Thursday, 26 July 2012

cry for help or attention seeking?

ouch. harsh pic from here

I had a conversation the other day with the mother of a girl recovering from anorexia. Her daughter is doing really well, but has a friend from hospital who is not doing well and keeps sending her text messages all about how there's no point and how she's never going to eat again. My friend's daughter finds this not only distressing but also very triggering and is thinking about cutting ties with  the girl in order to protect herself. She is also, not to put to fine a point on it, sick of this girl's drama.

My first advice was of course that her daughter needs to protect herself and her recovery above all else - that her responsibility is only to her own well being. But I also put in my two cents as to why the other girl is acting the way she is. My friend found this a very helpful perspective, so I thought I might share it with you here.

From how I know I have acted, and the way I have seen others acting (especially on social media) I have four theories why people suffering from an eating disorder engage in what appears from the outside to be 'attention seeking' behaviour:

1. Catharsis - sometimes the pain is just so great that if you don't shout it out you're not always sure what you'll end up doing. It's always better to shout about how much you hurt inside than turn to self harm. You don't really want anyone to respond or fix anything, you're just getting it off your chest.

2. Conversation - sometimes it's about wanting to start a conversation about something that's bothering you, but not really knowing how to do that. You might say "it's all too hard, I'm not going to eat today" but you might mean "what do you do when you feel like this?" You might just being looking for someone with a shared experience to let you know that you are not alone and give you some strategies.

3. Validation - when you are feeling really low, and don't have the emotional resilience or self esteem to find that little spark inside yourself to keep on going, sometimes you just want someone to let you know that you are worth a kind word. That you are loved and appreciated. That you are worth the effort it takes for someone to say "it'll be ok".

4. Sabotage - eating disorders love to isolate. And yes, sometimes the constant badgering is targeted at wearing you down for the specific purpose of eliciting the "go away, I've had enough" response. Then your eating disorder gets the honor of yelling "see, I told you your friends would turn on you in the end. They never really cared about you".

Nothing is ever straight forward with eating disorders, and communication is definitely very high up on that list of complicated issues. But I hope these ramblings are helpful to you. And I hope it helps you to see 'attention seeking' behavior with new understanding and tolerance.

For those of you who know me too well, you will know how much a list with only 4 points on it is bugging me. So if you have a 5th to add please leave it for me in the comments :)

Thursday, 12 July 2012

I've lost my restriction mojo

pooped puppy from here

I'm exhausted this evening. Exhausted and emotional - but also very hopeful. A real, new glimmer of hope appeared today.

I had a session with M, my dietician this afternoon. And somewhere amid my sobbing over my regrets and my guilt, we actually managed to find some meeting point. I managed to let my guard down for just long enough to question her on something.

She commented that it didn't seem like I was able to restrict at the moment.

Cue my ED response - I'm just not trying hard enough, I'm a fat pathetic loser because I'm not strong enough to do it. I'll have to try harder, I'll get it back.

Cue my courage - I asked her what it said about me if I can't restrict at the moment.

Her exact answer has been lost in my memory through the haze of competing thoughts and voices, but the gist of it was that not being able to restrict is something to be proud of not ashamed of. If shows that my will to live is stronger than my will to starve myself to death.

That it is the sign of a healthy mind.

I really liked hearing this. Really, really :-)

In a funny way I'm shocked that I was even able to ask her the question in the first place. I was so sure  what her answer would be (that I'm not strong/brave/good enough anymore) that asking felt like setting myself up to be judged. But I'm so glad I asked. Because I was wrong. ED was wrong.

So what am going to do with my new healthy mind? We've pinpointed the one time of the day when I have no routine or structure for eating - lunchtime. It is my most often skipped meal these days now that I am regularly eating dinner with my children. But lunch - I wouldn't even know where to start. Which is risky. We talked about impulse eating if I get too hungry, and also about the desire to not eat if I skip a meal - neither of which are good outcomes.

So without setting myself 'rules' I'm going to work at eating 3 meals and 3 snacks which also fulfill the recommended servings each day. And for the first time I actually want to do this. I really feel like being healthy is something I want.

Yeah, yeah ED, that's not the same thing as being fat. Shut up ED.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Commence 'Operation Helicopter Parent'

from here

I've noticed a change in the eating patterns of my eldest daughter lately. Choosing to have a glass of water instead of a hot chocolate when we go to the cafe. Bringing home her sandwiches uneaten from school. Only wanting rice for dinner. Complaining that she is putting on weight.

We've had discussions about natural body changes as you hit puberty - and the fact that all her friends will go through it too, only she's got there first. We've talked  about it being normal and the right thing for her body. We've talked about being healthy and strong as opposed to skinny and pretty; about body size not being a reflection on your self worth. And although I think the message has sunk in to a certain degree, I think genetics is against us on this one.

Tonight she told me she wants to cut all sugar and fat out of her diet and do lots of extra exercise so she can swim faster and look better in her bathers.


My mum would have been all over this - taking me out training, organizing my meals. My dad would have been telling me how hopeless I was if I didn't stick to it, if my lap times dropped off (not to mention every other aspect of my life he was able to find fault in).

But I know more than them. I am aware of where she's heading, even if she is not. I will encourage her to make healthy choices - but these choices need to be for a heck of a better reason than just looking good in her bathers - although I know how important this can feel at her age (at any age!).

So, my mission, should I choose to accept it (and you can bet the hell I do) is Operation Helicopter Parent. I will watch what she does. I will not turn a blind eye to any increase in unhealthy behaviours. She is my beautiful, funny, creative, articulate, intelligent, and very special girl - and if she stops being able to see that for even a second I am going to jump straight in a reinforce the crap out it. And I will not let her go without food.

I think the work that Laura Collins and the other devoted parents at FEAST do is amazing - but I never want to have to use their services. This family legacy of eating disorders ends with me. If I can't shake this bastard for my sake, then I will do it for my kids so they don't have to suffer the crap I've gone through.