Thursday, 21 July 2016

Day 46

“Have you lost loads of weight?” the Heartcore instructor said. “I meant to ask you last week.”

I’ll take the compliment, but I honestly have no idea (and suspect “loads of weight” is perhaps an exaggeration, given the way my clothes fit, which is pretty similar to how they fit when I got here.) I haven’t binged for 46 days now, but as I sadly know too well, just not bingeing is not enough to lose weight. I debate getting on the scale a lot of days, but I always end up deciding against it: First of all, I have nothing to compare it to (haven’t weighed myself for a few years now), and second of all, no matter what the number is, I’m 99 percent sure it would ruin my day.

I do know that despite the required pudding-eating (yes, seriously – I’m supposed to eat it once or twice a week and not cut back/exercise to compensate) I have lost a little bit of weight. I get blind-weighed every week as part of the treatment (sometimes, randomly, by male assistants I haven't even met yet), and my counselor told me last week the number has been gently going down. Of course finding that out made me immediately torn between wanting to eat a pudding (because hey, I’ve earned it) and restrict to make the weight peel off faster. Hmm, yes, I guess I do belong in treatment for an eating disorder…

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Thirty Days

Today is 30 days without a binge, and quite possibly the first time I’ve ever achieved that without some kind of strict diet.

You’d think it would be easy to follow a food plan that suggests desserts two to three times a week, among other things, but it isn’t, at least for me. I struggle daily with the urge to cut back, in ways big and small, and am secretly kind of pleased on days I can go without my morning snack because there’s not as many hours between breakfast and lunch as usual. I’m supposed to have a yogurt every night – specifically not a diet or lowfat one – and yet I still look at the calories, and shy away from ones on the higher end. Last night I had a sticky toffee pudding and tried to make myself leave over a tiny bit, but the more I tried, the more I wanted it and the more resentful I became at the thought of it. I know that’s part of why I just have to eat it – to realize that I can, and that the world will not end if I do.

Almost every day I think about getting on the scale to check and make sure I’m not gaining weight from this, but I don’t have anything to compare it to, and I’m pretty sure the number would ruin my day. And so I don’t. I tried on a bunch of clothes the other day, only a few days after I’d already tried them on. I still can’t believe there might ever be a day where I don’t think about this stuff, but I’m trying to trust that it might happen.

I stopped writing as much because (a) I think it was getting boring and (b) I’m realizing that some of this involves trying to be where I am in the moment – in other words, not floating above it all (not in a superior way, just in an observing way) thinking about the story I could tell about it. Because for once in my life, I want something more than a good story. I want to get better.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016


Someone in the program who’s been there only a week longer than I have had a lapse on Monday. I worried about her a bit on Saturday, knowing she was going to a wedding. On Sunday she didn’t turn up to the OA meeting we had talked about going to, and with no explanation, either. This morning I heard from her: They hadn’t been allowed phones at the wedding, so she didn’t get my text. She felt exhausted from the party – too exhausted to make it to the meeting – and then binged on Monday. I’ve been there so many time – getting through the worrisome event, only to fall down in the next 48 to 72 hours.

I confess I felt a little scared at the power of this problem – the sheer enormity of it. Usually I don’t binge when I’m being watched quite like this, and certainly not in the first couple of weeks. (And not when I’ve moved my life and spent an awful lot of money for treatment.) But there but for the grace of God go I, right?

I’m starting to think about extending my stay here until at least the six month mark, because that’s a point of freedom from bingeing I’ve never reached. I’ve made it to 100 days; I think maybe even four months. But then it all has fallen apart. There was a lecture at treatment today – more of which, shortly – about relapse. One of the things that struck me was that it’s not considered relapse if you do it after 90 days of abstinence – because relapse starts four to six weeks before the actual episode (in terms of thoughts, feelings and behaviors), you haven’t actually been in recovery long enough to call it relapse. It’s just that you didn’t recover.

Our homework this week is to come up with a list of quite-specific-to-us thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are signs we’re in the relapse zone. I know mine will be things like not cleaning the flat, eating while walking, isolating, staying up too late, and thinking I’m too busy to get to meetings or do recovery-type-stuff. Red flags, if you will. So far this lecture was by far the most useful and interesting, and certainly the most practical.

We also had the first (at least for me) life story, which went on for over an hour. It was a moving story – given by an alcoholic – that I don’t think is right for me to share here, even anonymously. What was terrifying (and fitting for today) about it was that she had 8 years of sobriety before her relapse. One thing she said that is a warning for me is that one of the treatment programs she did was in Arizona, and when she came back to London, she didn’t have any recovery friends.

Finally, I bought the Victoria sponge. Tesco sells them as two mini ones, so I’ve had one tonight and will have another tomorrow. Is this the best version I could have bought? No, but it was pretty good and didn’t require a lot of going into various bakeries and looking at things and wanting them all. Baby steps.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Ten Days

I’m feeling more like myself today than I have since I left New York. I went and worked in a coffee shop this morning (well, technically the lounge at Equinox) and it helped a lot to be out and about instead of stuck in this tiny flat. I had convinced myself I’m not good at working in coffee shops, but maybe that’s just a story I tell myself. (That said, I wasn’t really writing – just doing other types of work. And I certainly couldn’t do an interview there.)

Then it was on to an individual therapy session, and finally to beading, which struck me as the perfect group therapy for Brits, because everyone can focus on slipping beads onto strings (it’s jewelry-making) and not have to make eye contact with each other while revealing deeply personal things. Though there wasn’t actually much revealed. I wonder if it’s intentional to the therapy that beading is a deeply difficult activity for perfectionists, of which most people with eating disorders are? (I like to say I’m a perfectionist but bad at it, but that’s because I like to make light of my flaws.) We all struggled to make choices, struggled whether ours were “good enough,” and agreed about the need for perfect symmetry. One of the women was fussy even about beads that were all supposed to be the same – she wanted the ones that were the most exactly the same. Can’t say I really rated the person running the session, and the whole thing just felt more like a summer camp arts and crafts session, except for the smoking breaks (I might be the only person in treatment who is not a smoker.)

Did a couple more hours of work in another coffee shop, and probably should have gone to a meeting, but I had a several-thousand page deposition I was lugging around, the weather was terrible, and I just couldn’t face it, in part because it was located in such a way that it would take me 45 minutes on the bus but only about 55 to walk, and neither sounded appealing.

Today marks 10 days of neither bingeing or restricting. If I’m honest I’m resentful about the amount of time I spent thinking about and dealing with food – it seems like for all that I should get to lose weight, though I know that’s not the name of the game here. I still haven’t quite surrendered to it yet – I’m ok with 500 or 600 and in some cases 700 calorie ready meals, but I can’t go above that, and so there are a couple of things I haven’t allowed myself to eat. And today I wanted Victoria sponge (anyone got any thoughts on who in London does the best?) and stood in Tesco, holding a box with two small servings in my hand. I paused. Was I allowed to eat dessert and still have my nightly yogurt? I wasn’t sure. I know the idea is that nothing terrible would happen if I had both, but still I couldn’t do it. Nor did I feel like I could buy it and wait until tomorrow to have it, and so I put it back. It will be there tomorrow, along, I hope, with the ability to stop worrying about it all so damn much. I know, I know; it’s only Day 10. It will come.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Secrets and Lies

A quiet weekend – I was supposed to see two friends in the evenings, but both got sick. One, frankly, I was relieved about. She’s not a close friend, but she’d invited me round for “wine and nibbles,” and I wasn’t sure how I’d handle it, since she is the type that likes a boozy midweek lunch (and in fact, I’d had one with her last summer, which stretched on longer than I would have liked.)

Saturday I had the first of what will be 8 Saturday sessions in this program. The first hour was a lecture about denial, which I didn’t find particularly useful, only because I’ve certainly been admitting I’ve had a problem for several years now, and that, in general, the only time I’ve ever managed not to binge is if I restrict instead. If there has been denial, I think it’s really only been in that I thought I could handle this without resorting to stronger measures. But who knows? Maybe – probably – I’ll discover more denial as I get farther in.

The second hour involved this exercise where you have to tell other people in the group their barriers to recovery (using a list) and what their strengths are, and of course, they do it for you. A bit difficult to do in the first week, since nobody really knows anyone else. I was pleased to have gotten one of my strengths was that I was friendly and open. One of my barriers was that I am self-pitying, which, hmmm, I’m honestly not sure is the right word for what the guy was trying to say – the choice of this, he said, was based on my comment in one of the groups about being ashamed of having an eating disorder; of wishing I could just claim I was an alcoholic, because really, an eating disorder sounds so unbelievably lame sometimes. Like I’m being chased by some cartoon slice of cake or something. (For sure I abuse alcohol sometimes, but I don’t think I’m an addict. I’ve never craved alcohol the way I’ve craved cake, that’s for sure. And I can put limits on it the way I’ve never been able to with food.)

I’m a bit impatient to get more into the sharing of stories, which, given that my favorite OA meetings are always the ones where someone tells his or her life story, isn’t a surprise. I’ve caught some very occasional glimpses, and it’s hard to resist pulling out a notebook and writing things down, because the details are so telling: the woman who’d put on a face mask so her husband couldn’t kiss her when she came home and smell the alcohol on her breath; another one who takes cabs on really hot days because she can’t bear to wear summer clothes and being on the tube fully covered would be unbearable. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not writing a story here; that in some way, my constant analysis and the picking out of details is what keeps me not present, in the same way I use food to remove myself from the moment. This morning at an OA meeting (we’re required to attend at least one 12-step meeting a week) I listened to a woman share about standing at the bottom of a beautiful mountain only concerned about the size of her thighs, and I thought back to all the places I’ve been that I mostly remember through the prism of whether I was bingeing or restricting at the time. For example: Beijing (restricting), Venice film festival 2005 (binged so much the clothes I had with me didn’t fit at the end of the week and a half and I had to buy things from some Italian supermarket), Cambodia (restricting; grateful when Friend Bearing Chocolate was ill because it meant I could eat exactly as I pleased.)

I have to do some writing – actually, quite a bit of writing – before tomorrow’s session, about some of the worst episodes of this illness and the consequences of my behavior. Five episodes, at least half a page apiece. A couple of them have appeared on this blog, some quite nakedly, others more obliquely. For the most part, I struggle to pick out episodes, though, only because some I don’t remember in sufficient detail and didn’t cause sufficient harm – just the constant drip-drip-drip that eventually makes the sink overflow. I know I lied all the time to be able to eat/not eat/exercise. I refused dinner invitations (and lunch invitations and breakfast invitations) because I didn’t want to face eating at a restaurant, or because I was hoping that was the one day I’d be able to start a diet, or because it was the first week of a diet and I didn’t want to chance it. I lied to friends passing through town because I didn’t want them to see me at the weight I was at. It’s excruciating to write these things, but – so goes the theory, I think – less so than keeping them hidden.