July 4th mope-tacular

July 4, 2013 . 9:31 am


Excuse the creepiness of the head being cropped out. I think a picture was needed.

These pictures came up on my FB memories today, taken about 7 hours before my daughter’s dad left. I look at this sweet little toddler, and think “how could he walk away from this? How could he give up so much time with her?”

I understand why people end up hating their ex or blaming “the other woman.” Anger is a normal part of loss, and I can see why someone might need to sort of keep one foot in that in order to move on without feeling completely broken. This just doesn’t work for me because it’s important for me to have the story I’ve written about our breakup be as three-dimensional as possible. I want to acknowledge the mistakes I made, and I also just genuinely think that my ex is a good and loving person.

It’s easier to blame the other woman for seducing your partner…well, it isn’t for me. I think that the trope of a woman who wants to “steal” your man (or part of him) is just another sexist way to provide deflection and excuses for grown men to not take responsibility for their behavior.

Also “siren” isn’t a thing in real life.

My ex and I are fundamentally kind-natured humans who fell in love. Irreparable damage was done to our relationship early on (his part), and I stayed with him even though there was no way it would ever be okay after that (my part). Problems persisted in our marriage. I was resentful because of past hurt (it’s on me that I was unable to truly forget, but I married him anyway), and I was cranky all the time. Like many do, he looked for a sign from god that we were doomed to start the process of checking out, and he left once he’d found another human to run to.

So, if he’s not a monster, and it’s not on “the other woman” for being such a depraved seductress…what does that leave? How does that explain moving out from the little dumpling in the bunny jumper?

It’s not the father, it’s not his girlfriend, it’s obviously not the toddler.


That’s what’s left.

He left because I’M THAT BAD.

I’ve worked on myself (and succeeded quite a bit) in the last five years. I have shed myself of so many dysfunctional behaviors, and even some of the negative thoughts. Most days, I feel that I have a long way to go before I’m living my life the way I’d like to live it and how I function in the world, but I think of myself as a fundamentally decent and kind person.

But not today.

And I hate to say it, but I wasn’t really done grieving my three losses (miscarriages) until I had a baby. It didn’t fix anything or undo the past, but it did end that chapter, and it fulfilled my wish to have a child.

I fear on days like this that I’d need to find love in order to be sure that I’m not garbage (at least, in the eye of one beholder). In the last five years, my husband walked out, and then I was: in an abusive relationship, trapped into painful ambivalent/friends with benefits horsehit (or, in one case, both), or I was completely single and not even trying. What has life shown me about how loveable I am in that time?

I truly don’t think that finding love is something that I’m going to do, and I at least have the self respect to save myself the inevitable pain of dating(/being lied to/finding myself trapped in one of these 21st century non-relationships), so I’m just going to have to cope with the discomfort on July 4 and some other times that I’m struck with what a wondrous creature Boo was in 2013.



Switching categories

Post treatment, there are three paths for people with eating disorders: (1) stay fully entrenched in the addiction, (2) keep yourself just well enough to stay under the radar and in outpatient care only, or (3) be ready to take responsibility for yourself and do whatever needs to be done to get better.

You don’t have to stick with one path once you choose it–there are plenty of “exit” lanes that connect to the other paths. Otherwise, the first path would almost guarantee death due to eating disorder (the mortality rate for eating disorders is up to 20% if you include suicide, and I’ve always felt that my years of anorexia were a form of self-injury/passive suicidality even though I didn’t consciously wish to die).

As long as you’re alive, you can get from path 1 to path 2 or path 3. I believe you could stay on path 2 for the rest of your life without something positive to show the appeal of path 3 (or something traumatic to lure you back to the tiny world of path 1).

I would say I was on the “fully addicted” path from the time I got sick in early 2002 until I completed residential treatment in Philadelphia in the summer of 2003. I waffled between path 1 and path 2 over the course of the school year. I didn’t yet see how much better it was to have a normal-sized world, and I almost had culture shock going from treatment back to full time world with people who were way more well-adjusted. I also hadn’t worked directly on coping mechanisms or alternatives for the urges that led me to self-injure through starvation. DBT for eating disorders was pretty new then, but I could have used it.

I needed to stay under the radar on path 2, though, because I already had to “expose” myself to my principal in order to miss the beginning of the school year. If I didn’t tell him that I was in eating disorder treatment, it would probably be inferred that it was drug treatment, and the former carried less stigma for an untenured teacher.

The following summer, I craved the safety of treatment with others who were as raw and weird as me, but I was well enough to be sent to day treatment in the city.

It wasn’t the best experience. Nothing bad happened there–it’s just that I didn’t feel as much of a connection with the other women in treatment, the therapists were too bland/silent for a group that wasn’t cohesive enough to run the sessions, and I somehow managed to miss out on DBT yet again. (I really do think that would have helped, but I eventually ended up coming up with healthy coping mechanisms for times when I feel overwhelmed or just need to self-soothe).

After that summer, my options were to go back to path 1 so I could eventually re-live the safety of 24-hour treatment, or stay on path 2 and hope to make my own way without anything beyond plain old therapy. I chose path 2 for the sake of my career, and because the time to be taken care of by others had passed.

In 2005, I joined a treatment group with psychodynamic/interpersonal modality for people with eating disorders. That group became a huge anchor in my recovery, and I remained in it until I “graduated” (meaning that the group members, leaders and I were confident that my “in recovery” status” would stick) in 2011.

I’d say I was on path 2 until about 2010. It was somewhere in the miscarriage years (between one and two or two and three) that my ob/gyn decided to stand in as my loving father/authority figure and oversee weight restoration. Some months after he discharged me from our weekly weigh-ins and talks, I realized that I had continued to eat the way my doctor had me eat to restore my weight without really thinking about it

I was on the third path.

You can call yourself one of three things on path 3:

in recovery


in remission

It’s been 8 years, but I’ve stuck with the phrase “in recovery.” If you know me, you know that I’m a little phobic of hubris in me or others. Recovered sounds too sure, and “in remission” sounds like an exaggeration of how badly I abused my body. In recovery means “I’m doing what I should do, but I acknowledge that I’m not immune to relapse.”

My recovery was sturdy enough to withstand #2 on the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory (with extra points for it being abandonment/an affair), which is probably the largest cause of eating disorders/relapse in midlife. If that didn’t cause a relapse, I wasn’t going to relapse.

Still, I had never thought about switching my status until this week.

I’ve put on a few pounds. The weight I put on just puts me up my contract minimum weight for exercising (I don’t remember if that’s a contract I made with myself or my surrogate dad, but I blew it off once I realized that I wasn’t doing any kind of calculation of calories burnt or going into exercising with a “purge myself of my sins” mindset). It’s strange. I notice it, but I don’t necessarily care to lose weight. I think my belly looks enormous, but I don’t beat myself up for eating.

(That’s the first step for me in trying to induce a relapse/lose weight: actively berate myself for eating anything carby. If I keep it up, that turns into action to shut up the voice in my head. I won’t share any more tips on how to get the ball rolling on self-destruction).

This week, I had my “well woman” visit with my ob/gyn/dad. I both look forward to and it get nervous for it.

Well, the latter is mainly because I feel like I have to fart LITERALLY every moment a speculum is in me, but also because I never know what he’s going to perceive and say.

For example, I apparently have a cut on the back of my forearm. He asked me about it. He knows to ask about that kind of thing with my history, but I was embarrassed because it’s been years and years since I’ve taken things out on me like that.

(It’s been years. I treat myself well, and but I can always go back to dating if I feel the need to hurt myself. There is a whole sea of handsome men out there who would jump at the chance to lie to me and have lukewarm feelings for me).

It was embarrassing, but with him is one of the only times I feel like anyone cares to look that deeply and really wants to know if I’m okay.

We go over all body systems and social history every year, but this year, he basically was ready to take anorexia off of the list of questions. Even before weighing me, he said to look at me, I’m a 33 year old who takes good care of herself (did I also mention that every year he tells me how old I really am? I love my surrogate dad).

And then I got weighed.

I don’t like my stomach. I’m a little puzzled by weight gain (but I hope that maybe, just maybe, I’m gaining muscle). I think that my reaction to this is well within the normal range of reactions to weight gain.

I think it’s time to call myself recovered.

I have too much anxiety and too little self esteem or voice, but I am recovered from anorexia.

you can see it from the surface, see it

I’ve been so hermetic lately; sometimes I think I only exist inside my own head.

I guess I’m doing what we referred to in eating disorder treatment as “isolating.”

Maybe that’s why I had my first out-of-nowhere panic attack in decades. I’m also starting to “blurt” again. I do feel a little bit out of control at times; maybe I’m decompensating a little bit.

But I’m coping. I don’t think I’ll have more panic attacks–the full-on attack and it’s aftershock were a few weeks ago, and it’s been quiet since.

I caught myself blurting, and now I can be more vigilant about it until I’m back into good habits. That’s why I’m here. I’m trying to just write. Just write. Just sing. Listen to my hippy-dippy stuff to relax. Do things that are okay to do even if the product is a little cringe-y. Be in touch with friends through text at least.

What I want to talk about today is my daughter.

I don’t write about  her much. I fear giving away identifying details, and maybe I’m even a little bit afraid of being judged (although parenting is one of things that I feel I’m doing pretty well…not great, still worse than others, but pretty good).

It also  feels a little weird to write about my light when everything else is this dump is so negative. However, today I am going to mix the sacred into the profane. I have a pretty “ordinary” problem with her that is troubling me, and I want to write regularly.

So, here we go.


My daughter is easygoing most of the time, but she can be pretty willful.  A few examples:

  • She has some sensory issues that make it very difficult to get medicine in her. It’s a very time-consuming and draining process that needs to be cajoled rather than forced (because the latter approach would just make her vomit).
  • She refuses to wear socks, and she also kind of freaks out if the lining in her shoes isn’t completely smooth. I used to send her in socks, which she’d remove on the bus and shove into her shoes under her feet (how THAT is less annoying than wearing socks, I don’t know). So, I just bought warm boots and legwarmers to get through winters. If we go to a bounce place, I bring the one pair of socks that she can tolerate: knee-high, bright pink chenille Sailor Moon socks.
  • She loses her shit every. time. I. brush. her hair. “OW! OW! Let me go! You  have to let me go!”
  • She tries to convince people that saying “please” is actually painful for her. We went through this with “I’m sorry,” so I’ll keep plugging away at this one. (I’ve shaped her behavior from using the sign language for please with me to actually saying it, but she’s still being a stinker about it at her after-care program).

I orbit her and adjust to steer around potential power struggles (usually by picking my battles and providing her with two options when I can). Sometimes–especially at school–she just has to fall in line.

I admit that I am anywhere from reluctant to uncomfortable exerting my authority because of my upbringing (by extremely authoritarian, controlling, invasive, and abusive parents). I’m also concerned that I’ll compensate and end up too far on the other end of the spectrum with a kid who is unable to cooperate and fall in line. I try to just manipulate and read situations that’ll avoid either of us digging in our heels.

Sometimes I can’t avoid it, though. Usually, it’s things that have to do with basic care that overlap with her minor but legit sensory issues.

The other day, there was a situation like this. She needed to do something that related to hygiene, and she ignored me and dragged her feet on getting to it. Obviously, I ended up very angry with her for being disobedient. It got done, but she was distraught. As she continued to cry, she said “no one likes me.” When I started listing her friends and asking if they like her, she said either “no” or shrugged “I don’t know.” Then she told me that she doesn’t like herself.

She also told me that at aftercare, she always has to wait to get snack last. She said if she’s not last in the line, the teacher ignores her until she’s given snack to the other kids. She does not want me to talk to the teacher because she thinks it’ll make things worse.

[Since then, I have settled in my mind that it’s she refused to say “please” earlier in the year, I’m not 100% sure that that’s the reason, but I’m not intervening by talking to the teacher (who is her least favorite person in the world right now) until she actually says either “Can I have snack please?” or “May I have a snack?”]

I have distinct memories of me feeling/telling my mother that I thought people (sometimes kids, often teachers) disliked me. Looking back now–especially having had middle school kids share similar feelings with me–I see that I wasn’t particularly disliked, and I was very much liked by my teachers. Teachers really don’t have it in for students, but it can definitely feel that way when you’re a kid–it can be a normal part of that psychosocial developmental period. I just couldn’t do anything right with my mother–she said I made her life a living hell–and I was just so desperate to be liked and approved of by adults (especially mother-figures). I’d feel that they didn’t like me in hopes of finding support or evidence to the contrary.

It wasn’t particularly logical to share this with my mom, and eventually I learned to keep to myself as much as possible to minimize reasons for her to criticize me. But, in middle school, I still had false hopes of sharing my vulnerabilities, so I’d say it out loud. I would get one of two responses: (1) I had to have done something wrong to deserve the hatred, or (2) it was a wonder that I had any friends at all.

My daughter is very private when it comes to sharing things that she consider “sad” or “bad” (nightmares, sad thoughts, any kind of correction or redirecting at school). So, in addition to “not wanting to respond like my mother did,” I’m nervous about finding the path that won’t discourage her from sharing the next time she has these “sad” thoughts.

I wanted to reassure her, but not invalidate. I wanted to comfort her, but still not let her weasel out of taking responsibility when she doesn’t do the right thing.

As we talked, I tried to separate out the issues:

  • she’s going to get called out and get in trouble when she disobeys me, and there are some things that I (or her dad, or a teacher) are going to tell her to do that she simply HAS to obey
  • I asked if there were any days ever that she wasn’t last for snack. She said no. I asked again if she wants me to talk to the teacher. When she said no, I said that I had an idea: ask for snack with a “please.” (Earlier in the year, that teacher told me that she refused to say “please” when getting served snack). She said that no one else had to do that, and I said that it’s probably become a big deal because she refused to do it earlier in the year, so it’s worth a try
  • I have felt the way she does, that no one likes me, before, and it’s an extremely painful feeling
  • Objectively, though, that’s not the reality. She is not seeing what other people see.

I shared all of this with her dad, and we’ve been going back and forth swapping ideas and information to brainstorm. He thinks that it may be some black-and-white thinking, and her being hard on herself when she messes up. (It could be that, but it’s coming across like she refuses to accept when she does the wrong thing). He also said that some of her wording sounds like her stepbrother, so maybe she’s taking it for a test run.

We’re just kind of keeping an eye on it and trying not to just put it aside and consider the episode “over.” I don’t want to overreact, but it was kind of shocking to hear her say (and I know that she really believes it, at least some of the time) that nobody likes her.

I revisited a week or so later, in a quiet moment. I asked her “who likes you?” She said “my family.” I said “that’s right. But also your friends” (and named them). She didn’t indicate any kind of assent, but she did add one person to the list.

Then I asked her “do YOU like you?” She was quiet. She said “sometimes.” I told her that me and daddy love her every moment–no matter what she was doing or how she was feeling–and that there was nothing that could ever change that.

To be continued, probably.