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. 

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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?

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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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