Returning

I haven’t felt myself lately. Where “lately” is “the last nine months or so.” Maybe longer. I was so sick last spring semester that perhaps the depression was already at play, earlier than I thought, masquerading with physical symptoms. In fact, it seems likely.

(The good news about this is I’m slowly re-adding soy to my diet and with no ill effects!)

I first recognized it yesterday after I signed up to volunteer at an event in February. In days past, this would not be something of note, as I was frequently volunteering in some way or another. But in the past six months, I’ve been afraid to leave my bedroom, much less go somewhere public to volunteer. Not only that, but signing up to volunteer required me to answer questions like, “Describe your level of experience working with people with disabilities.” I didn’t write a Nobel Prize-winning essay to be sure, but a month ago, even two sentences would have seemed impossible.

I started walking home from school on days where it is nice (read: not raining and above 25*F) and running for 20 minutes with a toddler doesn’t tire me out to the point of being incapacitated the rest of the day. I can arrive on campus early and tolerate being around people for the “extra” time. I speak out, take the lead in discussions. I make witty reparte’. I look at what remains of my schooling and think, “This is do-able.”

I sit down in front of a blank page and can find a way to put words on it.

I am returning to myself, slowly but surely.

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Unexpected Vacation

I mean, if that’s what you want to call two weeks in the hospital. I’ll spare you details, but it was a couple days in ICU, then I got transferred to a locked facility which, so far as those things go, is a rather nice one. And I wasn’t made to wear the turtle suit, which was a welcome surprise.

I also had my own room and bathroom, which was great since I am not a people person, but really poorly planned in terms of safety. I had to have a “bodyguard” occasionally, but otherwise was free to “move freely about the cabin” as it were. For the post part, this wasn’t an issue and my room was just a place to escape the din of the dayroom and/or sleep, but I couldn’t help thinking about how easy it would be to use eating disorder behaviours while there. To my credit, I didn’t (much), but it was certainly tempting.

Overall, it was just a long, long stay and it is nice to have returned to the real world, where I can buy a diet coke and drink it at any time of the day and be trusted with pens not be forced to eat dinner at 5 pm, which is entirely too early. (But really. And the ward below us ate dinner at 4:15! I would have just lost it.) Unfortunately, the depression hasn’t abated much, and there is now the added issue of schoolwork. (Work-work I am eager to return to.)

The stress of this semester certainly played into this episode, though I can’t blame it all on that. On the whole, my self-care and taking time for me have been far superior to any other time in my life. This is a lot chemical, and I know that, but we still have no idea how to get me out of this pit. I’ve been on just about everything, which is why it begins to seem hopeless.

The doctor tried one medicine in the hospital that made me a bit hypomanic and so the doctor discontinued it immediately, much to my dismay. After many days of raised voices and complaints and me giving in by “taking” (er, cheeking) the medication he was so set on, he finally agreed to let me try this drug again. I told the doctor that I am not looking to be hypomanic all the time – I know that is not sustainable. But I’ve been maxed out on the only two antidepressants that ever worked for me for over two years. I don’t want to be hypomanic – I just want to get up in the morning and not kill myself.

All that to say, I have returned to school. And if my anxiety about school were high IN the hospital, it seems to be even higher out here. Mainly, just being on campus is throwing me into a bit of a panic, as I have class in an hour or so and am no doubt going to have to answer a number of questions. I really don’t know that I can handle all of that right now.

But I don’t really have much of a choice, do I? Onwards and (hopefully) upwards.

Disjointed Thoughts

I wish I had it in me to write a brilliant, witty blog post. Heck – I wish I had it in me to write a coherent blog post. But time is money or time is sleep or something, so you’ll get the highlights. Low lights. Cliff lights. Cliff Notes. Whatever.

 

*My primary job now consists of watching a two year old boy and his six week old sister. Holy cow. Parents, how do you do this?!

*This has reaffirmed my decision to not have children, but just watch everyone else’s kids and hand them back at the end of the day. 

*Cuddling a sweet baby is the best thing for my mental health. So, friends – keep having babies!

*We are TRYING to decrease my meds, but it’s a slow process. Also, the first decrease made me an anxious idiot. 

*I am terrified at the thought of not having therapy any more. Likely, it’s just two or three more sessions.

*I gained weight. I both care and don’t care. 

*I like eating, but I don’t want to be “fat” (whatever that means).

*A lot of times, dietitians will remind recovering anorexics that they aren’t just going to gain weight indefinitely and yadda yadda yadda and become overweight yadda yadda yadda. But I have gone from sick to well to overweight and the thought is a bit scary. 

*Okay, a lot scary. 

*Sometimes, there is this little whisper in my head that tells me I could restrict and run again, but do it better this time – just be thin and numb and no other consequences.

*That is a load of bullshit.

*Instead of running tonight, I went for a walk.

*I found apples and berries on my walk (hello, breakfast)!

*At one point I was walking and thinking to myself how lovely the woods smelled.

*I looked down to find myself standing in a field of spearmint. I sort of wanted to roll around in it.

*I just took some for tomorrow’s breakfast bowl, but sniffed it the entire way home.

*Everyone else on the greenway probably thought me an idiot.

*I don’t care.

*I am, mostly, happy.

 

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.

 

 

 

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. :)

But which is silver and which is gold?

Make new friends, but keep the old — One is silver and the other gold.

Sometimes, I feel like I don’t matter at all to friends. A good friend of mine is having a baby in June and had a baby shower yesterday. I only knew because I saw a picture someone posted and asked another friend what I had missed. And I logged in to facebook tonight to see that some friends of mine are going to a shower for her next weekend. I was invited to neither.

I was tagged in a photoset over the weekend as well – a Sex and the City post:

satcphotoset

The friend who tagged me said in the caption how this reminded her of college and all of our “couch therapy sessions”! I definitely laughed when I saw it, but it also hurt my heart.

I haven’t talked to the friend who posted it in over two years.

I sent her a card last year, a letter of amends for all the wrong I had done over the course of my eating disorder. She responded briefly saying she would respond further, but never did. But she has tagged me in a few photos of “the good times” recently and it has left me wondering why. When she posted this, I sent her a message telling her I missed her and this photo made me laugh and mourn simultaneously. Facebook has told me that she read the message over 24 hours ago. But she hasn’t responded.

I am in tears because I feel like I don’t matter to anybody. I’m not invited to your baby shower, for pete’s sake? That time when you invite people over to fawn over you and play games and give you free stuff? I’m not even important enough that you would ask me for free stuff?!

I realize that this is taking it to an extreme in thought distortion world, but it really does seem that pronounced at times. I feel like I can’t look anywhere without seeing the wreckage my eating disorder has wrought on my relationships over the past five years.

But then I remember that I have new friends. Friends who are willing to listen to me whine and cry about these old friendships. Friends who are willing to house me for a few days while I visit – the first time I’ve ever done so in an emotionally healthy place. Friends who gift me with inspirational collages they’ve made because they think of me when they see it on their wall and want me to have it. Friends who surprise me by sending me a ginormous tin of the most awesome silly putty ever.

I am so incredibly thankful for these friends. I would not have survived the past year without these friends. They have saved my life, time and again.

But so did those other friends. At what point do I become “too much” for these new friends, too?

Is life just one long series of relationships coming and going? It seems that it is. Some relationships stay, but plenty others fade in and out – including those you thought for sure would last to the end of time.

Life is this uncomfortable mingling of tears of joy followed by tears of grief.

I Said “Breathe,” Not “Hyperventilate”

So, yeah. All that adorable optimism and chutzpah in my last post pretty much went out the window by Wednesday. I honestly don’t know that I even have the energy to hash the whole thing out, but suffice it to say, my recovery had a VERY close call this week.

Between Wednesday at about noon until I woke up on Friday morning, I was a hot.mess. I’m not entirely sure how I survived Thursday, honestly, as I was extremely dehydrated and undernourished and in a post-SH induced haze. Add a cup or two of shame and a dose of fear and you’ll understand why I was utterly shocked to hear my professor suggest that I go on to a doctoral program.

Me, the girl who had just met with her dietitian because she couldn’t fathom the idea of a meal. Me, the girl that went to health services for an SH wound and was not allowed to leave in the hour that passed between my arrival and the first available appointment. Me, the girl who had gone to bed at seven the night before because she could not deal with life any more. Me, the girl who had seriously considered ending her life for the first time in almost a year.

It started with a therapy session on Wednesday, though to understand the whole story, you need to know that these things were playing in the background:

  • I was at the state counseling conference and listened to a presentation about the new DSM-V eating disorder diagnostic criteria and discovered that they now rate the severity of EDs as from “mild” to “severe”
  • At the same conference, I made the mistake of sitting in on a session about working with traumatized women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where “trauma” = “sexual violence” and I spent an hour outside trying not to jump out of my skin

And I totally thought I had done a good job recognizing and processing it and told my counselor about it first thing during our [phone] session. What I did not anticipate was her pushing and pushing on the physical reaction I had during the trauma session.

Why was I so hypervigilant? I needed to keep an eye on everything. Why? So I don’t get hurt. Where did I learn that? …in college. When? …at the bar. When? …I can’t go there today. That’s as close as we’re going to get today, April. 

Everything in me was screaming under the weight of shame.

In a lot of ways, I have made a LOT of progress since I have come back from treatment. Unfortunately, after God-only-knows how many hours and thousands of dollars on therapy, I still believe that I came out of the womb a priori fucked up. My life has been idyllic, nobody has done anything to me, and there is basically no reason that I should struggle because my life has been PERFECT. It’s ME that’s fucked up.

On Wednesday, when I said for the millionth time that I’m just fucked up, my therapist refused to play along. She said that we are at the point in counseling where I need to either dig deep and challenge that (by acknowledging how people hurt me, failed me, missed me) or there’s nowhere to go. And if we don’t go there, what are we going to do in therapy? Keep me from going crazy; maintain the status quo, I said.

She won’t. Either we dive into my story or we need to consider terminating the counseling relationship. If I want a therapist who will help me to maintain my behaviours where they are, I need to find a new one. And while her motives are so pure (she wants true freedom and healing for me, but that means I’ve got to push ahead), I was (and am) upset nonetheless.

April has been my counselor for YEARS. She calls me on my shit. She knows more of my story than anyone else. She has cursed at me, challenged me, eaten with me, laughed with me, comforted me. The idea of losing her as a counselor is terrifying.

Equally terrifying is the prospect of acknowledging how and when people have hurt me and coming face-to-face with the brokenness in me. I insisted time and again in Wednesday’s session that I’m just not ready for that kind of work, and she repeatedly told me that she thinks I am. I cried as our session wound down and she told me that I needed to seriously think about if I’m going to continue therapy.

Above all, she said – it’s an issue of trust. Do I trust my friends, family, and community to hold me up when I’m so weak I can barely stand? Do I trust April to be a wise guide and to walk me through this? Most of all, do I believe that my God and my Saviour is waiting to bind up the broken places in me and heal them?

Yes. And no.

The fear is positively crippling. I feel like I am just barely keeping my head above water this semester. And if I messed up so much and so badly over the course of 36 hours just talking about the possibility of doing this sort of storywork…

How much worse is it going to be when I actually do it?

 

 

Greetings from the Mountains

I’m sitting in the Student Union of my new University, where I’ll begin work towards my Master’s degree in a mere THREE DAYS!  The syllabi have me quite intimidated, but I have a light schedule this semester (9 credits, just to make me full time for financial aid purposes) so that I can get into the community, maintain my recovery, have time for studying, working, and self-care.

Thus far, I’m loving it.  It already feels like home — which is saying something, given that it took me 26 or so years to consider my hometown “home.”  I’ve found a job working 15 hours a week watching the son of a couple of professors.  This is a really great set-up, because it means that if the school is closed for weather, I don’t have to be worried about getting to my job, because both parents will be home, too!  That reduces my stress levels considerably, especially given that we don’t get a lot of snow where I come from, just slush, so driving on snow is going to be a new experience and I’d rather not take chances.  Does anybody have experience putting chains on their tires?  I have a 2007 Hyundai Elantra, so it’s not exactly a 4WD vehicle, but I also don’t know if we get enough snow here to make a viable option.

I was just in the bookstore a while ago — not buying books, as my student loan refund has get to register in my bank account, so I can’t even afford ONE book — and was totally geeking out at the art supplies.  I love the fact that part of my degree program involves the visual arts and at some point, I will have to buy art supplies for class!  I just don’t know that I will be able to hold out for the time when I am actually part of such a class to buy things.  The thought of some new brushes and a nice set of watercolours is making me sort of fangirl-y.

In other news, one of my courses is an introduction to multicultural counseling.  I think this is so fabulous.  However, the beginning of every class period (which runs about 2 hours) is a student-led experiential activity.  I kind of wanted to cry and laugh out loud when I read this.  Uh, good thing I have a solid 8 months of experiential activities to draw on, right?  I mean, surely some of these can be adapted for non-eating disorder crowds.

I know it’s only three classes, and I know I haven’t even started them yet, but I am SO excited.  I was all nervous taking the bus to campus this morning and really, it was no problem.  And, thankfully, the buildings I will be in the most often — are all in the same area of campus!  The only thing across campus that I might potentially use is the student rec center — they have a climbing wall (!!!!) and offer some exercise classes (yoga and pilates only, thankyouverymuch).  I’m not even going to bother checking it out today, because it’s a bit chilly and being in the bookstore has inspired me go home and work on a piece of art.  And read.  My next stop?  The library — to check out one of my textbooks that I cannot yet afford and start reading. :)

Also:

Photo on 2013-08-17 at 10.26 #2

 

SOMEONE LET ME INTO GRAD SCHOOL!!

A Week in Pictures

All recreated in the last 20 minutes, because I am bored and anything’s better than acting on behaviours, right?

Monday: 

Therapy Assignment

Therapy Assignment

Tuesday:

How I felt upon finding out I did, in fact, gain weight.

How I felt upon finding out I did, in fact, gain weight.

Wednesday:

SO COLD this week.  Probably exacerbated by poor nutrition.

SO COLD this week. Probably exacerbated by poor nutrition.

Thursday:

How I felt after therapy

How I felt after therapy

Friday:

Things not helping weight gain? Buy a case of this delicious  (calorie-free) nectar of the gods.

Things not helping weight gain? Buying a case of this delicious (calorie-free) nectar of the gods.

Saturday:

Video bonus!  Had a friend send me a song that he wants me to sing to audition for his band.  A glimpse into my highly overdramatic and not so great vocal attempts.