Progress with recovery

I am very happy to report that I think this is it. I think that the major problem that I had with my body is finally resolved.

Ever since I was a child I had troubles with eating, which resulted in me being very underweight, often fainting, weak-hearted, dehydrated, anemic, etc. Since I was 14 it got very bad, and I would rarely eat at all. It was just a blurry time consisted of phases of starving, and eventually eating big portions that would last me for a while. Back in middle and high school it was common for me to just skip breakfast in the morning, then go to school, eat a big dinner, and then again skipping all other meals. If I was with people I was just eating so much nobody could believe why was I so skinny. It was normal for me to binge on 4 burgers, big fries, and big chocolate milkshake in McDonald’s. Or double subway sandwich with rich sauce, a bag of crisps, and a large sweet soda. And then come home and barely touch anything else. Visiting my grandmother I could have eaten a massive portion of fries with ketchup, followed by ten (literally ten) schnitzels. Or five bowls of soup with ten huge bread buns. Nutrition knowledge was back then just as uncommon as it is now, so people believed things such as “fast metabolism”, “good genes”, etc., nobody in my circle knew that calories maths can’t be cheated, so I could safely keep my disorder a secret.

I developed a very unhealthy relationship with food that was a combination of heavy restriction, and time-to-time binge to reward myself for the discipline. I wallowed in hunger. It was never about looks though. Anxiety and depression never let me feel like I was worthy of eating. Chronic tension felt like a knot around my stomach. At first I was diagnosed with anorexia, but then it became clear that it’s not exactly an eating disorder, as much as just disordered eating as a symptom of something else going on in my head. Now that I am older I am aware it has been slow development of bipolar disorder, but when I was younger it was a combination of oddities that never made sense. Disordered eating, hallucinations, sensory over-sensitivity, anxiety, depression, uncontrollable money spending, self-harm, insomnia, hyperactivity. The “good” times when I was manic or sometimes symptom-free made up for all the shit that happened when I was depressed or psychotic. It was when I also met people, took tests, improved my grades, and just pretended everything is fine. Every time the better times happened I hoped this is the last time I went down the rabbit hole. But every time it also came back.

I remember it as an extremely confusing time of my life. Every time I was in certain state it made me forget everything else. When I was depressed, it felt like I always have been that way. When I was manic, it felt like this was whole my life. I could not function as a whole, just jumped from one shattered piece to another, losing the touch with reality. And it affected my eating as well.

Eventually it came up that I was sick with neuroborreliosis. It required me to take a cocktail of antibiotics and other meds for a very long time (2,5 years). To survive the treatment I had to incorporate an extremely restrictive diet into my life. I was in my element, really. Heavy restriction combined with wallowing in the idea of eventual death. Perhaps I will talk about this in detail another time.

Eating, diets, nutrition, it dominated my life. To take control over it I graduated nutrition, I was, and still am, a passionate student, and I continue to expand my knowledge, attend trainings, get certificates, etc. It was difficult to let go of the food-related unhealthy coping mechanisms. As a student, I also became vegan. This gave me further reasons to restrict, and take obsessive control over my intake.

I began treatment for bipolar disorder few years ago. At first it wasn’t as effective as I hoped it to be. But over time, with increased med dosage, I felt much more in touch with reality than I used to be. The storm inside my head became more clear. Now I am standing on a glass ceiling and watch the furious force of nature underneath it. The things happen, I feel them, but I am distanced from them and can choose to not act upon them. When I manage to set up a routine, I am a happy and well-functioning person. The only thing that still bothered me was the eating problem. I have certain triggers that throw me all back to the most unhealthy mindset. It feels very odd, I am a confident, happy person 99% of the time. But then if something seemingly innocent happens, that gives me flashbacks to childhood when it hurt the most, I find myself having a panic attack, falling back into restrictive eating habits, and just being unable to eat anything that has more than X calories. Losing weight, then gaining it again, then losing again. For the sake of other people’s recovery I won’t go into details with numbers.

Despite being confident with my body, back then I felt like it’s wrong for not being extremely skinny. The medication that I was prescribed made me more hungry, and a little more relaxed about food, as it aided anxiety. It also lowers my blood pressure a lot, so it’s more difficult for me to pursue physical activity, due to feeling fainty and constantly sleepy. I exercise now more lightly, I eat a bit more, all of which resulted in me gaining weight. At first I reacted badly to it. I was confused about what I am seeing in the mirror. One day I’d see a corpse, another day I would see a chubby person. This could have change during few days or even just in the span of hours.

I received more medication, and started a therapy. I revealed the reasons behind my restriction and guilt associated with eating. I worked on some of my traumas of the past, and the ones of the future. It took a while, and a lot of work, and emotional labor, but I could never expect it will pay off that well. The last time I got triggered was barely around three or four months ago. I again fell into the pit of restriction, but opening up about it to my loved ones and forcing myself to not subject myself to those intrusive thoughts helped me get out of it in span of few weeks.

As for right now, I am content. My view of self is consistent. I see the same person every day in the mirror (and damn, what a sexy creature that is). I can eat the food I need, I keep a healthy diet to properly nurture my body, with occasional treating self with my favorite junk food. Being vegan makes me happy, and eases my conscience, as I finally am eating according to my morals. And most importantly, I put on weight, and I maintained it now for few months. I am not afraid of my weight, as it is now proof of my health, and mental well-being, not a number that must be as low as possible, for really unreasonable reasons, just irrational fear, that something very bad will happen if the number won’t drop.

My anxiety also dropped. I was always a misfit, never understood, never related to people my age, having troubles interacting with others, and forming and keeping friendships, always felt alone with my ideas and morals. Ever since I was a child I had a strong feeling that there was something wrong with me. Now that I am properly treated, after years of attempted various treatments and diagnostics, my doctor said that besides bipolar there is nothing wrong with me, and I am just simply extremely intelligent but also extremely sensitive person, so naturally I disagree with most of the things that happen in the world. I care so much about things that a regular person would not blink twice for, famine, global warming, injustice, people’s and non-human animals’ well being, access to knowledge and proper health care… Those things keep me awake at night. I cannot rest until it’s fixed. And then improved. I’m just a restless, child-minded, naive idealist, who can’t stand falseness, injustice, cruelty, and wasted potentials. And she said just as it is uncommon for people like me to exist, it’s very common for them to fall ill with depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. We are just wired that way, and it’s okay, even though we aren’t the most socially-adjusted people. Learning to accept it helped me a great deal, how to handle my own sensitivity, as it used to spiral out of control in a very negative way. I now have the mental capacity to turn it into something productive.

It also helped me to not try closing myself off from who I am. I finally accepted myself. I can turn empathy on and off, as a coping mechanism. A kind of wilful, emotional denial. But I realise, I am a much better person when it’s on. Especially for my loved ones. So now I am just on the quest to learn to live with myself and with the world, without going mental and hurting myself. The world really hurts. But it helps that I still have lots of plans for how to fix many of the issues that bother me. I also have to deal with lots of hatred, as I know there are things that are now irreversible, because few people in this world ruined it completely for all the rest. And I am not sorry for despising those who are acting against others, being selfish, wilfully ignorant, and irresponsible. At the same time I know this is simply how the world is. Humans are merely a microorganism culture on a Petri dish that aims to exploit every last resource and annihilate self. But I am wired that way that I don’t accept it, and I believe if there can be done anything to stop it, we owe it to everyone else to do our best.

So there it is, my agreement with reality aided me in taking control over my weird relationship with food. In total, I gained almost 14 kg. I am not underweight anymore. I have ideal BMI for my height. And nothing bad has happened. Physically I experience only good things, like brought back hormonal balance, my anemia is gone, my heart slowly gets stronger as I train it, my skin is clear, and my hair grows as if it wanted to spread and overrule the world (all hail mighty Feathers). I have energy to take care of my health further. Now I can’t believe I ever thought that I weighed too much, as right now I still am thin and just look perfectly fine. I have encountered some of my triggers recently, and I managed to deal with them without relapsing into the old habits. I think I can finally consider myself recovered.

The whole experience just left me with lots of ideas how to possibly help others who struggle with disordered eating, and how even weirdos such as myself can get professional help, and how important it is to just keep trying (6 years of unsuccessful attempts at therapy used to make me very salty about the idea) to find a proper therapist, even though it’s not that easy. Hopefully it gave me the mental tools to reach those who struggle the same as I used to. If you are reading this and relate to the sick parts, please seek help, the situation might seem hopeless to you, but so long as you are alive you are capable of changing things. And maybe the next medical professional you meet is just the right one who can reach you.

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