Tag Archives: recovery
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.
So this spring I had a lapse/relapse. I mentioned it in a previous blog entry that it started a few weeks earlier in August. Looking back I see signs way earlier than that. Back to spring and winter but it took times for the thoughts and feelings to turn into full blown behaviors and when they did as my pattern is I sunk downward quickly. There were immediately talks of sending me back to treatment possibly to a transitional IOP program but I resisted this strongly. I have done a total of sixteen months of inpatient and residential and I couldn’t imagine putting my life on hold, leaving Gus and adopting that sick identity one again. So that left one option and that was to let my parents help me.
Now there is a type of treatment for adolescents called Family Based Treatment where the parents take control of the teen/child’s food and are responsible for their recovery (I’m simplifying here). The assumption is that parents know how to feed their child and achieving wellness can be done at home instead of in a treatment center. Now having been to treatment and in treatment with girls who “failed” Maudsley (aka Family Based Treatment – FBT) I was horrified to realize that my family would essentially be doing something like this. I had heard horror story after horror story about how awful it was to give your control of food to your
evil parents. I believe in therapy I wailed something like “I am twenty-five years old I will NOT do Mausldey. How pathetic is that? Also, it’s evil” – paraphrasing.
But if I didn’t wish to return to treatment it was my only option so with pressure from my treatment team I begrudgingly allowed my parents to begin to take control of my food. This meant that they fed me three meals and two snacks. We met with my dietician and agreed how we would tackle fear foods. We all compromised and my voice was heard which was very important as an adult. We did a ladder system (starting with easy foods and working up towards harder ones). My mother was to pick meals and snacks – I could portion myself at dinner but she would watch me and tell me to add more if needed. Snacks she portioned. I also did not eat alone. My parents showed up every morning to eat breakfast with me and then again at noon to eat lunch (dinner was always a meal I ate at my parents). This has gone on from August until now. I am at a point where I am eating independently again but not portioning all of my food. I get my own breakfast but my mother sends a packed lunch and snack with me. I eat dinner with my parents and she feeds me evening snack. Next week I meet with my dietitian and I expect to either be able to portion snacks myself or receive full control of my lunch.
How do I feel about all of this now? Honestly, it’s a relief. I’m so glad I didn’t go to treatment and leave everything here. That was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t want to give up my control around food but I’m glad I had my parents step in. At the time my malnourished brain wasn’t thinking correctly and loosing weight (aka relapse) seemed like a great idea. But it was presented firmly to me that this would not be allowed to happen. My therapist and parents made it impossible. I resented that. And at twenty-five I still think that I should be able to control this myself (not because I resent their help but because I am an adult who should be independent). But now I am so grateful for their help. It wasn’t easy for my parents. It took time away from work and their schedules. And I wasn’t always the most fun person to eat with. I’m also sure it was scary to hear the same talk coming out of my mouth that they heard five years ago when I plunged into the deepest parts of my illness. I’m also thankful to my brother who put up with a lot of moodiness and pouting as I ate (not proud of that).
Not everyone has the resources to be able to turn it around outpatient but I’m thankful I could. I also have a sense of security now that no one is going to allow me to get as sick as I was in 2009. The thought of that truly does scare me when I’m thinking correctly. I have been promised that intervention will be taken before then. And this was proven to me here. And as for FBT being evil (or at least my parents and mine modified version) being evil I need to take back some words…
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.
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.
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.
This last week was Invisible Disability Awareness Week as well as Suicide Awareness Week. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that they fall on the same week but it is fitting that they do so. Suicidal ideation like all mental health conditions is an invisible illness that seeps into the conciseness and can be as deliberating as many other “visible” illnesses.
I remember the soul crushing weariness and hopelessness I felt for many years before receiving treatment of any kind and not having any kind of validation for this feeling caused even more hopelessness. At this point in my life I had no voice with which to speak. I did not know how to share my pain or advocate for myself. As I spiraled further down into anorexia and my weight loss began to mimic the sickness inside me there was some relief. Now someone knew I was not ok. Now it showed. However, as my weight climbed into the normal range again I was left once again with all of the challenges that come with an invisible illness. (important thing to note: you cannot tell if a person has an eating disorder based on their shape or weight. In fact, an eating disorder can be one of the most deadly forms of an invisible illness and I was in fact very sick at an acceptable weight).
And these challenges that come with an invisible illness are many. As I began to inch my way towards recovery my activities were limited. I did not attend school nor did I work. However, I often got the question ‘where do you go to school?’ and when I said I wasn’t in school it was followed by ‘okay so where do you work?’. I was often considered to be lazy because I didn’t do something productive. I didn’t look sick or ill therefore in society’s eyes I wasn’t. This extended to friendships. Some friends didn’t understand that I didn’t turn down invitations because I didn’t like them but because mentally I had limited resources and reserves for what I could and couldn’t do. I lost some of these friends who didn’t try to learn. And then there were my long absences from life which was the time I spent in the hospital. This was also hard to explain to those who would see me one day looking fine and the next I would be hospitalized for up to a week at a time. As hard as many people tried to understand many couldn’t and some wouldn’t try.
Now I face new challenges – having a service dog while while not looking disabled. Benny sometimes wears a patch that says not all disabilities are visible as a reminder that just because I don’t look disabled doesn’t mean I am not. Most people assume I am training Benny and Shona for someone else and when asked and I say that yes, they are service dogs and yes they are mine. I get probing questions that quite frankly sometimes I struggle to answer politely.
Mental illnesses are not the only invisible illnesses. There are many others. Wonder into a service dog group and you’ll find at least ten other handlers that have a service dog for an invisible disability and each has a different illness.
And from these handlers I have learned that it is impossible to know someone’s story just as it is impossible to know my story. I hope you’ll join me in dropping judgement about mental health, the use of accommodations and other disabilities.
…throw roses into the abyss and say: ‘here is my thanks to the monster who didn’t succeed in swallowing me alive’. – Friedrich Nietzsche
I’ve thought a lot about that quote in this past week. If you didn’t know the actor Cory Montieth, who played Fin on the popular television show Glee, died last Saturday due to a mixture of Heroin and alcohol. It wasn’t a purposely overdose but an unintended one. Perhaps what makes this even more sad is that the young actor (he was 31) was actively trying to recover and had recently gone to drug rehab.
The story has hit me harder than what it ought to maybe. I can see myself in him. No, I have never struggled with drugs or alcohol abuse but I have danced with my own demons of addictions in the shape of self-injury and my eating disorder. Those too are very real addictions. There is a ‘high’ that comes from starving , overexercising or harming your body in someway. When I began using symptoms much like a drug user I thought I could stop at anytime but I remember that frantic realization when I realized that there was no way I could stop starving. But I’m one of the lucky ones.
Now looking back from the side of recovery I can see how close I came to dying. One more day before I entered treatment. Another fifteen minutes on that exercise bike or a cut a little deeper and I too would be lying somewhere too and my parents would be burying me like Cory Montieth’s parents buried him.
It saddens me when people scoff at drug addicts or alcoholics. I understand these sufferers more than anyone might realize. Yes perhaps my addiction was slightly more “socially acceptable” and in the case of the eating disorder even at times envied and revered (yes, but that’s another post) but in the end it’s all the same. An addiction is an addiction. It eats you alive from the inside out. And if you are lucky you escape relatively unharmed physically (like me) but if you are not you either end up dying or existing in some strange netherworld that is filled with drugs and disease but never life.
I can guess that Cory Montieth never expected that last time using to be his last. Neither did the girls I know who purged one more time or simply went to sleep never to wake up again. But sadly addiction and disease doesn’t discriminate from those who want to get better. In the end it seems to be a combination of luck, timing and fate. And this time in the case of Cory Montieth it seems like something just ran out. I have questions for God (don’t we all?) and this is one of mine: why am I spared when so many others aren’t? Why am I living when others who had so much life, so much promise and wanted so desperately to get better but just quite hadn’t gotten there yet dead? Why did A., K., N., Cory Montieth and some many more run out of time?
I don’t have the answers to those questions and I don’t think I ever will on this earth. Cory Montieth said on Inside The Actor’s Studio that he wished to hear God say this:
Uh, sorry I haven’t been around. There’s a good explanation.
I’d like some explanations too but more importantly I simply wish to hear God say that the pain, the sorrow, the devastation that eating disorders and other addictions caused can be healed and that someday, somehow everyone touched by them will be alright.
But right now I will do this. I will throw those roses into the abyss and I will thank God that my own personal monster did not swallow me alive and pray that it never will again.
As for Cory Monteith? I pray that he got his answer.