The New Normal

I’ve been really unsettled lately. Some of this is just life stuff. Grandparents die. Friends move away. Recovery hits a bump. Higher education necessitates debt. But overall, this is the most settled I’ve ever been.

Which is, in itself, unsettling.

Just how unsettling I wasn’t sure of until I was in my car driving this morning and praying for God to break me. I’ve prayed this prayer before – in fact, mere months before the relapse that took me down beginning in fall 2009. I told God I would do whatever it took to be whole “enough” to do missions work. He could break me down, pull me apart, reconfigure me as long as it meant being closer to Him at the end of the process. And break me He did.

The past five years have been some of the most terrifying, painful, and dismal of my life. Even knowing intellectually that God was pulling away from me the things I had used to glue myself together all these years, it was miserable. Even knowing that this pain was out of God’s love and desire to see me truly free, it brought me to utter despair, to wish for death instead of freedom. Even knowing it was an act of truest love, it felt like violence.

It felt like every rape, every assault, every abuse. Every touch turned bruise, every demeaning comment, every time I was told I was not enough. It felt like all of these all at once and I hated God for it.

So back to present day – why exactly am I praying for this to happen all over again, you might ask? I cannot even lie and say that I followed that request for brokenness with “because I want to be nearer to you and more Christ-like, God.” Not even a consideration (my spiritual life has been lackluster these days). I just thought, “God, you’ve got to break me because I don’t know how to do this.”

“This” is settled. Stable. Thriving.

The last time I was really stable and doing well was fifth grade. And I have been in a near-perpetual state of crisis since I was fourteen. Every day has been fight-or-flight. I haven’t had the opportunity to work on things like social skills or life skills like setting up gas and electric service or what to do when somebody runs into your car in the parking lot. I’ve just been trying to survive. And for the most part, doing a fairly decent job of just making it from one day to the next. Surviving.

But the little nuances of day-to-day were lost on me for nearly the past two decades. What do people do with their time if they’re not running obsessively or spending hours a week in therapy or staying out all night to avoid having to lie? What happens when I’m not in school any more? What the hell is this “career path” everyone keeps going on about? What do people talk to their friends about if not this treatment or that or this slip-up or that? What does a prayer look like when you’re not begging God to kill you?

So now, at 29, I’m having to figure these things out. And it’s HARD. I just bought a vacuum for the first time in my life. And was damned excited about it, too. I remember my reusable grocery bags about 50% of the time. I’ve had to deal with obnoxious neighbours without my usual self-flaggelation and let other people own their stuff. And I’m having to imagine life at 60, 70, 80. I’m having to dream.

At least once a day, I half-heartedly wish for one of my addictions to take over. I know how to do crisis. I’ve gotten good at crisis.

But what do I do when there are no fires to be put out?

I’m stable and that’s unsettling.

 

 

 

It’s My Party…

and I’ll tell you to shut the fuck up if I want to, okay Dictator? Good. Glad we’re clear.

My eating disorder is being insanely loud today. Which is particularly obnoxious for two reasons: 1) I haven’t had to deal much with ED thoughts and urges lately and 2) It’s my birthday. And so far as birthdays go, this one isn’t terribly exciting (I worked, then came home and read for fun – a book on the Rwandan genocide). But I’m NOT IN TREATMENT.

Let’s be clear. Treatment saved my life. More than once. I’m glad I went. And I’m glad I’m enjoying my birthday in freedom this year.

But I do wish The Dictator would stop trying to leave his mark on this birthday, too.

Five years ago: The Dictator lies in wait while I go out with my best friends for drinks and a night on the town. It will be the last time we are all together. From here on out, I am not-so-mysteriously absent. The Dictator pokes at me when my friends share pictures: Nice triple chin there, Jess.

Four years ago: I have therapy, one of my last sessions before A goes on maternity leave. I go to Trader Joe’s to get dinner on my way to see a friend. They don’t have the one wrap I’ll eat, so I drive and I cry – upset that they don’t have that wrap and upset that I’m letting my eating disorder get in the way of my birthday.

Three years ago: I have been in treatment for six months, am still in treatment. A friend texts me on my birthday to tell me she can’t be friends with me. I go to an appointment with my outpatient dietitian and fight back tears over the weight that is necessary. I go out to dinner with my church group, trying to salvage what is left of the day and celebrate.

Two years ago: Center for Change, take one. The girls on the unit make me a huge birthday card, which is still in my box of memories today. We have art and I have to begin my emotional self-portrait. I look at the body tracing and burst into tears, telling the therapist how “deformed” I am. I cry for most of the remaining day, but do my best to put myself back together before evening snack. My friends from home have sent a “birthday in a box!” complete with leis, fake mustaches, and a ridiculous plastic goblet for my water.

Last year: Center for Change, take two. The girls on the unit have made a huge banner that says, “Happy Birthday, Jess!” I want to cry when I see it I am so overcome with emotion. My mom has flown into town for the weekend and we go out to dinner, but I make sure I am back in time for our Friday Night Snack and movie. I am so glad to spend my birthday with these girls. I can almost forget the fact that I just hit my goal weight.

Today: I have eaten probably half a chocolate cake over the past five days. The family I have nannied for all year made my favourite meal (baked macaroni and cheese) for dinner on Tuesday and presented me with gifts: a painting from Jbug (complete with tiny easel!) and a Zentangle mandala book. They know me well. By the end of the night, they know me even better as I share my story with them. My actual birthday (today) is a bit lackluster, as I work, then walk, then sit at home alone. It’s lonely and I wish my friends could be here (or that I could be there) to properly celebrate. We will – next weekend.

The point is: Tonight, I am not in treatment.

Tonight, I am eating a cupcake and chatting with friends online and free to do, basically, anything I want.

Twenty-eight has been one hell of a year. In the best of ways.

Bring it on, twenty-nine. You’ve got a lot to live up to.

Unrelated

Last Friday was National Doughnut Day. Yes, you read that correctly. There is a National Doughnut Day!!! Naturally, I celebrated with a doughnut.

donut

requisite selfie with pastry

Later that night, I went for a run. A year ago, this means I would have gone to the gym, set myself up on a treadmill, and watched the numbers until I had burned off every calorie in that doughnut. And then some.

But last week, those two things were completely unrelated. At no point during my run did I think, “I ate a doughnut.” Not even in passing. I went for a run because I wanted to be outside. I wanted to feel my body move. I wanted to explore the Greenway. So I ran (and walked). I pushed myself just far enough to know that my lungs were getting a workout, but I wasn’t out to prove anything. I was just having fun.

On an entirely related note, my therapist and I discussed termination today. Even having had three weeks between sessions, I had absolutely nothing to talk about. She said that after our last session, she felt really tired and bored. Like, she struggled to stay awake. And as I tried not to be offended, she explained what she meant.

I’m not bringing anything in to sessions. And that’s not a bad thing. I’m in a really stable place. I’m asking for what I need when I need it. (For example, the reason I had nothing to discuss at the last session was because I had talked with her on the phone the week before when I was freaking out about some flashbacks. Go me.) Sure, there are more things to work on, but A said that she’s not sure now is the right time. Furthermore, she said, when it is time to dig into that stuff, I may need a different type of therapy altogether than what she can offer.

When she asked what I thought, I told her that this conversation was not entirely out of left field. Just last week, I believe I said something to Alie along the lines of, “I don’t really think I need to be in therapy any more.” Of course, the prospect of not having therapy is just as terrifying. I told A that I am afraid as soon as we stop therapy, shit is going to hit the fan and I’m going to completely melt down. Her response? “If that happens, you know where to find me. I’m not moving anywhere.”

So we put together a schedule: I’ll see her in two weeks. Twice in July. Once in August. Once in September. And a goodbye session.

This is all assuming something major doesn’t happen and I lose my mind. Or, more likely, that I don’t do some sort of ass-backwards bullshit like throw myself into a relapse. But honestly, I don’t think that’s going to happen. While I really enjoy my therapist as a person, there are other ways to engage with her. Like getting my degree and license and knowing someone I can turn to for a consult.

To end on an entirely unrelated note, I have a birthday soon. My wishlist consists of: a vacuum cleaner, dustbuster, and mop.

Is this what being an adult is like?

 

 

Good News/Bad News

Good News: I seem to have figured out what is causing my stomach pains!

Bad News: It’s soy, which is a) my primary source of protein and b) in ev.ery.thing.

Good News: I have a new job caring for a young adult with special needs.

Bad News: He’s male, which I have some issues around, because trauma.

Good News: Only four days until the semester is done for me!

Bad News: Still need to write four papers, complete two presentations and not die from sleep deprivation.

Good News: I finally managed to say some very necessary words to a person in my life with the intent of ending the friendship.

Bad News: This was done in response to his calling ME to apologize for things I assumed he was totally oblivious to – and wanting to repair the friendship. So now I’m confused.

Good News: Since realizing how my lack of self-care was affecting my mood, I have been showering every day and feeling, on the whole, much better.

Bad News: No bad news there. Sincerely thankful for that.

 

On the whole, life is good. The only thing I really need right now is more time cuddling babies. Good thing I’m headed to my hometown this weekend. :)

One Year: Pain, Sadness, and Resurrection Life

So. On April 10, 2013 I checked in (voluntarily this time!) to Center for Change in Orem, Utah. In a lot of ways, Utah still has a piece of my heart. It certainly saved my life. And I’ve been thinking a lot the past couple of weeks about my time there. 

I didn’t refuse meals and boosts like I did my first time there. From day one, I went in to fight and eat and gain weight and health. Which means that I have been taking care of my body – consistently – for over a year now. I have been at a steady, healthy weight for almost five months now. I can count on one hand (nay, finger!) the number of times I have self-harmed in those same five months. I walk to school and play with the baby at the park, but rarely (if ever) do I step foot in the gym to pound out miles on the treadmill. If my body is tired, I sleep. If it’s hungry, I feed it. I am taking care of my body and treating it well.

This is, in part, the source of my great frustration these days. I am being good to you, body. When the hell was the last time I did that?! But you’ve decided that now that I’m treating you well you’re going to freak out? Stabbing stomach pains. Constant nausea. Never-ending menstrual cramps. (Never.Ending. I wish that were an exaggeration.) If we’re looking at this logically, I should be feeling really, really good.

But I’m not. The ultrasound I had a couple of weeks ago had no answers. A referral to a surgical specialist had no answers, just another referral. So I keep the pain and anti-nausea medications at hand, never quite breaking over to use them because I really need to be able to be coherent for the last few weeks of school.

There’s plenty of research about chronic pain and depression. And even in my last entry, I noted that the pain was wearing on me and bringing down my mood. I just don’t think I realized HOW depressed I’ve been until I woke up earlier this week with a bit of spring in my step. 

Thursday I was finally able to see objectively all the red flags that I should have been seeing all along. Wearing the same outfit for two or three days in a row because I was simply too tired (after 9 or 10 hours of sleep) to pick out a new one. Never mind the fact that it had been three weeks since I did a load of laundry. And while I’ve turned into something of a dirty hippie since moving to the mountains, not showering for five days should have set off all sorts of alarms. As strange as it sounds, the fact that I haven’t watched TV in three weeks is a bad sign. It means I’m not getting up early enough to have a sit-down breakfast and watch the news. It means that I’m spending all of my spare time in my bedroom, in bed, not in the living room. I’m isolating.

I met with my psychiatrist on Tuesday and we agreed that, so far as medication goes, this is as good as it’s going to get. The thing is, if this is as good as it gets – I quit*. There is not nearly enough joy and happiness in my life to make me want to stay around for the long-term. I feel numb and dead more often than not. When I’m feeling actual the feelz, it’s usually betrayal, sadness, guilt, loneliness, shame – all manner of negative emotions that leave me in tears. (Not that I’m knocking tears. That is progress.) I stand in church and sing and know that there was a time when I felt His presence deeply. I want to cry out to Him and yet it seems so hopeless. 

And I know this IS NOT as good as it gets. I just don’t know how to reconcile that truth with what I’m feeling now. I don’t know how to capitalize on those good days and try to stretch them out. I don’t know how to keep going when it feels like there is a block of cement on my feet, constantly dragging me down and back. 

I should know how, right? I mean – that’s what I’m in school for. There are very clear behavioural changes that I can make to try and relieve some of this depression. But how do you make yourself exercise each day when just the idea of walking to the apartment gym is exhausting? How do I eat “better” when I don’t have enough energy to stand for five minutes while I put together a salad? How can I possibly sleep more than I already am and still get things done? How do I pray when it takes me two and a half hours to put together a paragraph about how I am feeling?

Today is Easter – a celebration of resurrection life. I’m ready to feel alive again. 

Pray with me? Pray for me?

xoxo

*Fear not – I have no intentions of “quitting life” any time soon. Based on genetic samples (aka parents and grandparents), it would seem you are stuck with me for at least another sixty to seventy years.

Sick Day

When I was a kid (and even a tween), sick days were like mini vacations. Sure, I might be vomiting occasionally or barely able to breathe, but I was in bed with my stuffed animals, reading away the day.

Sick days as an adult are not vacations. They are chances for your brain to stress you the f**k out because there are so many things you SHOULD be doing, but CAN’T. And three-quarters of the time, you can’t even take a sick day and you just have to push through and hope that your half-assed attempts at getting things done are enough.

I haven’t been feeling well for weeks. I mean, really, if you want to get down to it, I’ve had on-and-off sharp stomach pains and nausea for the last six months. It comes and goes. It will come for a week or two and make me really miserable, then quiet down for a stretch. This last episode started about a week and a half ago and I was pretty sure it was due to a lack of sleep and stress. But then I slept. And it was still there. I missed class this week. Profs were cool with it, no extra work to make up, but the pain was still there. I ate saltine crackers and chicken noodle soup and applesauce for virtually every meal. Still felt terrible.

It started to ease up a bit on Friday, but was back full force in time for the expressive arts showcase I was a part of. I had to ask the MCs to move my poem recitation to the very beginning of the program because I wasn’t sure I could stick it out through the entire thing. So my friend begins the showcase with a beautiful belly dance and I follow by reciting a poem I wrote for a friend a few years back. I get really positive feedback from the audience, notes of appreciation that I will treasure for a long time to come.

Things were going so well! Until about two minutes after I left the stage, when I began to feel the floor rush at me and I ran out of the cafe as quickly as I could, where I [literally and figuratively] tossed my cookies. We managed to find someone with a car to take me home (as I had ridden the bus to school), and within an hour of reciting my lovely poem, I was laying on the floor of the urgent care center about 2 miles from my apartment.

I figured I had finally come down with the flu, being as I like to take my chances by not getting vaccinated. Nope – not the flu. In fact, urgent care wasn’t really sure what was wrong, but were concerned about how intense my pain was. So a friend and classmate drove me to the ER, where we proceeded to sit for three hours while they poked, prodded, filled me with fluids, ran tests, and finally decided….they still didn’t know.

So – because I live in Small Town, USA, where the hospital isn’t fully staffed on weekends with unnecessary folks like radiologists – I am headed back to the hospital tomorrow (Monday) morning for an ultrasound. They think maybe it’s my gallbladder? Who the hell even thinks of their gallbladder these days? 

Like my dad said earlier tonight, I don’t necessarily want them to find something big, but I do hope they find something. Feeling ill constantly for “no reason” is really starting to mess with my head. The only times in the past few months that I’ve even had a fleeting thought about suicide were related to the fact that I did not want to be in pain like this everyday. It sucks.

I’ve tried everything to make the pain and nausea go away. Well, except ED behaviours. Or excessive drinking. Or self-harm. So I’m just left feeling sucky and it’s taking a toll on my mood. I’m definitely slipping into more depression than I’d like, though my psychotropic cocktail takes the edge off. I’m apathetic, lethargic, fatigued, pessimistic, and not really enjoying anything. 

This is a completely self serving post. I have no really wisdom in any of this, save that using eating disorder or drinking or self-harm behaviours isn’t going to fix anything. Just – if you’re the praying type, please pray they find something. Any answer is better than no answer at this point. I am just utterly exhausted by the not knowing. And the not being able to fix it.

Hold the Line

I struggle sometimes to decide whether or not to leave a post up if I am embarrassed by what I’ve said or no longer feel that way because the situation has changed. Ultimately, I choose to leave them because they were – at that moment in time – my reality.

On one hand, some things I mentioned in my last post were cleared up within an hour of writing it. I had not realized that the friend I mentioned in the first half of the post actually subscribes to my blog and thus, she was greeted with an e-mail of my blog which understandably seemed very passive aggressive. The lack of invitation to the baby shower was, of course, an oversight and I took it entirely too personally and, as I am wont to do, jumped to the worst possible conclusion. (My apologies again to this friend – who has never been anything but loving and gracious. Also – and this is for everyone – if I ever do that sort of passive-agressive bitchy move you are allowed to chew me out and/or slap me.)

On the other hand, even though things were sorted with that particular friend, it did not change the hurt and grief I felt over the other friendships. The immediate situation with the first friend triggered all sorts of feelings that I am not entirely equipped to handle. My coping skills have grown leaps and bounds even in the past two months (no self-harm, what what!!), but sometimes I am still at a loss for what to do with my emotions. My emotions seem to have two options: on full-blast or off.

Spring break in Florida was positively delightful, but I didn’t really deal with any sort of feelings aside from “Yay Disney! Yay friends! Yay camping and hiking!” I very intentionally left my homework/reading for therapy buried in my bag because I just did not want to open that can of worms. I noticed in therapy last Monday that this was a way for me to close myself off to any emotion. So when I prayed for openness to emotion….well, the damn broke. I was a weepy mess for most of Monday night.

Y’all, I just feel raw. The slightest touch hurts. I had to walk out of my Tuesday night class because the activity hit (oh so tangentially) an area I’ve been working on in therapy and I could not handle it. I stuck it out as long as it could, but the class and situation just continued to feel more and more unsafe. I bolted after class. A classmate told me when I saw her later in the week that she had been praying for me and that my professor was really concerned. So now I have that awkward situation to walk into this Tuesday night.

I texted my therapist when I got home. I had taken a detour to EarthFare, hoping that picking up a couple of things would be enough to reset my brain. It wasn’t, so I asked my therapist how I was supposed to shut off these stupid emotions so I could get my schoolwork done. “Because beer is currently looking like my best option,” I said.

“Hold the line,” she said. “Your healing is way way way more important than homework. It will stop. You will catch up. Keep going until…it is finished.  Jesus did.”  A brief exchange occurred, wherein I realized just how human I am and my therapist stated that she was extremely glad that I was in touch with that humanness.

I know that this is what I am supposed to be doing, how I am supposed to be feeling. I know that the nights when I am so sure I’m just flat-out going to die from THE FEELZ are progress. I am feeling. I am allowing myself to be broken. I am trusting my family and friends to hold me while my Saviour binds the wounds.

But first – I have to take off the crude bandages I spent so long putting together and feel the pain that was always there.