continue to plague my mind until I had found a way to sneak it out and eat it in secrecy, or if I couldn’t find a way to do so, wait until I got home and then all hell would break lose because I felt like ‘I had denied myself something’ and be damned my body would make up for it by eating everything else it could get its hands on. But believe it or not (don’t worry, I didn’t believe this either), there is this point where your head doesn’t instantly goes bananas the second there’s a bar of chocolate in sight. Or a 2liter tub of ice cream. Or your mother’s weekend load of sinful shoppings.

I know right?

Now, the disclaimer is; I am not even halfway there yet. I still binge. I still try to ignore cravings sometimes. I still am a walking mess of a recovering eater. But SO much has changed since I have granted myself the permission to JUST.EAT. Whatever. Whenever. Not ‘never too much, mostly greens’. Or, ‘until your full’. Or, paleo, primal, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, flour-free, liquid only, ehhh whatever. NONE of that any longer applies. I have full permission to go with it and see where it will take me.

And just try to make sure I don’t go absolutely NUTS in the process, I have finally acknowledged I might need a little help. So, I have made the first steps in that process too.

PS; I would like to make clear that I DO NOT THINK that BMI’s are unimportant. I know a few (?) of you disagree on this, but I think that most of you will know it ís indeed incredibly important once you get to a (stable) healthy 19/20++ (PLUS PLUS) BMI. My focus, my energy, my ability to comprehend and respond and feel free of ED-thoughts and behaviors changed dramatically since then. Also, the no-restriction and no-compensation rule is KEY in here as well (hence the ‘stable’ part). Not just stable monitoring-wise, but also stable intake and mind wise. I promise you (yes, I think I really do promise you), when you reach a stable, healthy weight without purging/restricting/compensating, you’re entering a new world (again). Paradigms shift y’all.

WAMM part VI; Uninterested

As I recently changed the lay-out of my blog, I re-read some of my old WAMM series (WAMM meaning; What anorexia made me. The ‘WIAN’ in this case is both a reference to those STUPID eats posts ánd means ‘what I am not’). Anyway, while reading I realized how helpful it had been to me to write out what the difference was between the sick me, and the not sick me. And as I pondered on the subject, I realized I still had a WAMM-post in my drafts. Which is this one. I have a list (oh me and my lists) saved as well with another few bullet points of WAMM-subjects, so I suppose you willl be seeing a few more of these in the future.

WAMM, (WIAN) Part VI; Uninterested (&irresponsible)

I like to think of myself as a… Friendly girl. A good friend. A listening ear. A shoulder to cry on. A reliable buddy. A sincere person. I know, that’s a lot to say about myself, but, I think (most of the time) this is a big part of who I am.

I am a people person. I hate the phrase but I think it’s true. I can be a hermit at times, I admit. But deep down, I cannot live without other people in my life.

I love my friends and family. I love spending time with them. My angels (my 2 little cousins) are so precious to me, my mother I love to death and my friends… Well. Apart from all the times I’d rather ‘glue them behind the wallpaper’ (Dutch expression), I love them dearly. And the rest of my family too!

I work with mentally challenged people, and have done so since I was 16. On the side, I have always had babysitting jobs and nanny-ing stuffs. My first job was as an au-pair in France, where I had my two kids 24/7 for 2 months straight. I did it again the year after in the same family and had another job as a nanny in Malaysia for 3 months when I was 20. I love kids, I love taking care of them and I love that it allows me to reassure my ‘inner mom’. Even in my group of friends I’ve had the nickname Mammasooz since we were 12…

And mamma’s care. That’s what mamma’s do. They are interested in their family. But they take care of themselves too. They are responsible adults.

Yet, my eating disorder made me no longer care. It turned me into a person who just didn’t give a fuck. I would rather stay at home and not-eat, watch food and not touch it, and ‘sit out the hunger pangs’  on the cold kitchen floor then to go see my friends. I would hide in the office room if my cousins came by, so I could avoid having tea and biscuits with them. And later, I would excuse myself and run upstairs with 5 packs of biscuits, a loaf of bread and a tub of ice-cream if my parents had friends or family over, just so I could binge in solace instead of having to sit and pretend to listen to them, while all I could really think of was when they would leave so I could have that binge I so badly needed.

My eating disorder also made me irresponsible in my behavior and actions. Especially when the binge-monster took over. I would sneak out with food, even if I had food cooking on the stove. I would run upstairs to either go and hide my food or just binge on it, instead of making sure the gas was off. I would stuff my face before I would let my dog in who was barking at the door because it started raining outside. I even ran on my dad’s freshly painted stairs once because I ‘had to hide the food’ before the rest of the family came home, and in that rush and panic had completely forgotten about the paint. My worst, however, was when I had my face in a cupboard at my cousin’s place when I was babysitting my angels and I had to ‘snap myself out of it’ when the little one started crying upstairs. My first thought had been; Just let her cry, it’ll pass, I’ll go check when the binge is over. And when it hit me what I had just thought my heart started racing. How could that thought had popped up in mý head?! But it took me another few moments to actively snap myself out of it before I could ‘leave’ my binge to check up on my little one. Oh my, how guilty I have felt about this for so long… And still do.

The fact that my eating disorder turned me into a scared little mouse didn’t help my social me, either. Even if I wasn’t too pre-occupied with food to simply even care to text my friends back, I had become too scared to leave the house anyway. My inner mammasooz was dead. It was solo-Sooz now, and most of the time, that didn’t even bother me. Not that I didn’t want to reconnect with them, I just wasn’t willing or able to put them first. I didn’t even register it as ‘un-Sooz’-like. My mind was too busy with food related thoughts to even realize there were people out there that cared (or used to care) and who I (used to) care about, too. I had completely lost touch with reality, and even more disturbingly; with my emotions. I lost touch with me.

Even when people expressed their concerns, I laughed it off. I was fiiiiiine, hey, watchatalkingabout! And even when my breakingpoint was there, and I realized that, shiiiit, something needed to change, I still couldn’t share this with others. Because I had let myself drift so far away from them, I couldn’t find the courage to build a bridge back to them and ask them to take me back.

I think the first moment of re-opening up (it’s a word), was when my best friend had sent an email to my mum about how concerned he was, and that if there was anything in the world he could do, she should let him know. That he had talked to his own mom about it for nights and nights and they felt so helpless, and that the least he thought he could do was send my mom an email and tell her that she was always welcome at their place whenever she wanted. After I decided I was gonna go and try to get better, my mom showed me the email. The day after I admitted and discharged myself from the ER I spontaneously jumped in the car and drove to his place. I only had ten minutes (my mom needed the car back) but I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him I was ‘on it’, you know, the whole trying to change for the better thing. His mom answered the door and told me my friend wasn’t home. So instead, I hugged her and told her everything was gonna be alright, and to tell my friend that too. That I was working on it. And that I loved them and thanked them for everything. And we cried and I went back home. I think that was the first time I let myself feel again, and actually show it too.

Well, safe to say that ever since that moment I’ve been the same old emotional wreck I used to be! Hormones are funny things. Now I have my mommasooz qualities back, but in a more adult-type of way now. It’s no longer ‘everyone before me’, I can balance things out better now. It’s a lot harder to realize you need to take care of yourself too, instead of always and only of others. But I am to say that I am, once again, the girl to cry with, to talk to and to turn to. And I love the fact that I have managed to be given that position again. It is who I am, and who I want to be; the approachable part of the whole. I care again. And I am cared for, again. And I love it.

Fairytale

Once upon a time, there was a little girl. A little  girl and a white horse.
(Unfortunately, this tale does not involve a prince who rode the white horse, but alas).

The girl had stood to admire the horse, when it shared with her its secret.

You see, this white horse might have been awfully pretty in the girls’ eyes. But where the horse was from, he was just another white horse. In the land of white horses, the white horse felt plain, self-conscious and not at all special. The girl could not believe her eyes! How could a creature this amazing think itself to be plain! Didn’t the horse see how elegant and magnificent it were?

The horse nodded. He did see all those things now. But it wasn’t until after the horse had tried to change everything about the way he looked, that he would realize how what the girl said was true.

‘When I was a young horse, I did silly things’, the beautiful horse admitted with his head down. ‘I did silly things to stand out from the other white horses.

I wanted to feel special. So I prayed and I prayed to be given wings’.

The horse was shocked that one day, indeed, he awoke with wings.

SAMSUNG

The horse paraded around town. Horses from everywhere came to touch his wings and stare at him in awe. The horse felt wonderfully special. Finally, he thought. But only after a few days the attention wore off. The other horses went back to their day to day business and the horse, too, had to continue his doings. At night, the horse continued to pray. Oh, couldn’t he be granted greater wings? Wings that, whenever and wherever, would never fail to amaze people, however often they would see him?

Only few mornings after, he was stunned to find his wings to have grown.

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Now they were of size to -for sure!- be undeniable. The horse went out again to strut around. Indeed, the response of his fellow white horses did not let him down. He, again, felt like the most special horse the land of white horses had ever known.

Until again, after a few days business returned to usual. And the white horse found himself awake at night again, his mind fluttered with images of wings larger than life. When he finally fell asleep, his prayers had again resumed. Oh, could he be given wings that would be larger than he could possibly imagine?

Later that week, the horse awoke painfully so. When he turned his head, he found, attached to his back, wings so large, they took up all of his sleeping space. The horse carefully arose, and hurried into town.

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Everyone agreed; The horses’ new wings were the grantest and greatest wings anyone could have ever imagined. But with every step the horse took, he felt more and more self-conscious. The horses no longer just stared at him in awe, but they started to ask questions. Could he now run faster than any other horse? Could he now fly?

After a few days of practice the horse was sad to find out he could not. His new wings were too large to be of any help. They were heavy and painful on his back, they were uncomfortable to rest in his small sleeping space, and they were impractical in his day to day doings. Even playing with his friends and family had now become practically impossible due to the size of his wings.

The other horses ridiculed him. The horse stood out so much, yet he had no special powers over the others. The horse could do no special tricks. After only a few days, the horse silently cried himself to sleep. Oh how he longed to go back to his normal self, so he could enjoy the company of his close loves again.

After a few uncomfortable nights of solitary tears, the horse awoke feeling like a heavy weight had lifted from his shoulders. Or, were he to say, back. The horse was extatic to see that the large wings on his back had miraculously disappeared. He galloped into town, jumping and dancing and wiggling about. ‘Freedom!’, he felt. Freedom! He may now no longer stood out from the rest, but he did feel at peace with what, where and who he was.

SAMSUNG

The horse looked at the girl, who stood next to him in disbelief. ‘It is not having wings that makes you more special. It is not having wings that makes you feel free’. He took a deep breath. ‘Feeling special or being free is not physically visible. Feeling special and feeling free comes from within’, he whispered. ‘We are exactly what, where and who we are supposed to be’.

When the horse gently nudged his soft nose onto the little girls’ cheeck, she woke to find herself in her bed, with the friendly face of her mother hovering over her head. ‘It is time to wake up, beautiful girl’, she smiled at her. And it was the first time the girl felt her mothers’ words to be true deep within.

*Original white horse picture by photographer Cornelie Tollens. Wings and words by me.

Tuesday thoughs

My mind has been…. full, lately. And mindfullness is very different from mindfulness, I can tell you.

There have been things. Overwhelming things. Uni is getting the better of me, again. Life is, too. And so am I. I am overwhelmed with myself on too many levels right now. To say I am thriving would be a lie. Plus I am swamped in catching up with Uni work and trying to figure out my next steps. And to top it all off, three people have passed away the past three weeks, my aunty’s funeral this saturday hopefully being the last in a long while time from now on.

I do not want this to become a Debby Downer post. Mostly because I want to stick to some positive affirmations in my daily being. It is all too easy to drown in the dark. So instead of doing just that, I thought I’d pop in, explain my possible absence here and there and share a lovely picture I took earlier this week.

IMG_20130318_060551

While I am not at all a cold-weather girl (hey, Im way more exotic on the inside then you’d ever guess if you’d see the tall white-tushed chick typing here), but I can definitely see the beauty in the snowed-under world. As long as the sun is out, that is. Plus, even Buddha looks semi-contented, no?

*Insta is mine

Masks

My mom and I had just finished talking (and crying) how I didn’t want to see the rest because of how awful I felt, and I didn’t want to feel like I had to pretend. So I took the dog out for a walk in the snow. We didn’t even make it across the street when the rest of the family got home. Of course, the dog spotted them so I had no way of escaping the little gettogether.

And so it happened that it was the five of us watching TV.

My mom and I were still hiding the tears of ten minutes earlier
My mom and dad had an arguement earlier about something they’d said
My dad and brother had been on each others lips and backs for the entire week already
My brother and his gf had just been in (another) humongous fight
My brother and I rarely ever talk anyway

Who the fuck is wearing the mask here anyway?!

I realize everybody does this to some extent. We all feel when it is and when it isn’t socially acceptable to not pretend. But I’m pretty sure this is a damn unhealthy setting. And it got me thinking; when am I ever really me?

I think I only really show how my brain’s fucked when I’m fucked. Like, when I get to that completely-out-of-control desperation state. The uncontrollably sobbing, mumbling painfully constructed words. When it’s already too late. And that only ever happens with my mom. My poor mom who I’ve dragged through hell yet not back. Who I left there burning with me. My poor mom who already feels like a failure for letting me get to hell in the first place, for not keeping me away and for not being able to single handedly dragging me out. And then I put the extra burden of spilling my most toxic thoughts to her when doomsday has arrived again. On the poor shoulders of someone who I know doesn’t vent to someone else either. Who will only utter her helplessness, but never her anger. Who will never spill her guts, look for relief in sharing her struggles with anyone, either. And I just keep adding, and adding, and adding!

The second I tear up I feel more guilty than I already did. I know the second I see the tears swell in her eyes I don’t ever want to put her through this again. How desperately I want to become the daughter she deserves, the daughter she fights for. How I want to pay her back by showing her that her hard work paid off. That now it’s okay, and she can relax again. I want to be that free-spirited, happy girl again that she deserves as a child. Because she already has her worry-child, and that was not supposed to be me. My brother can fulfill that role. I am the responsible one, the elder daughter. The one you don’t need to worry about, or look after. She’ll take care of herself and it’ll be fine. The one who can play on her own, study on her own, travel the world and take you out for coffee. That daughter, that’s me. That was me. Thats who she deserves. The one she can vent to about things that bother her, as she used to, and not the one she would want to vent about.

I feel so guilty for still abusing her like I do. For sucking her empty, draining her of all light-heartedness, trust, happiness and energy. I am the vampire yet I’m numbing her into being a zombie. I want to give her back her life and yet here I am, making her pick out a new mask over and over again to cover up what I am turning her into

Losing

I have a question for you. Yes. Again. I realize two of my last posts  have been based around questions.

But now, I shall ask you this;

When did ‘Did you lose weight?’ become a compliment?

I am not on some feministic, body-loving rant here. I am not. I am currently not in the position (if you need one to have such a rant) or state to do so. I am simply angry and mostly; incredibly hurt.

I had forgotten about that. About how off that is. How wrong. How wrong it is to see losing weight as something positive. I had forgotten.

My aunt used to joke about it. As she did with everything she felt could use a little ‘lightening up’. My family is… overweight. Actually, that side of my family is… I think 85% obese. If not more. And when she halved herself and the rest didn’t, she said she had ‘finally found the trick’. Yes, it was expensive. But it worked wonders! Her answer? Cancer.

She suffered from cancer for years and years. Beat the doctors, the diagnosis, the prospects a million times. We said goodbyes over and over, her doing the same, and then a week later, tadaaa, she would miraculously clear up again for a bit and plough on. She was such an amazing lady, this one. Tough yet sweet and always funny.

And a self-proclaimed weight-loss wonder.

The irony in her jokes said it all though; how wrong it is that losing weight is somehow an achievement. Something positive. Something to celebrate. When in reality, it was her dying.

And I forgot about it.

Until my friend commented on how he had lost 15kg in a month. He’s a big guy. Still is. 15kg is something he can easily lose, while still looking like he can lose a few more. Something people will compliment him about. And yet, it is him dying.

I ask you again; How is ‘did you lose weight?’ a compliment? An achievement? Something positive? Celebratory?

Why is the image that losing weight is something to celebrate, when losing weight means losing life?

ED Awareness

You know you have an eating disorder (which everyone knows about) when….

……Your mom accuses you of eating the three hamburgers that were in the fridge while they were walking the dog…….

even though you’ve been a life-long vegetarian

Thanks mom. And no, I didn’t.
I’m not that crazy
I hide my binges better than that