Wednesday, 7 December 2011

so close and yet so far

It lasted about 10 days...

For 10 days I would have said without hesitation that I was recovered.

It was amazing! I was relaxed. I was busy thinking about the holidays and xmas presents and there was no thoughts wasted on calories and rules. I ate without giving it a second thought. I didn't even want to weigh myself - I couldn't be bothered with that rubbish. Why would I care? I was so happy it was ridiculous :)

And then I got really busy at work and didn't take the time to eat, and by the time I got home it was all gone again. I struggled to eat dinner. I told myself I had been so good all day why ruin it now. The magic was gone and the ED was let back in.

J (my therapist) tried to ask me about those 10 days but I couldn't talk about them. I just cried at what I had lost. How happy I had been made me so sad to remember now that it is gone again.

J assures me that being able to string together so many days like that means that I will get it back again. It is not lost forever. I am close.

I'm trying to work back through my mind exactly what I was doing and thinking in those days leading up to when I felt recovered so I can repeat those things to try to recapture the feeling - but the ED thoughts are working very hard to confuse me. I keep thinking how much I want to go back to that recovered feeling only to realise that I am actively doing all the same ED habits I do when I'm trying not to go back.

so close and yet so far


Sunday, 20 November 2011

If I read one more tweet/blog that tells me I'm not "REAL" I'm going to scream!

I've got my ranty pants on today - and unlike the last time I blogged something to this effect I'm not going to let you make me feel bad about myself.

I've just read those damn words again:
"real women have curves"

But so many of you who say this also say you advocate "Size Acceptance" and "Health at Every Size"?


Now for those of you who just say you advocate for "Fat Acceptance" I don't mind this in the least. You are not implying that you speak for me. As a fat woman you have every right to push back against societal stereotypes and inequities - and you know what - I support you! I think society is very unfair, biased and down-right appalling in it's general treatment of fat people.

But I'm here (complete with ranty pants) to tell you that if you want to speak for "Heath at EVERY size" you sure better include MY size in that - as well as EVERYONE elses.

Because I exist.  

And what is it exactly that you think makes you a MORE real woman than me?

I'm a woman.

I have had three babies.

I have a loving husband and wonderful friends.

I laugh and love and cry and dream.

I am strong.

I have a career I love.

I am getting healthier every day.

I am not the size of my trousers any more than you are!

And don't you dare say that I am a fat-hater. At no point anywhere in my blog or in my life have I judged anyone by their size. You know nothing of my history or my experiences. So that won't ever be justification for how inferior you have tried to make me feel.

This issue has nothing to do with being fat or being skinny. It's about accepting people for who they are - regardless of size. That REAL WOMEN come in all shapes and sizes, and being skinny does not make you less, any more than being fat does.

So if you think it is offensive for someone to judge you based on your size, well guess what sister - that's exactly what you just did to me  - and I am offended. And you are a hypocrite.

Your words have power, and meaning, and they hurt.

And if you insist on telling me you are more real than I am I will call you on it. I have found my voice and I am not afraid to be me anymore.

I am not better than you. But I sure as hell am not any less real than you either.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

my golden rule

PJ's Golden Rule: when in doubt ask yourself 
"do I want to do this for the rest of my life?"

I'm suddenly really scared of food again. I was doing quite well with my eating, I put on some weight, and then a little bit more, and then a little bit more, and then I got scared.

Somewhere along the line I seem to have apparently decided that to be 'safe' I need to be really 'careful' about what I eat. Yes, I still want to eat, but to stop myself from going overboard (whatever that may mean) I need to be really particular about how much I eat, when I eat it and then how much exercise I do. I've even been writing it down so I can keep track of it and make sure that I have what I think is enough but not any more - just to be on the safe side.

And I don't know about you, but that sounds distinctly like an eating disorder to me.

So even though I don't actually think I'm doing anything dangerous - I'm not restricting and I'm not over-exercising, and from the outside I probably look like I'm doing a really good job - but if I apply my golden rule, the answer would have to be "no"; this is not what I want to do for the rest of my life. This is only existing. This is not living. I'm trying much too hard to do everything 'right'. But I want to be free from even this level of stress and need to control what I eat.

So for the first time in about 10 weeks I'm going to see my dietician (M) to talk to her about this. My instinct is to tell her I'm so afraid of putting on weight she needs to give me a meal plan which I can follow and remove some of that worry - hand over the decision making to her and let her calculate exactly what I can eat to maintain my current weight and not put on any more.

But that's not the answer.

That's not what I want to do for the rest of my life either.

So what is the answer? I don't know. But I think telling M everything that I just wrote here would be a very good start...

Monday, 14 November 2011

7 observations of ED recovery - from a partner's perspective

PJ's pretty amazing, don't you think? I do.

But I wasn't so sure about writing something for her blog. It's not really my thing. She asked me to write a top 10 observations of ED recovery from my perspective, to match her recent posts So with a bit of a struggle, I've come up with a top 7. Yes, I can count and I know that 7 is not 10. 7 is not even my favourite number. But it is what it is, a bit like life.

1. Rational/irrational
The rational person will always struggle with the irrational. ED is irrational. PJ's the most rational person I know. Don't confuse the two - but that can be easier said than done some days.

2. It's an illness with a label, but what does it mean?
It follows from the rational bit, but simply labelling ED as ED doesn't really provide a meaningful explanation of some of the stuff we've seen. Labels are really not useful. Not useful in ED, and not really useful in life either - life and ED are more complex than a two letter acronym.
There's some stuff on the web, but PJ's blog is hopefully helping others figure out what it means.

3. Life experiences
I don't quite know when it happened, but I've noticed that I'm not the young buck any more at work. (No snide comments about nose hairs either, thanks!) I've been around a while, and seen a bit. The curmudgeonly old man has come out occasionally recently, and I don't quite remember getting older. And I still don't get Twitter or Facebook.
But life experience is useful, and age has softened my views on plenty of things. PJ and I have been through plenty of highs and lows and everything in-between. We'll get through this challenge too. We're probably just as stubborn as each other and that's a good thing in dealing with ED.

4. The paradox of expectations
For those of you who don't know Seth Godin, you really should follow him. His daily aphorisms are succinct and thought provoking on life, marketing and business. His 30 Oct blog was particularly apt …
"Low expectations are often a self-fulfilling prophecy. We insulate ourselves from failure, don't try as hard, brace for the worst and often get it.
High expectations, on the other hand, will inevitably lead to disappointment. Keep raising what you expect and sooner or later (probably sooner) it's not going to happen. And we know that a good outcome that's less than the great one we hoped for actually feels like failure.
Perhaps it's worth considering no expectations. Intense effort followed by an acceptance of what you get in return. It doesn't make good TV, but it's a discipline that can turn you into a professional."
I think that this can easily translate to tacking ED - it's not going to be a quick fix, but discipline/sticking with it will lead to recovery. Celebrate the good outcomes, and a great one will come along too … in time. Reaching out for help, finding educated/skilled helpers, networking and writing about ED are all good outcomes.

5. Humour
There's nothing funny about ED. Nothing.  
In a self-reflective moment I've been thinking that we're going to need to find more ways to lighten up and laugh a bit. Putting ED aside (if it was only that easy, hey), life's not bad. It's a little like that expectations thing … laugh at the funny bits, be appropriately serious at the serious bits, but seek out more of the funny than the serious.

6. Find what works
 I read somewhere (it's that old age thing again) recently something along the lines of coffee, tea and water will help you work things out; drinking spirits will not. To quote the web forums … YMMV  (I'm old enough to understand forums, as I started out with dial up BBSs - you do know what they are don't you?). 
 And what works today, might not work tomorrow. Adjust. Refine. And adjust again. We won't be fixed into a single course of action. Mix it up.

7. The F-word
No, not that F-word. The other one … feelings. I'm bloody hopeless at talking about them. I'm an Aussie man, with a stiff-upper-lip kind of upbringing and professional training. Talking about feelings might be a sign of weakness that might be exploited - isn't that right? Guys don't really talk about feelings do they? Perhaps we should … perhaps I should. Would it help or would the incompetence from a severe lack of practice get in the way of being constructive for PJ?
Listening to PJ (which I actually do every now and again, but could probably do much, much better), it sounds like we might need to have a F-word conversation. Now that's going to be uncomfortable for me … but this isn't about me, is it.

And there it is. The blog post I really didn't think that I'd ever be able to write. 

Again, I know it's 7 not 10. Who's counting?


Sunday, 13 November 2011

the impending guest post

Stephen Fry left his wallet on the plane on his return trip from Australia recently. His tweet to this effect started:

Oh Jesus arsemothering fuck...

and right about now this is exactly how I feel. Why? Because for better or for worse I have just asked Mr PJ to write a guest post for my blog. I told him just to be honest about the ED experience from his perspective - and that it didn't have to be nice, because the bad stuff is every bit as valid a part of his experience as the good.

So hold your breath with me please people, because he said yes...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

learning to trust

Rewind to Dec of last year. It was my second ever visit to my first therapist, K, and my toddler was sick so I had to take her along with me. She just had a rash, she was actually fine, but rash automatically means 'no creche'. The session went ok. I had been pretty organised and brought along enough food and activities to keep her amused. And apart from one trip and fall and cry towards the end, toddler was pretty good. But in the back of my mind I was worried about the inconvenience I was causing by having her there. And right at the end this back-of-my-mind thought came right up to the front.

K leaned back in her chair and said "I just want to tell you..."

and then: pause...

in that split second pause I managed to think a thousand thoughts: starting with "oh sh*t here it comes" and progressing at lightning speed to "I don't care what she says, I don't have to come back here any way". In that split second I imagined she was going to tell me how bringing along my toddler showed a lack of commitment to my recovery and she wouldn't be able to continue to work with me. In that split second I put up a wall so big I was ready to get up and walk out and not even let her finish her sentence.

So when she finished with "...I think you're a really good mother" I was so shocked I actually blurted out "I thought you were going to tell me off".

Fast forward to last week's session with J - and the identical situation arose. Toddler was too sick to go to creche and I had to take her to my session. Again I tried to keep toddler amused, but this time I was very conscious that toddler really was quite sick so I was more than willing to put her needs ahead of the effectiveness of the session.

And sure enough, towards the end of the session J made a comment, and then there was *that* pause.

Two very interesting things have sprung up from this pause however:

Firstly, I was able to catch my thoughts this time. Yes I drew breath, but I was able to remind myself that my worst fear didn't eventuate last time so it was unlikely to eventuate this time. Relax and wait and see what she says.
And secondly the moment came and went, and I don't actually remember what was said. I remember the moment, I remember my feelings, but the exact words have faded. They are not indelibly etched on my brain; burned into my memory for all time. The terror of the first situation was not there this time.

I have learned to trust. Trust that J is not just faking being nice to me and will turn on me at any moment. Trust that I am not doing anything wrong that I will get into trouble for. I can trust her to help me and support me with kindness and constructive advice - not just put me down and bully me as a means of motivating me to excel simply to avoid the shame of failure.

I trust J. Yes I still hold a lot back from her - and I probably always will. But at least I know that the bits I chose to share with her will be heard and dealt with fairly and non judgmentally. So even if the wall never comes all the way down, it's certainly getting smaller.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

10 things you *SHOULD* say to a mum with an eating disorder


My "10 things *NOT* to say to a mum with an eating disorder" post the other was intended to help people wishing to support someone they love to avoid saying some of the biggest clangers I've been on the receiving end of.

But it was really only half of the story wasn't it? And when Rosie Molinary suggested I write the other half I simply responded "what a good idea". But it has been much harder to write than the first.

Because sometimes no matter what you say, it will seem like the wrong thing.

So here are some suggestions of comments I have found immensely helpful and encouraging. A lot of these would relate to any adult with an eating disorder, while some are specific to mothers. But just remember - everyone will react differently to things you say for a variety of different reasons. And often what you say will be misinterpreted by the person's eating disorder. I have seen the blank and puzzled look on my husband's face on more than one occasion as I've reacted completely unexpectedly to something he felt was innocuous.

So if your carefully considered comment doesn't goes as planned - don't despair and don't give up...ever!

1. I believe you - to be told this is so much more powerful than you can imagine. I was so sure my gp would laugh at me the first time I went to see her - and when she didn't I felt immediately like I could really trust her.

2. I don't know the right thing to say but I'm here for you - you can't fault honesty, and when your eating disorder is looking for any hint of trickery in someone's voice honesty is always the best policy.

3. I will stand by you through this - this again is one from my gp. She promised to be loyal to me no matter what. So I know no matter how badly I behave one week I can always go back the next and there is nothing to apologise for - ever.

4. You can recover - I did not know this. And even once people started telling me this it took me a long to believe it - so make sure you keep saying it, because it is true!

5. You can still be a good role model for your kids while you are recovering - I worried endlessly that I would only feel like I could be a good mother once I was recovered, but I can see that I am able to share the wonderful insights I am gaining (such as learning to put situations in perspective and positive self talk) with my children in an appropriate way. And this is what good parenting is all about. It's not about waiting until you are a perfect human being.

6. You will be a better, more aware mum now that you've identified you have an eating disorder - I am so conscious to be aware of personality traits my children display which are red-flags for me, such as catastrophising and being down on themselves - and I am now able to support them with the strategies I have learned.

7. What is your most immediate need? And how can I help/support you with this? - Usually I instinctively know what my most immediate need is; such as 'eating', 'going to see my gp', 'being hugged' etc. But not always. Sometimes I am so distressed I have no idea what to do next. But it is nice to be asked none the less.

8. You can trust me - one of my biggest fears has always been that the person I tell will tell someone else; that I will become the subject of a mother's coffee morning gossip session. I need to know that my privacy will be maintained (within reason of course, such as if my gp needs to know).

9. I will help you find the right person to talk to - so important in recovery is finding the right fit with a really good treatment team, and being supported in my decision to change a member of that team was helpful as I didn't really feel I was 'allowed' to. I lacked so much confidence, I needed encouragement - and my recovery has benefited from this decision.

10. I will come with you to your appointment if you want me to - this not only let me know that I was believed and supported, but also that I was worth the time out of their day to 'waste' sitting around in a drs office. They didn't have anywhere more important to be at that time. And that was huge!

And when all else fails hugs are nice. A hug is so helpful when you are feeling completely worthless. So don't hesitate to hug.

And lastly, did you know that support people can also ring helplines such as that offered by The Butterfly Foundation? So if you want some information, advice, or you just want someone nonjudgmental to talk to too you can ring them and they will listen.

Any more to add? What has been helpful for you to hear? Please share. Let's give support people a little bit of confidence to start the most important conversation they will ever have. 

published by:

also check out my flipside post: 10 things *NOT* to say to a mum with an eating disorder

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

10 things *NOT* to say to a mum with an eating disorder


Over the past year or so I've had some great friends offer me wonderful advice and support. From people who have freely admitted they don't know anything about eating disorders but will listen anytime I need to talk, to people who have seen it all or lived through it all.

But every now and then I have encountered people, often through no fault of their own, who have said just the wrong things. Things that have set me back. Things that have confused me. And things that have hurt me more than I could ever tell you.

So here's my top ten list of things I have really hated having said to me (in no particular order). Don't get me wrong though - I still actually really appreciate the fact that they said something (mostly) - it is far worse when a friend or loved one suspects or knows you have an eating disorder and chooses not to say anything.

1. I wish I had your problem
Having an eating disorder does not just mean someone is really good at dieting. An eating disorder is not a diet gone wrong. You may wish you were slimmer - but would you wish to have autism or cancer? An eating disorder is an illness, it is not a quick fix to get into your bikini by summer, and nothing will minimise someone's very real pain and suffering faster than if you assume it is.

2. You should recover for your kids.
Now if you are a trained healthcare professional ready to support someone through the fallout of this statement feel free to disagree with me on this one - but it's my list so I'm adding it here. I've had this said to me more times than I care to count, by people thinking it would motivate me. But what I hear is: "You are a lazy bad and worthless mother because you can't even fix this for those beautiful children of yours who you say you'd do anything for". ouch.

3. Surely you're too old to have an eating disorder.
Surprisingly there is no such thing, so just don't say that.

4. You're setting a really bad example for your children.
At the end of the day this may be true. But no one chooses to have an eating disorder, and guilt and blame have no place in recovery or in the support of those trying to recover. You cannot guilt someone into getting better. The guilt only makes it so so much worse.

5. It's just the baby blues, it happens to everyone these days.
Ah, the ubiquitous "stop making a fuss, you're nothing special, get over it" comment. Again, adding guilt is not helpful.

6. You're just bored. You'll get over it once you go back to work.
No, an eating disorder is an illness. Taking up a hobby will not fix this. Someone with an eating disorder may find work really rewarding, but for so many reasons more valuable than just they need a distraction. Building up self-esteem is one of those valuable reasons, but proper treatment is also absolutely necessary.

7. It's the fault of the media.
This implies that firstly that the person with the eating disorder has been sucked in by the media because they're so gullible and easily manipulated. And secondly that once again, it's just a diet gone wrong and they really just want to look like those chicks from Desperate Housewives.

8. Oh man not you too! Does everybody have an eating disorder these days or what?
See #5 if you can't figure out why you shouldn't say this one!

9. Is it just that being a mother is so much harder than you thought, dear?
Well firstly, der, it's much harder than anyone thought. If we all knew how hard it was going to be before we started it, we'd never becomes mums! But seriously, that kind of condescending "I sound like I'm concerned but I'm really just putting you down" comment is not helpful.

10. For heavens sake don't tell anyone!!
And this one I'm not even going to justify with an explanation. If you say this to anyone with an eating disorder then you are worse than a fool, because you are a dangerous fool.

Any more to add? What's the least helpful thing that has ever been said to you by someone trying to offer support? And what advice would you like to give them now?

published by:

EDIT: I've published the flipside - 10 things you *should* say to a mum with an eating disorder

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

careful, all this power might go to my head!


I've been on Lexapro now for several months to help control my out-of-control anxiety. And I was told that I would know the Lexapro was working more in how I handle things than in how I actually feel. Well case in point would have to be lunch today.

And no, surprisingly *not* because of the food. But rather, because of the appallingly bad service.

Here in Melbourne there are lots of good cafes, so service this poor is relatively unheard of. And yet after waiting more than forty five minutes for our lunch (nothing complicated either mind you, just standard cafe fare) the kids were getting restless and I decided enough was enough.

I actually asked the waitress when our food would be ready.

Big deal I hear you scoff. Well for me it is. Normally I would shush the kids and remind them to have patience. But they were being really good, and the service was being really slow. Absolutely nothing seemed to be coming out of the kitchen.

So I was told ours was next.

Only it wasn't. It was second or third either.

I got up at this stage and went up to the counter and asked again. "Yep, it's next", they said.

Nope. Wrong. Not this time. I'd been told that answer ten minutes earlier. I very firmly told them they needed to check through their orders and find mine and double check it to make sure it was a) actually there, and b) actually next.

I returned to my seat, and lo and behold the meals arrived within 1 minute, with apologies from the manager, and 20% off the bill.

Now I obviously won't bother going back there again, but that's my choice. I'm not embarrassed by my forthrightness. I wasn't rude. I didn't even get nervous. It was poor service so I said so. Sounds easy...and it was.

I think I know the Lexapro is working. And it was kinda fun...shhhh :)

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Monday, 24 October 2011



This time will be different.

I won't eat dinner. That will fix it. That will help me lose this extra weight.

And once I've lost the weight, then I'll stop doing this and get better, then. I'll just take a little break from recovery until I've lost this weight. But not too much. Just xxxkg. That's perfectly reasonable.

And it will be fine. In fact better than fine. It won't be like last time - it will make me feel much better.

And then I will stop.

This time will be different.

Only guess what? It's not different. I feel awful. I'm lethargic. I'm dehydrated. I'm dizzy and I'm having trouble breathing. I'm having trouble sleeping. I'm having trouble concentrating and I keep forgetting things.

I don't want to go down this path again. I want to feel good - in both my body and mind. And I won't until I consistently give my body the fuel it needs.

Try to remember this for next time please PJ!! The result never changes.

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Wednesday, 19 October 2011

thought for the day


I have been a bit quiet on the blogging-side lately. And this is mostly because I've been struggling, and I'm very conscious of not saying too much that might be triggering when I'm struggling - as there are days when I really just for all the world want my eating disorder back.

Really properly back. Back to the days when I did not realise I had a problem and could solve everything with restriction and compulsive exercise. I did not have to think or consider or weigh the pros and cons or feel guilty about my reckless, dangerous choices.

But now. Now my eating disorder is broken. And no amount of wishing can put it back together the way it was before. There will now always be cracks in it through which the light of insight shines.

And believe me I've spent a good deal of the last two weeks berating myself for these cracks. Telling myself how weak I have become now that I have started down the path of recovery.

But after an email conversation with a friend this morning I realised that I'm not too weak to fall back into my eating disorder...

I'm too strong.

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Monday, 3 October 2011

update on the plan


After getting so upset at the gp's the other day I thought my 'when the sh*t hits the fan' plan would just take over. But it's not that easy. Something deep inside just couldn't let go of my bad feelings and thoughts. I went very quickly from 'that was a bad incident' to 'I'm a bad person' and it was seriously days before I could climb back on top of it.

Yes everything on my plan is great for averting an impending panic attack - especially one with no apparent reason. But is close to useless for helping me through the self-destructive feelings I go through after a confrontation. My plan helps with the anxiety feeling, but not with my out-of-control train-of-bad-thoughts.

So how to stop the train-of-bad-thoughts?

I don't really know is the honest truth.
Part of my ED voice wants me to feel bad because it helps trigger my ED behaviours. If I'm upset and feel bad about myself I don't eat as much. But this is not how I want to live.

I do not want to get to the end of my life and think "well at least I was miserable all the time because that kept me thin".

I think for now, if I really don't have the inner strength yet that I'm going to need in the long run, then I'm going to need to lean on my supports when I the train derails:
1. I need to talk to my hubby, and anyone and everyone on my Recovery Team list that I think can help me.
2. I really like my newly engraved bangle. I really think having this with me when I am out in the world on my own will be helpful. At a glance I see all the encouraging words really important people have said to me - and these words mean so much.
3. Eat. Nothing fuels my bad thoughts like starvation.
4. Play with my children. Their love and acceptance reminds me that I must never just give up.
5. Write. Being able to see just how fast my train-of-bad-thoughts is careening out of control is helpful. I can detach myself from these thoughts and look at them more objectively. Quite often I don't like what I see and it's enough to remind me of how I would rather be thinking and acting.

How do you stop your train-of-bad-thoughts when it's out of control??

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Sunday, 2 October 2011

portable recovery support

A while ago I read a post by Lori Lieberman at Drop it and Eat all about the Big Apple Circus. Now only Lori could go to the circus and find metaphors that relate to eating disorder recovery ;-) But this post has stuck with me for so many wonderful reasons - one of which was the story of the clown who tries to capture the audience's applause in his little box - and how wonderful it would be if this was actually possible - to keep applause with you at all times, even when your supporters are not on hand.

This got me thinking how I could take my support with me everywhere even when my recovery team are not on hand. I came up with a list of special words from very special people. These are words that have either been said about me or said to me and I've had these words engraved in my bangle.

and that one right there in the middle - hope - that one was from Lori xxx

Friday, 30 September 2011

blame, responsibility and forgiveness

I have (not unexpectedly) been giving a lot of thought to my last post on blame and why I blame myself for everything. A number of you were kind enough to reach out and let me know that I am not alone in this futile pursuit, and thinking about it in the lives of others has helped me to look at the situation more objectively. So again I thank you for sharing your own stories with me :)

This is where I'm at now:

  • Blame is of no use. It wastes time and energy and does not fix anything.
  • It is possible for no-one to be to blame in a situation.
  • Just because the other person is not to blame does not automatically make me to blame by default.
  • Taking responsibility is a much more proactive and positive way to reframe my negative thoughts.
  • I can be responsible for solving a problem without being to blame for causing it.
  • If an altercation occurs which I am not to blame for, I still have the power of forgiveness.
  • Forgiveness does not mean having to apologise or feel small.
  • Forgiveness simply means letting go of blame.

Oh and you'll like this one...

I can still be responsible for my recovery
without being to blame for my illness.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011



I spent my last session with my therapist, J, discussing the incident in my previous post.

After some discussion, we came to the conclusion that, regardless of the incident, I blame myself for everything.


She asked me at the time what would be different if I stopped blaming myself. And I came up with:
- I would feel more equal to others. I wouldn't feel so small all the time, and
- I would feel more confident to have my own opinions.

To follow on from this J gave me some writing prompts to work on between then and our next session - and I've been thinking very hard about these. I really think this is something that could help move me forward.

How does thinking you are to blame serve you?
This has been a learned behaviour for me. A protective behaviour. I learned a long time ago that I could draw his anger and criticism away from my siblings. I was strong enough to take it, so I would. If I took the blame then he was satisfied and we could all just move on.
I also use it to avoid confrontation with friends and colleagues. I'm terrible at confrontation. And I know will lose in the end and give-in, so it's just quicker and saves my humiliation if I just apologise at the outset of an altercation.

Am I getting anything that brings positivity to me by blaming myself?
Avoiding confrontation is helpful in that I am not left in a heap, but I would like to be stronger in myself to be able to standup for myself better. So I'm going to have to go with no. It is a cop out at best, and really just delaying the inevitable.

When are the times in your life when you genuinely did not feel to blame?
I really struggled with this one. But I did manage to come up with one example: I rang Lifeline back in April. I had not eaten for quite some time and was genuinely scared for my safety, but couldn't see anyway out. It was late at night and I was alone - so I rang the helpline. The guy on the other end was clearly disappointed to get an hysterical girlie who didn't really have anything sensible wrong with her. "well how much do you weigh?" was one of his first questions... followed soon after with "well if you like food why don't you just eat?". I ended the conversation by informing him that he was not being helpful to which he replied something along the line of "whatever", but I had stopped listening.
None of this stupid lack of empathy was my fault. I don't even care if he didn't understand he could at least have been thoughtful or kind. His only role at Lifeline is to help people who feel their lives might be in danger and he did not even try to help me. He clearly thought I was wasting his time - and that was his fault not mine.
The only other time I have rung them the lady stayed on the phone with me for 45 mins until I was able to eat a mandarin. I was so relieved after this phone call and have actually been much better since and have had no other extended periods of restriction. She helped. He did not. And it was his fault not mine.

What are some ways to think about learning to let go of this blaming feeling and behavior?
Um... this one will require more thought...

any suggestions?? Do you tend to blame yourself? Or have you been able to overcome this?

Friday, 23 September 2011

one of my unpublished posts

I seem to write a lot of posts that I don't publish - and this is one of them. I wrote it on wed, through a haze of tears. It was written without much thought - it's just how I was feeling. And as such I'm not sure it's all that fair to my dear sweet gp - which is one of the reasons I have been so hesitant to publish it. But I will, as I have a feeling it is going to have some ongoing repercussions for me (hopefully not all bad, hopefully I can learn from the experience)...

My self worth and self esteem are so tenuous. And although I am getting much stronger at believing in myself and my right to have opinions and my right to just be the true authentic me, it became very clear to me today that I still revert back to my previous coping strategies around Dr C.

When I went to see her this morning I was planning to tell her all about the fantastic week I have been having – but these appointments never go to plan do they. About three words into my appointment Dr C commented on how pale my toddler was looking: “She looks pale, really pale, well don’t *you* think she looks pale? Tell me what’s been going on?* Why is she so pale? Has she been sick? Is she eating? Is she sleeping? She looks really sick!”** I later told Dr C that I felt she had berated me – which she denied. Her words included: “over-reaction”, “overly-sensitive” and “need to pull yourself together a bit”.

Massively hurtful. So cue my pointless ‘shut-down’ response .

Her opinion of me matters to me more than anyone else’s. So I do accept that I over-reacted. But does everything always have to be all my fault? Surely her inability to even entertain the idea that perhaps she had bombarded me without giving me a chance to speak, contributed? Or again, is that just my interpretation and I’m at fault again? And then to make matters worse she kept banging on about being worried about my ‘mental health’. I just couldn’t make her believe that I was doing fine until I walked through her door. That perhaps it was the way she related to me that was the sole cause of me being upset. And that it is only because of how highly I regard her that resulted in my reaction. I really just felt like a naughty child. I felt small and pathetic and ashamed. And I felt like she thought I was negligent and a bad mother.

I know that this fear that people think I’m a bad mother is a common theme when I’m upset. I know that I feel this one more than any other insult even though it is only my interpretation of what has been said and not the actual words. No one has ever said it to me – I just live in fear that someone, like Dr C, will decide I’m unfit to be a mother and take my children away from me. I have nightmares about it. I feel sick just writing it.
So needless to say my ‘when the sh*t hits the fan’ plan is getting a workout today.

*this one was the worst – this one I heard as “why haven’t you been taking proper care of her?”
**my toddler has been unwell with a nasty cold. But I did take last week off work to care for her and I did take her to the dr to get her checked. She is now on the mend.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

'when the sh*t hits the fan' plan

My homework from my therapist J this week was to work out a plan of action, you know, for when the sh*t hits the fan :) so that I will be prepared in advance and know what to do when I have another *bad* day...

So here's my plan:

I put the question of rapid destress techniques out to twitter the other day and got the great suggestion of breathe in for 5 and out for 7. Not only did this slow my breathing right down but it diverted my attention while I concentrated on counting. And this distraction was very helpful. I really did feel much better very quickly. (thank you Katie)

I have a list of single words that very special people have either said about me or said to me which have meant a lot to me:
love, loyal, trust, hope, deserve, stronger, awesome
I plan to get these words engraved in my bangle so I can carry them with me at all times and can then look at them when I need support and there's no one around to give it.

Face it
Sometimes I have a panic attack for absolutely no reason that I can think of. But sometimes, deep down, I do know the reason. My dear friend June Alexander says 'action not anxiety' and she is right. Sometimes no matter how hard it is if I can just face and deal with what is making me anxious then I can move past it. 

I love the song "I can see clearly now" - it has a great deal of meaning to me for where I am right now and for where I am trying to move forwards to. If I am stressing I like to listen to this (quite loudly) on my ipod. 

The last time I had a panic attack (only mild luckily) I explained to my husband what was going on. I have friends I can email when this is happening and that is helpful - but I had never told the person in the room what was going on. I had just smiled and tried to pretend it wasn't happening, often right up until the point that I just start screaming and throwing things. But this time I told him it is like that awful adrenalin feeling you get when you know you are about to get into terrible trouble for something you didn't do. And to make it worse, the last time this happened there was no reason for it - just hit me out of the blue.
Telling him really relieved me of so much of the pain I was in. I could feel the anxiety, but did not have to suffer it. It was shared, and that helped immensely. So 'talk about it' is definitely on my plan.

Get help
I'm usually not keen on having the kids 'taken off my hands' as this just feeds my feeling of 'everyone would be better off without me' - but I do like company when I'm feeling anxious and afraid. So letting my husband take over as primary carer for the afternoon but still including me in the fun, is what I find helpful. I don't want to be sidelined or left out, but I sometimes just want someone else to field the endless questions and whinging and arguments.

The feeling passes. I know it does. And I know that I haven't done anything wrong. I need to remind myself of this positive fact. I haven't done anything wrong. I'm not stupid and incompetent. If I have made a mistake, it's just a mistake. I can face it and deal with it, but it's not the end of the world. I am not to blame for everything. Everything is not always my fault.
This feeling will pass.

I would love to never have another *bad* day as long as I live, but I suppose that's just too much to ask for - so hopefully I am prepared to get through the inevitable when next it hits me from out of the blue.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

back in 5


I've stepped off my blog for a moment today with a guest post at Drop It And Eat where I'm passing on some more wisdom from the ANZAED conference - this time some research on what really happens when people try to lose weight fast.

So do come over and visit me - and don't forget to leave me a comment or two so I don't feel too lonely :)

Thursday, 8 September 2011

What if...


What if I just ate what was on my meal plan...

What if I exercised only for the love of it...

What if I could spend the day with my friends and not worry about the 'time wasted'...

What if I stayed truly present when I am with my children...

What if I only said nice things about myself...

What if I was happy to be me and not compare myself with others...

What if I made my own health a priority...

What if I dyed my hair pink...

What if I got a tattoo...

What if I got drunk...

What if I made a fool of myself...

What if I ate a whole packet of Tim Tams...

What if I laughed more and worried less...

What if I ordered the meal on the menu simply because it sounded good...

What if I really didn't care what the scales said...

What if I let go of my eating disorder...

...would the world end?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Evidence from Experience

Recovery is a team effort. A standard treatment team is made up of your GP, a dietician and a therapist - all of whom need to have specialist skills in dealing with the specific issues of treating eating disorders. And the role of your support people - family and friends - must not be underestimated either. A supportive partner and a selection of good friends who really understand can make all the difference.

So who have I forgotten on that list?

Who is it that is so often overlooked? Have you figured it out yet?


You have experience that no-one looking in from the outside can ever have. And this experience is vital. You hold the key to unlocking your own eating disorder. And to helping others, including your own treatment team, to better understand the complexities of this disease.

Never underestimate your own value in this journey.

June Alexander spoke so eloquently on this topic at the recent ANZAED conference and I encourage you all to visit her post about it and read what she had to say...

Saturday, 3 September 2011

foods to optimise recovery

At the recent ANZAED conference a gp from Queensland named Leanne Barron gave a very interesting presentation on how she uses a basic explanation of the serotonin synthesis pathway to help eating disorder patients 'justify' making basic food choices. She has found that this kind of advice can motivate patients to incorporate essential nutrients into their meal plans.

Interestingly my own dietician (who was also at the conference) did not particularly like this idea.

She felt that it was placing a skewed emphasis on the role of food: that we should 'only' eat it for specific nutrients. And not because we like it or want it.

I can see her point. But then I can also see mine! I majored in biochemistry. This is right up my alley. And at this point in my recovery I find making food choices very difficult and if this understanding can motivate me, because I can intellectually see how it will make me feel better, then great! The rest can come later.

So here's the info - and you can take it or leave it, depending on your way of thinking.

At each stage of the synthesis pathway she identified particular foods which are high in that chemical:
Tryptophan: turkey, peas, warm milk

Nutrients that facilitate the conversion of tryptophan to 5HT: iron (red meat, eggs), calcium (dairy, salmon with bones), folic acid (leafy green vegetables)

* the transport of tryptophan across the blood brain barrier also requires carbohydrate*

Nutrients that facilitate conversion of 5HT to serotonin: zinc (oysters, pumpkin seeds, nuts), B6 (peanuts, chicken, tuna), Vit C (fruit, tomatoes, capsicum), magnesium (cashews, cocoa)

Nutrients that facilitate conversion of serotonin to melatonin (essential for sleep): B12 (meat, fish, eggs), B6, folic acid, B5 (avocado, sweet potato, mushrooms)

You'll notice there is also a double arrow from serotonin to B3 - this is because this pathway is the preferred pathway. Serotonin would prefer to convert to B3 not melatonin. So in order to allow it to convert to melatonin you need to not be deficient in B3 (almonds, chicken, eggs, salmon, sunflower seeds).

Barron also recommended a book called "Nutrient Bible" by Osiecki, which provides a much larger variety of food choices for all nutrient groups.

Now if you've made it this far you must be very keen (or a big geek like me!). So hopefully you have found this information useful - I did. It works with the 'food is medicine' principle that I like. But I do concede that this is not the only place for food in our lives, but it does help to remind me that there are nutrients in all foods.  
Food is not the enemy. It is our lifeline.

published by PJ at

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

ANZAED conference blog posts to follow

Based on the recent presentations I attended at the ANZAED conference these are the topics* that I plan to cover in some upcoming posts:

if there are any other topics you'd like me to cover from this conference please let me know and I'll see what I can do.

*note: these will be my interpretations of the information presented at these sessions. I will do my best to be as accurate and unbiased as possible in my accounts but, you know, all care no responsibility okay :)

Saturday, 27 August 2011

sound bites from the ANZAED conference

I had the most amazing experience at the ANZAED* conference! In all my years of uni lectures and scientific/medical conferences and even blogging conferences I have always been the quiet one. Never raised my hand. Never asked a question. So imagine my surprise in a conference room filled with highly experienced ED clinicians to suddenly find my voice. And it didn't just happen once either - seriously, you couldn't shut me up! And interestingly I had quite a few people coming up to me at the end of sessions saying things like "I'm so glad you asked that question, I was wondering the same thing" - honestly, don't encourage me people, heavens knows where it will lead...

But this post is supposed to be about some sound bites I gleaned from the wonderful presenters on the first day**. So here are a few little gems that really stuck in my mind - and the bigger gems I will blog about in some follow up posts:

1. The majority of people in the community with an eating disorder do not access evidence-based treatment. Far more people access treatment for weight loss. (1)

2. Compulsive exercise is predictive of relapse and poor long-term outcome. (2)

3. Specific foods can optimise the process of recovery. (3) (don't worry, I won't leave it there - I will do a post on this one!)

4. All clinicians should research their own practice...[because] patients have the right to know your success rates. (4)

5. when clinicians give feedback on a patient's progress [good and bad] it improves outcomes - just knowing and discussing progress improves outcomes.(4)

Over all I was incredibly impressed with the level of professionalism, empathy and passion shown by the clinicians whose presentations I attended.

By far the highlight was June Alexander's presentation!!!

But I also met some amazing, inspiring, generous, kind and wonderful people such as Carolin Gray and Bridget Bonnin from FEAST, Christine Morgan from the Butterfly Foundation, Claire Diffey from CEED, and the extremely affable Rod McClymot.

I can't tell you how scary it was going to the conference. It felt like my first real 'public outing'. But I'm so glad I went. And I feel stronger and braver for the experience.

*Australian and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders
** sadly I could only go for the first day (friday 26Aug)
(1.Phillipa Hay, 2. Caroline Meyer 3. Leanne Barron 4. Anthea Fursland)

Saturday, 20 August 2011

parenting through an anxiety attack


A lot of my ED habits are an attempt to keep my anxiety under control. And for me this is surprising, as I never knew I had a problem with anxiety before. Yes, my eating disorder has been that successful in keeping anxiety under control that I have only started having anxiety attacks this year, now that I am working to eliminate my ED.

So now that I know, I need to learn how to reduce the symptoms of the anxiety without resorting to my dangerous habits. Returning to ED habits will simply prolong my recovery, it will not cure the anxiety, so that's not an option.

So what is an option?

Well, being able to walk away from parenting, certainly isn't.  But so much of the information I have read on how to deal with anxiety attacks assumes that you are able to just disappear for a few hours to recover.

But 99% of the time I can't. There's still a house-full of small people who need to be fed, washed, dressed and driven around - and I have no family here to help me.

So here's what I find helpful.

1. stay away from the caffeine
I like coffee and tea, a lot. It is warm and comforting. But a really bad idea if my heart rate is already through the roof. So I switch to peppermint tea for the duration.

2. prioritise
What can I just skip it today? The swimming lessons? The supermarket? Am I ok with letting them just watch tv or play at the park for an hour instead of rushing around?
I like to work out what I have to do immediately and what can just be 'let go' this time.

3. break it down
If I'm having an anxiety attack I'm not myself.
Normally I'm a can-do-anything type person. In the middle of an attack everything is a struggle and completely overwhelming. But breaking down my evening and my tasks into 15 minute intervals is helpful for me.
eg: here's what my anxiety evening might look like in my head.
(Note, I'm going to 'let go' of reading to the kids and doing the dishes that night because nothing terrible will happen if I don't do those things.)

**Any time I have left over in each 15min block I can have to sit down and breathe. That is then my time as each task doesn't need to start until the next 15min block**
No rushing.

4. breathe
It's that simple. Slow deep, eyes shut, breathing. Slow everything down. No rushing.

5. block it out
If need be I will also put my ipod on quietly in my ears to block out a lot of the chatter that I don't need to hear right away. I can still hear them perfectly well if I need to, but I don't need to hear all the "don't push" "shut up" "give it me" "I was here first" "That's my chair" "don't!" "stop it!" "muuuuuuuuuum I wanted that first" "why can't I have one" "everyone else's mum said yes"
Alright, you get the idea. And you don't need to hear all of that on your anxiety night!

And once I've got them all to bed I go and take a nice hot shower.

And breathe.

And then go to bed...

and remember, I'm new to all this, so if you have some great suggestions of what works for you I'd love you to share! Thanks :)

Friday, 19 August 2011

words to live for

"Mum, when I grow up can I live next door to you? And then when I go to work, you can look after my baby."

Every minute of every day might be a struggle. Sometimes it's a struggle just to breathe. But who could pass up an offer like that?

Not me.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

my armour


The new therapist, J, asked me if I would like to do some writing activities to help me get my thoughts out - which I thought was probably a good starting point given my general reluctance to talk too much during sessions. So when we last met J brought along some writing prompts, one of which was to do with discussing how I use armour to protect myself in daily life - how this helps and how this restricts me.

At first I interpreted this to mean how does ED act as my armour - which I thought was interesting since I had never thought of ED as protecting me. But try as I might I couldn't make this model fit. The best I could come up with was 'tissue paper' armour that dissolved at the first sign of rain.

In actuality ED is more that frenemy we all had in high school that would talk us into doing something stupid or dangerous and promise they'd be 'right behind you'. But of course as soon as there was trouble they were not there to back you up.

But as I re-read the writing prompt it didn't actually mention ED at all. It simply says talk about 'your armour'. Which is really more the front I put on for others. Which I definitely do - all the time. K (the old therapist) once commented that I had turned 'fake it 'till you make it' into some sort of olympic sport. But I suspect I'm not the only one who does this??

So who am I protecting with all this armour? Me? My reputation? My kids? My husband? Take your pick. ED will tell me that all of these are in terrible danger if the truth were to get out. I think my biggest fears would be losing my job and my kids getting bullied for having a 'mental mum'.

But I'm starting to let go of this. Firstly I think there are worse things in life that your mum having an eating disorder. And since I'm planning on beating this thing I hope I will raise them to be proud of me. And secondly I'm not really sure I care if I lose my job. Yes I love love love my job - but if anyone thinks I'm any different once they know about my eating disorder than I was 10 secs before they knew, well I'm not sure I want to know them.

But I guess my armour does restrict me. It stops me from finding out who my true friends really are for a start. And that is something I have decided needs to go pretty high on my list of priorities. I am not going to bother socialising with anyone who doesn't support me (in any sense of that word). Life is too short for fair-weather friends.

Have you ever thought about your armour? Does it really protect you? 
Do you think you will always wear it?

Sunday, 14 August 2011

those damn scales again

I’ve been pushing my dietician to find out my weight from my gp. I know my gp won’t tell me and I thought I would have a better chance of getting this information out of M, so that’s where I’ve been focusing my efforts. But truthfully I think deep down I didn’t expect her to tell me. So although she didn’t tell me the numbers, I was still very caught off guard on thurs night when she told me the trend of my weight over the last three or four months. Basically it went up slightly originally and has then been stable for the last two months.


How do I feel about this?

How about, completely confused.

M did spend quite a long time explaining what would have caused the initial weight gain. Firstly all starved people are dehydrated, even if they are drinking. And since 1L of water weighs 1kg, fluid alone will account for quite a large percentage of that initial increase. Then there’s the GI tract. Initially, of course this would have been pretty empty, but now that I am eating again normal changes here will add to the numbers on the scale. And neither of these factors will affect how ‘big’ I am. Just the number on the scale.

Okay. So I’m a scientific thinker. This all sounds reasonable to me, doesn’t it? Well, no. It must be wrong. I have always questioned Dr C’s scales anyway – they are so imprecise. So her scales must be wrong.

But is that me thinking that, or ED?

Like I said completely confused.

It’s not that I don’t trust Dr C or M, or that I think they are lying to me. It’s just that I think they must be mistaken. My weight simply could not be stable.

So I weighed myself.

And to say that I’m more confused now would be a gross understatement. My weight is where they said it was. It hasn’t increased that much. In fact I am okay about it.

But I’m not oblivious to how dangerous that decision was. What if they had been wrong? What if my weight had gone up more than I expected? What would I have done?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m fine. In fact I’m really pretty good. But that in itself concerns me as I think I’ve let those damn scales determine my mood again. Arrgghhh, so confused…