Tag Archives: eating disorder

five years…

I celebrated my five year anniversary in recovery last week. Five years home from The Center for Change. I left that day thinking I could never maintain recovery and now five years later, I wouldn’t say I’m recovered but I would say I’m definantly in solid recovery. CFC has a tradition of having clients write a letter of hope when they leave to read to the current clients. I thought I would share a new letter of hope for anyone that needs it now five years later. 

 

I am writing this letter now after five years in recovery. It doesn’t make me an expert by any means on what it means to be in recovery nor does it mean I can offer advice that you absolutely must follow to get well but I can tell you what has worked for me. As I learned five years ago listening to other women talk about their lives I learned that as much as we like to believe we are unique individuals there are certain things that we all have in common. And I hope what I share hits on those commonalities.

Hope. You must live and breathe hope. If you become hopeless you have given up and you will relapse. You must believe that you can recover. You must believe that you will beat the odds and be one of the ones who lives in full recovery. When you are lying in bed awake in the middle of the night and the hopeless feelings creep in, get out of bed and pull out whatever it is that makes you feel hopeful. Maybe it’s a picture album, maybe it’s a book of quotes, perhaps it’s your goodbye book, maybe it’s the Bible or maybe it’s watching your children sleep or holding your dog. Whatever it is allow it to remind you that there is hope in this world – your job is to hold onto it.

Know that recovery is a choice. You did not choose to get sick but you absolutely 100% can choose to get better. What this looks like may look different depending on where you are in recovery. Choosing wellness in the beginning of recovery simply means showing up to meals and eating what is placed in front of you. In five years the choices may be choosing to continue to eat intuitively when you’ve gained 10 pounds on a medication or making the decision that it’s time to tell the secrets you’ve kept hidden for almost ten years. The bottom line is, is that you must choose recovery each and every day.

Sometimes it is tempting to sub out the eating disorder for another self destructive behavior. You must learn that all things that harm you must go. The suicide attempts must go and so must the cutting. Holding onto remnants of self-destructive behaviors does not mean you are in recovery even if your eating is perfect. You cannot be in recovery until you give up everything that you do to harm yourself. Recovery requires  that you to take care of your body.

I firmly believe that recovery does not require you to love your body. It requires you to care for it and to tolerate it but you do not have to LOVE all parts of it. If you are waiting to recover until you love your body or even like it you may wait forever. They say body image is the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place and for me I’m not sure I’ll ever even like what I look like. But I can take care of myself anyways. I can even dress as I want and take time to style my hair. Accepting your body must be the goal. It’s a bonus if you end up liking it or even loving it.

Recovery is a long and winding road. No two people’s journey’s are the same. If you are still struggling don’t despair. There is hope. There is always hope. And if you are in the tedious stages of beginning recovery. It gets better. It gets easier. And if you are like me – feeling lost in sort of a middle ground, stick it out. I have to believe that I’ll feel like I have more solid footing eventually. But overall, I must remember and so must everyone reading this that recovery is worth it. It’s always worth it.

 

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Filed under body image, coping skills, eating disorder, eating disorders, Hope, Identity, life events, New Life, Recovery, survivor

20%

20% of people with eating disorders will die.

One woman and one girl has died from their eating disorders this past week who I met at my second treatment center. These make the fourth and fifth people I have known to have died from this disease.

I have been out of my first treatment center for five years. I have been out of my second treatment center for four years. I am scared as to what the next twenty years will bring for the women I grew to love.

When are they going to stop dieing?

I will remember you Nicki, Keir, Amber, Mattie and Aimee. I will fight for you.

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“it’s nice to be tempted” – Rich Mullins

I was messing around on Youtube today and ended up watching videos of Rich Mullins. Rich Mullins was a christian singer in the 90s who is famous for writing the song “Awesome God” and writing many other poetic songs. As a child and young teenager I often listened to his music to calm myself and find comfort. Anyways, I was watching videos of him today which I enjoy doing because he often ends up saying some pretty profound things before he sings and this one really hit home for me.

Sometimes even if you aren’t going to sin, it’s nice to be tempted.

This simple sentence describes why I torture myself by still immersing myself in the eating disorder world. I still check tumblrs of girls active in their eating disorder, read eating disorder books and just generally keep all of my ties to that world. It had previously made no sense why I had done so. I want to be done with my eating disorder. I am in recovery. I’m moving forward. I have better things to do that sit and wallow in that former life. But yet, even if I’m not going to relapse it is nice to be tempted too.

And why is that? Well, a part of me still finds that world familiar and comforting. I go there when I am afraid or think I need structure in life. If I still feel tempted to engage in symptoms it reassures me that I haven’t lost the power to return completely to the disorder. I may choose not to engage but it is somewhat reassuring that the urges are still there. That I’m not recovered because that terrifies me.

But is it right that I like to do that? Is it healthy? No. And it is something I need to work to give up to get to that place where I am fully and firmly planted in recovery. But Rich Mulllin’s simple sentence made sense to me and it was nice to put some words to those feelings I have when I visit those dark corners of the internet or fiction shelves. It’s very human and very normal to struggle to give up those last remnants of addictions or disorders and this was also a nice reminder to me. So I have identified another area of recovery in which to work. I have put some words to my feelings now which for me is always a start. The next step is working through them.

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stopping a relapse with support

I’ve been absent (again) on my blog. For awhile it was touch and go with things related to my eating disorder. I’m back on a more level playing field but I wouldn’t call it stable ground yet. I began to struggle a few weeks ago. For numerous reasons that would take a lot of time to go into here and honestly I’m not quite ready to share. Anyways, after a lot of days of little nutrition, negotiations with parents and treatment team I’m at a place where I’m eating again with supervision and my safe foods. We are doing a step by step approach to add on scarier foods each week but this week was safe foods. 

I’m eating because I’m supervised but I do have a choice. I could sit in front of my parents and say “nope. not going to eat that” but I haven’t. I guess it’s because I didn’t go totally downhill. I didn’t loose enough weight for my mind to become crazy and everything rational to be gone. I could still think and what I thought about was Gus. If I had had to return to treatment (which at several points was looking likely as the amount of food I was consuming was not acceptable at all) Gus would not have been allowed to go with me. At this point in our relationship and his training it would be hugely detrimental. We would loose all of our progress and he could potentially not become a service dog. I know this because I’ve done it before.  

In August of 2010, I had adopted a young pup from the shelter. I named her Shona which is the name of the native language my friend from Zimbabwe speaks. I was just back from Laureate’s eating disorder program and was in a fast relapse after being home a month. I loved Shona deeply from the first time I saw her but a month after adopting her I was off to Utah to The Center for Change for another 5 1/2 months of treatment. While I was gone Shona had a great life, living with my parents but it wasn’t the same. They purposely didn’t try to bond with her so she would know she was my dog when I returned and she did but important time was lost. Shona was never meant to be a service dog at that time but those early months of her first year where she would have learned basic obedience and manners were lost and we never quite regained that ground. Shona never quite developed the level of obedience I wished until she was much older. And I believe this was due to my leaving her at a young age. 

If I left Gus now at 8 1/2 months of age when he is so impressionable and our bonding is so important not to mention his service dog training and obedience training I truly believe we could never make it up. We would never become a service dog team. The idea terrifies me. I love this dog more than most things in my world right now and to be without him seems unbearable. So I was close to going back to some sort of treatment be it full inpatient or a partial program with boarding but I managed to create structure with my parents and treatment team where we created our own sort of partial program where I am basically receiving the same support I would had I gone to a partial program. I have meal support and we have defiantly upped the therapy time and amount of time I’m spending with my dietician. 

Without meal support would I be eating? I wish I could say yes, but I can’t. Not right now. My eating disorder is really strong and the grip it has on me seems to be unbreakable. But I’m learning that this can’t matter. I do what I need to do anyways just with help right now. I don’t give myself a chance to skip meals or restrict my intake because I have a support team around me. 

So am I in a relapse? The answer would be yes – if left to my own devices as I was a few weeks ago. Now I’ve been pulled out by other people. I’m letting them do the work right now while I comply and follow directions. I’m letting myself go on autopilot for awhile. I don’t have the motivation for complete recovery. I do have the motivation to allow others to help me. And this is the first time I’ve gotten to this place and allowed others to break into the dark, isolated world that my eating disorder has created. Progress. 

And so I’m going along. Still living and existing. Starting school. Beginning a pet sitting business. Working with Gus both on obedience and service dog skills. Teaching him to swim. It’s nice to keep these things going and not have to loose them all while I go sit somewhere and relearn how to eat in an artificial environment. I am hugely grateful that my family has made it possible for me to remain in my world and still receive the help that I need. Hugely grateful. And so thank you family. Thank you for allowing me to stay home and remain with my Gus. 

 

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Filed under dog training, dogs, eating disorder, eating disorders, family, Gus, Hope, Independence, psychiatric service dog, Recovery, service dog, Shona

it’s time to be honest

I’ve been struggling with my eating disorder. I’m ashamed to say that but it’s time to be honest. Not to be taken care of, not to be attention seeking but because lying and hiding does me no good. Also, it’s past time to get on track and in my case transparency has been the best motivator for that.

I’ve been in recovery from my eating disorder for almost three full years. I’ve been extremely proud of that. Extremely. In fact, out of everything I’ve done in my life I can say that this was the one thing I have been proudest of because it is the thing I have had to work the hardest for. And now? Well I can see it slowly slipping through my fingers. It’s a scary feeling for me and I know it’s a scary feeling for those around me.

What happened? I don’t exactly know. I suppose it’s been a combination of factors. Med adjustments, depression which caused loss of appetite, stressors, a lingering dissatisfaction with my body which never really went away, change and the biggest one of all – a significant trauma anniversary (which at one point I plan to write about). All of that collided and I let down my guard and the disorder slipped in.

I owe some apologies. At this point in my recovery I can’t slide back into my disorder without some awareness of my actions. There was some familiarity in the behaviors and feelings. They brought relief I was seeking but even that is no excuse. I owe apologies to my friends who fight everyday for stepping away from the battle and for leaving you to fight alone. It invalidates your struggle and for that I am sorry. And it goes without saying that I owe many apologies to those who love me.

So where do  I go from here? Well, I try. I try to get back on track. I pray that I haven’t gone too far down the rabbit hole and that I can still yet pull myself out. I try with every fiber of my being even with my brain screams that this is wrong. I fight the biology of the disorder with everything I have and everything I have learned. And believe that I can regain the reground I have lost and come the end of February I can celebrate my third year in recovery.

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Filed under body image, coping skills, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, friends, life events, Recovery, survivor, trauma

holidays and mental illness

We are headed into the holidays and many people may not realize how tough of time this can be for those who suffer from mental illnesses. Not just eating disorders but all mental illnesses. Holidays bring wonderful things  – family, friends, traditions, fun and a multitude of other things but they also bring stress. I think that even a person without a diagnosed mental illness would agree with this.

In this case of eating disorders I suppose it goes without saying that Thanksgiving wouldn’t be that person’s favorite holiday. I am thankfully at a place in my life where I can enjoy the day spent with family and even enjoy the food but I spent several years anxious and unsure during the meal. In fact two years in a row I spent Thanksgiving inside a treatment center. However, Thanksgiving can also be difficult for someone suffering from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD or other psychiatric illness. Large groups of people  can cause anxiety for some, seeing relatives that you haven’t seen for some time and a fear of being judged can be very fear provoking and just an upset in routine can be destabilizing.

In the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas I have been known to crash and crash hard landing in the hospital or treatment (I spent three consecutive Christmas’s in treatment – that sucked). This year I feel more stable and ready to enjoy the holidays than ever but I remember those days and look around me at others with a lot of compassion. Also, although I feel stable and 90% sure I won’t need the assistance of the hospital I also know that it could be hard to manage some of the stress that comes up. I love Christmas so very much that sometimes the anticipation simply becomes too much to bear. Odd right? But this adds to my anxiety level and I can become destabilized because of this. As the holidays approach look around you at those who could be suffering. Understand that it is not that they don’t enjoy being with you or dislike the concept of the holidays – it is simply the change in routine and the anxieties that Thanksgiving and Christmas can bring that can cause symptoms. I love the holidays but as much as I do I struggle with them and I think I can speak for many when I say that I wish I didn’t. I wish I could simply sit back and enjoy them. However, I have to fight through a lot of things in order to do this. At this point in my life I’m capable of doing it. But at one point I wasn’t. So have some compassion. Show some understanding  and simply be there for others this holiday season.

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Filed under coping skills, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, family, friends, life events, PTSD, Recovery

when your weight does the opposite of what they say it will

It’s been a little hard lately. I discovered that I’d gained quite a bit of weight. I say discovered although I knew this was happening but I’d deliberately avoided stepping on the scale and bringing it up in therapy to have it confirmed. At first I thought it was my very warped view of myself but then my pants started to not fit and picture after picture seemed to be more unpleasant looking than it used to and well I knew it was bad. I languished in my misery but also the knowledge that knowing my weight wouldn’t help nor would restricting or using other behaviors until I couldn’t take it anymore and asked my therapist to weigh me. She confirmed my weight (which ironically was to the pound the number I anticipated and one I was NOT happy about) but knowing your weight and then knowing it are two very different things.

Where the hell had this weight come from? I was pissed, panicked, terrified, furious, ashamed, embarrassed and a thousand other emotions all at once. I had been doing what I had been SUPPOSED to do. I was following the rules. I was eating when I was hungry, stopping when I was full, eating what I wanted when I wanted in moderate quanities. No restricting. No overeating. Simple intuitive eating. And I still gained weight. WTF was going? This was not what they had told me was going to happen. When I left treatment the team had led me to believe that as long as I did all those things my weight would still in this nice little weight range. And I had learned to accept that weight range. Even like my body there. And now? Well, I had gained xxxxxx pounds. How could I ever trust any of my treatment professionals again? Again, why the hell had this happened?

Well as my therapist and I discussed (okay that’s probably too nice of a word) a lot of it probably came from a medication I have been on for quite awhile and the increases to my weight were probably related directly to increases in that medication (it increased my body’s tendency to retain water and also my hunger cues). Also, some of that weight gain was probably normal. I’m 25. I first developed an eating disorder most likely in my early teens, gained a ‘healthy’ weight for the first time at 21′, promptly lost that weight at 22, and then regained it at 23. So my body really did need some time to figure out where it’s new normal was.

But that didn’t really reassure me (besides tell me that I was getting off my medication pronto – I didn’t care what anyone thought) in fact it just made me madder. Why hadn’t anyone told me these things? Why hadn’t someone thought to mention to me that this five pound weight range might not stay there? Why hadn’t they told me I could gain? Why hadn’t they told me my pants size might not be a perfect size ____? No one had that I could remember. All I was told was that eat intuitively and your weight will take care of yourself. Well, yeah it had and it had f’ed me over. And in the process in my mind so had the treatment professionals.

So where to go from there? Well the place not to go is straight back into behaviors. That doesn’t really help with metabolism and loosing weight. Not really. In the short run – maybe but in the long term it really just teaches my body to hold onto fat and food while it can. It’s hard to believe that and yeah I struggled a bit with restricting my food intake at first but I’m back on track now. I’m off of the weight gain medication. I just couldn’t continue taking it. Maybe not the best or most rational choice but for me right now I just couldn’t do it. And I’ve seen the effects. My thinking is “looser” as my therapist likes to say, I’m having trouble sleeping and my anxiety is higher but I’m not retaining the water and I feel better physically. That’s nice. I’ve added more exercise into my routine. Both to make myself feel better and I suppose somewhat disorderedly as well. Not the amount – but the rigidity is probably a little too much. My hunger cues are a little different I think. I don’t know. I struggle with that right now because I’m struggling to “do the right thing”.

But mostly, I’m struggling with my anger towards my team. How I feel like they’ve betrayed me by “letting” me get fat, by not telling me that my weight will change and by making me believe that if I only followed intuitive eating I would stay at the same weight. Maybe they messed up, maybe I didn’t hear. I don’t know but whatever happened I didn’t understand the  fact that weight is not static and I thought for some bizarre reason that my not using behaviors I would be “rewarded” by having my weight stay the same. But recovery is not so linear and weight is not predictable. My challenge now is working through this period of time without resorting to behaviors and managing my anger at my treatment team. I’m doing okay but it’s a struggle but I’ll get there. How can I not? I have this girl taking care of me.

PS I still advocate intuitive eating, listening to your treatment team and following their advice. This is just a “bump”. A natural bump that in my phase of recovery it’s natural that I could experience. 

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Filed under body image, coping skills, eating disorder, eating disorders, Identity, Recovery, survivor

25

I’m turning 25 next Monday (the 28th). I’ve always loved my birthday. I love gifts. I love ripping open presents and finding out what’s inside. I don’t really care if it’s something from the dollar bin at target or something expensive from my Amazon wishlist I just love the feeling of tearing back the paper and seeing something I know I’ll cherish. I’m a stuff girl. I like my things and you can say that my apartment (soon to be house!) is more than a little cluttered. I keep what people give me.

Having said that –  this birthday is not one I’m particularly looking forward to. Twenty-five sounds old to me. A quarter of a decade. An age where it is assumed most people are through college, moving through graduate school, married, looking towards children, working on a career or doing a dozen other “adult’ like things. And me? I’m just not there yet.

Perhaps more unsettling is that I just can’t seem to add up the number of birthdays to 25. There was 16 spent on the field at Thursday band practice where the entire band sang to me, there was 17 at the Neeowallh marching band competition where my cousin tried hard to make it special but let’s be honest that whole school year just totally sucked, 18 was pretty lame also lost among band things but I did buy a lottery ticket, 19 was spent at college with the JACKASS, 20 was spent at college as well on a pretty sad day (but I wore a nice outfit I remember) and oh yeah 21 and 22. Those were the treatment birthdays.

Those are the two years I get hung up on. Where I loose the two years. Honestly, it seems to me like I should be turning 23 instead of 25. It’s not that those two birthday’s weren’t special. They were oh so special. My friends and family ensure that they were. My 21st birthday at Laureate was so unlike any other 21st birthday but was what I needed then. I spent it in a safe environment making flubber with other treatment friends, visiting with family who made a special trip to see me and even included a beautiful “cake” (see picture below – the nurse about had a heart-attack). I was very ill but I was happy. Happier than I had been for the past several birthdays. I had nutrition in my body, I felt safe and I had a future to look forward to. But the fact of the matter was – I was locked away from the world. Literally.

And then 22. That was at The Center for Change. Again, this birthday was special and unique. A memory I’ll probably cherish forever. I started the day on caution (basically isolation) but the girls made signs and hung them everywhere, sang “My Favorite Things” to me and passed me secret message throughout the day. My family left phone messages and I got off isolation late in the day and opened tons of well thought out perfect presents.

So the birthdays? They were great but nothing can erase the fact of the matter that I wasn’t living. I was existing and somedays fighting with the very people who were trying to keep me alive. And more days than not of those two years I either wanted to be dead or were making choices that were getting me one step closer to death. So you see I feel like I lost two years. I had two great birthdays but I really didn’t get to live into 21 and 22. And so when people ask me my age I often forget and do have to pause and think “oh yeah…I’m 24 almost 25”.

I could say that I’ll pretend that this is my 23rd birthday and forget that I’m turning 25 but I don’t think I’ll do that. I think it dishonors my past but more importantly I think it forces me to minimize the deadly consequences of my eating disorder. I’ve been too close to stepping back over that ledge into anorexia lately and I need to remember that the reality is that an eating disorder takes away life. Years of life because it wasn’t only those two years I lost. I really lost all the way from 16 on up. I just was coexisting with an eating disorder and the world instead of being hospitalized.

So I’ll blow out my candles and remember that I’m 25. I’m 25 not 23 because I lost some years to an eating disorder. But I’m also 25 because I survived. Because I found my way OUT of an eating disorder. Otherwise I wouldn’t be celebrating this birthday at all. I wouldn’t be celebrating any birthday. So there is a two edged sword to this birthday – both a celebration of life and a stark reminder of time lost. And I need both.

 

See…told you I’ve always loved my birthday

 

Sometime around one of my high-school birthdays - looking hot in the marching band uniform (Chris you can thank me later)

Sometime around one of my high-school birthdays – looking hot in the marching band uniform (Chris you can thank me later)

Blowing Candles

My sad (but nice outfit) college birthday

This was my 21st birthday "cake" at treatment. It's covered in notecards from  family with sweet messages, quotes and stickers. I still have the cards. One of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.

This was my 21st birthday “cake” at treatment. It’s covered in notecards from family with sweet messages, quotes and stickers. I still have the cards. One of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.

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Filed under body image, eating disorder, eating disorders, family, friends, Hope, Identity, life events, Life Story, New Life, Recovery, survivor, the past

my experience with mental health coverage

If you’re living in the United States you had to have been living under a rock not to have heard at least a little of the health care debate over these past few weeks and the ensuing shut down of the government. I’ve stayed out of the facebook comments, the name-calling, the blaming etc. I really dislike those posts. I hate the hate that they breed. I don’t understand it. But what I do understand is how insurance has effected my life. And this is what I want to share with you.

Currently I am on my parent’s insurance, which I will remain on until 26 years of age. This extended age period is due to Obama-Care and is one of the few points both political parties agree on. Without this extended age I would be off my parents insurance which would be terrifying and leave me with little to no coverage (at least before the Insurance marketplace opened up this month). Even with my parents insurance I have experienced first hand the problems with our health system.

Mental health is misunderstood. I think that is clear to anyone who has been in the mental health system.  In 2008, The Health Parity and  Addiction Equality Act added onto the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996. The 2008 act:

 mandates that insurers define and make available specific criteria for medical necessity when it comes to mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits. In addition, MHPAEA also requires that insurers provide specific information and reasons in the event that reimbursement or payment for treatment is denied.

Okay, so this gave some required coverage to mental health. For me it came none too soon. I was hospitalized in September 2009. Less than a year from when this act was passed. Without it I never would have been able to have received treatment including outpatient therapy visits. However, even with this coverage what I needed was still not given to me. The insurance is still in control and even when my doctors advocated for me till they were blue in the face my insurance always cut out before I was ready or stable. Yes, they provided their specific reasons they denied but quite honestly they were bullshit. How can an insurance company claim to know more than my doctors? How can they who have never met me rule that I was in no danger of suicide, self-harm or relapse? How can an insurance claim to know my ideal weight or know what vitals are stable for me? And how can they know what exactly how my PTSD effects on a daily basis? They can’t. Yet every time I have been in some sort of treatment the insurance company does claim to know these things. And according to the law that’s quite alright as long as they provide proper documentation of why they are denying me further coverage.

In addition, my insurance doesn’t over me complete benefits. I have inpatient benefits meaning I can be hospitalized till I am medically stable but have no residential benefits. Residential is a level of care that provides a transition from inpatient to daily life. It is imperative in eating disorder treatment. It allows time for more therapy instead of just nutrition and weight gain. Residential allows the real “meat of therapy” to begin which can’t until nutrition is stabilized. By just leaving me hospitalized until I have gained some arbitrary number of pounds does nothing to aid in my recovery.

I am so blessed that my parents were able to pay out of pocket for residential treatment at CFC. But it came at a high cost to my family. Without this extra time I would not be able to be in recovery today. However, the insurance did not see it that way. They gave me two weeks. The center said I needed five and a half months. And over those five and half months I was placed on suicide watch multiple times. What would have happened to me if insurance had had to control my care? I truly do not know.

It doesn’t stop there. But to go further would get more into the politics than I want to and I’ve probably already delved far enough into that. Simply put – my experience with insurance has been one that teaches me that they care little for my health and more for their own profit. They skirt the laws and do the bare minimum. I’ve managed to survive in the system because I have a family that can help me with and that has some resources.   And honestly, I have one of the good policies. My mother has become a pro at navigating the insurance system and I’m lucky my first treatment center  did everything in their power to get me covered for as long as possible.

I don’t know what the answer to the problem of insurance is but to say there is no problem is not correct and is closing your eyes to the experiences of others. Without adequate (actually more than average, I need good mental health coverage) I will have no quality of life. I survive now because of a somewhat decent policies that I can benefit from until I’m 26 but after that? I face a future that before October 1st of this year was very scary. Now it seems somewhat less so.

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Filed under depression, Independence, PTSD, Recovery, social change, society

i am kate. i go to therapy. i am not ashamed.

I’ve gotten some questions/suggestions lately that perhaps I should pursue therapy. I’m not offended in the slightest. I think most of the comments came from a fairly good place and therapy ceased to embarrass me a long time ago. Because the truth is that I do see a therapist. Twice a week right now but this is actually the least amount of treatment I’ve had in four years.

In January 2009, after ending an abusive relationship I began seeing a therapist (a really crappy one but that’s another story). I was humiliated and embarrassed that my anxiety had become such that I couldn’t function in everyday life and that I had to seek professional help. The whole idea that I was seeing a “shrink” embarrassed me beyond belief to the point I went at great lengths to hide the fact from my college classmates that I was driving an hour once a week to seek help. I truly believed that it was “just anxiety” that was causing my obvious decline in my mental health but instead of getting better from treatment I felt downhill. Fast.

In September of 2009 I entered treatment for anorexia at Laureate’s eating disorder program. I stayed for ten months going through inpatient, residential, transitional living and back to inpatient for another short stint. I left OK (where Laureate is located). This was in July 2010. By September 2010 I was hospitalized again this time at The Center for Change in Orem Utah. This treatment stay was focused on my eating disorder and my PTSD. I left in February 2011 (after five and a half months) in a much better place, stable mentally for the first time in many years and armed with coping skills.

The next two years were rough. I was in and out of the psychiatric hospital. For a stretch of time I was in every month. In December of 2011 I went to Washington DC to The Psychiatric Institute of Washington’s Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I learned a lot here but it also opened a lot of wounds and closed memories and so my cycle in and out of the hospital continued until July of 2012. This is when my service  dog Ben entered my life.

Since Ben arrived I have been stable. I have not had to be hospitalized for my eating disorder, self-harm, depression, anxiety or PTSD. I receive the least treatment I have in four years, simply seeing my wonderful therapist twice a week.

I tell you all of this because like I mentioned at one time I was so filled with shame that I was in therapy. I saw it as a weakness, an embarrassment, a sign of failure and something that made me somehow “less than” everyone else in my life. I went so far as to tell professors when leaving college to go to treatment that it was due to heart problems (not a lie at that point my heart was severely compromised due to my eating disorder) instead of due to my anorexia (however they probably guessed anyways).

Therapy is so stigmatized. Especially by young people. I believe that this is due to a number of factors but a primarily one being the lack of information regarding mental health. This not only harms those who struggle with diagnosed mental illnesses but also those who need help but refuse to seek it out of shame. The media does not help. Crimes (such as the recent Naval Yard shooting) are blamed on mental illness. Yes, this may be the cause however the media fails to mention that the majority of people who suffer from mental illness are in no ways violent or dangerous. How can someone feel unashamed of their mental struggles when they unintentionally compare themselves to a deranged man who killed many people?

The reality is that seeking help is a sign of strength. I never would have believed this four years ago but working through treatment and recovery has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Much harder than making straight A’s in high-school, much harder than transitioning to college and much much harder than staying stuck in my illnesses.

So yes, I see a therapist and no I am not ashamed. Not anymore and I can say this:

I am Kate. I have PTSD, depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. I see a therapist. I have been hospitalized for my mental illness. I have a psychiatric service dog who without I would not be able to function. But I am no less a person because of these things.

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2009 – 2013 – happier and healthier thanks to therapy and treatment

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Filed under coping skills, culture, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, Hope, Identity, Life Story, New Life, psychiatric service dog, PTSD, Recovery, service dog, society, survivor, trauma