Unspoken

There are so many things I want to say. Need to say.

Because otherwise it comes out backwards and sideways and I hurt myself and others.

But there is nowhere and no one safe.

(And before you suggest God, I’ll have you know I’m extremely pissed off at him right now, so he’s sort of the least safe.)

Hark! What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks?

I’ve been wanting to update this thing for a while, but haven’t wanted to update it with the depressing shit that’s going through my brain. I even chose not to share at check-in on Friday in our therapeutic writing class, which I always view as a bit of a cop-out. But we had to share a short poem we had written (according to a certain form), and this one wasn’t really suitable for a classroom setting. I’m pretty sure if I’d shared it, my prof (who I’ve already talked to about having a rough semester and needing a bit of leeway on assignments) would have walked me across the street to the counseling center.

scattered / worrying endlessly / white hot pain / what to let go? / retreat

And then another!

stuck / shame spiraling / deeper darker black / where is the light? / gone

So….yeah. It hasn’t been a good semester so far. I was demoted to meeting with my dietitian every week again. I was nearly demoted to meeting with my therapist every other week. I self-harmed for the first time in months. I lost/left my job because I was too damned depressed to move.

Then Jesus decided to throw me a bone. A friend invited me to an improvisational music weekend at a gorgeous retreat center this past weekend. And she paid for the whole thing for me. (At nearly $250, this was not something that was even in the realm of possibility otherwise.)

So we drove to the retreat center on Friday afternoon and chatted the whole way there. She loves God and she is not shy about it. She prayed constantly (out loud), often thanking God for getting us where we were going or the sunset or the lifting of the fog (which really was miraculously timed.) Sadly, we got there so late that we couldn’t get seats together at dinner, so I sat awkwardly amongst strangers, then left after a “reasonable” (?) amount of time.

As I walked back to my dorm, I noticed a friend in her car, chatting out the window with one of the retreat facilitators. Weird. I wave and she finds a place to park and hops out to give me a hug. She lives about thirty minutes away and we had talked about perhaps getting together for a walk before dinner, but the aforementioned late arrival meant we had to cancel that plan.

So instead, she decided to stop by and drop off a little care package for me (and my roommate). What?! A thermos, some tea bags, some fruit, and dark chocolate. Oh, and some delightful lavender soap. Totally unexpected. The next hour spent with her and her daughter were also delightful and her daughter took to my ukulele quite naturally.

To say that I needed this weekend might be a bit of an understatement. Just the first two hour session on Friday night did my heart well. It was an event organized by Music for People, which believes everyone is musical and should get the chance to express it. And it opens wide the gates for things considered music. Honestly, I had no idea that a choir of eight BUNDT PANS could sound so gorgeous.

There are no wrong notes. No wrong sounds. No pressure. I met some awesome musicians who love to just play and it reignited that love for me. All I want to do now is improv!

At any rate, throughout the weekend, my roommate (the friend who brought me) kept giving me little gifts. She brought me some lovely soap and some teas as well. She was clearing out some of her old clothes and brought me sweaters and such to try out before she dropped the rest at goodwill. She offered up a bunch of her old clothes from her practicum because she “doesn’t like to wear black” now and I’m hurting for professional dress.

What the hell? It feels a bit like I have a fairy godmother.

I feel completely unworthy of it all, especially after the past month and a half.

I can’t say I’m totally on the “Yayyyyyyy life! Yay recovery!” train again, but I’m taking this weekend for what it was: Respite. And a reminder that Jesus really, really loves me.

Who Invited Her?

This was said in a joking manner by one of the women I was in a writing group with tonight. Having just shared a toast I had written (to myself), the implication was that I was a good writer and making her look bad. It was a nice ego boost after a long Monday. (Especially since I generally try to avoid sharing my writing because I find it “simple” and “dumb.”)

I’ve been writing a lot more lately – in large part due to a class I am taking on Fridays about therapeutic writing. Keeping a journal is actually part of my homework (how terrible!), but the class is also forcing me to stretch my writing skills. And that, in all honesty, is worth every penny of the $1100 this class is costing me. Each week, we take an hour of class to split into small groups and do a writing practice before coming back to the whole class. Last week, we did “found poetry” and blacked out words from a textbook page to create a poem. The week before, we wrote letters to our great, great granddaughters.

Which means that my journal isn’t met every day with a new hate-filled rant about how horrible I am and how worthless and how I will never make anything of myself. Sure, there are days where that is the main theme, or I spend three pages questioning why I bother living and how much more appealing suicide (by anorexia or quicker means) would be. But there are also prompts where I have acknowledge what I am bringing to this group of writers. Or where I have to write about a time I was proud of myself. Or a description of breakfast.

In expressive arts, we always say that the process is more important than the product. This has been a very hard concept for me to learn as someone who is somewhat perfectionistic and very goal-oriented. And because I am always focused on the product, I haven’t taken the time in over a decade to write creatively. It wasn’t “worth” it because it wasn’t processing and I wasn’t “getting better.” But I’m learning that even those seemingly off-topic prompts teach me a lot about who I am and how I interact with the world.

Now there is freedom in writing. I can write about anything and it is still a good use of time. It feels wonderful.

The world, as it were, is my proverbial oyster.

And, for fun, the poem that emerged in last week’s writing group. The page I took was from a textbook on legal and ethical issues in counseling. Poetry is everywhere, y’all.

“self”

a thousand collected lifetime cultures / you meet for the first time / there are more than two people / there are thousands / learn to hear / hear the other voices / exciting, essential inner voices / identity within context

 

Grad School, Round Two

My first full year of graduate school is complete! In three weeks, I’ll start all over again, albeit in a more stable mind and body than this time last year. 

At times, it has felt like surviving, at best. The past two weeks I was taking a class that was just HORRIBLE. It was the first time in months that I’ve busted out old behaviours and were it not for some friends, some prayer, and some stubbornness on my part, I would be in a very different place right now and probably on track to go back to treatment. Instead, I am a bit flustered and frustrated, but I survived the class.

Actually, I was sort of proud of myself for how I handled those two weeks. And my therapist was too, though she wanted me to dig deeper into some of the stuff that came up. Herein is where I become really confused about what is left to do in counseling.

There’s obviously stuff. My trauma has come up more than once this summer through the course of classes, and, in the strictest sense, hasn’t really been dealt with. Nine times out of ten, I just refer to it as “trauma” and leave it at that, neglecting to say what really happened. And we dealt with it some last year, but that was sort of out of necessity – in order to have sex, I had to shut that shit down mentally and it always came back a few days or weeks later in force. When I stopped seeing/sleeping with the guy I was spending time with, it wasn’t really a pressing issue any more. 

And when we do try to delve into that stuff or my attachment stuff, I shut down. Not on purpose, really, but my therapist said she is just not going to push it any more. That I’m not ready to go there, that now’s not the time, and everything else is fairly stable, so there’s no reason to meet every week. Or every two weeks. Or even every month. So after September, it looks like I can stop driving to Charlotte on a regular basis. And when I do go, it won’t cost me an arm and a leg. 

I am just really, really scared at this idea. (Not only that, but I feel a bit like some sort of therapy “failure” for not being ready/willing/able/whatever.) It will be the first time in five years that I haven’t seen a therapist on AT LEAST a weekly basis. It will also put me face-to-face with the general lack of nurture in my life. I love my mom and respect her, but I’ve never really felt nurture in that relationship. She’s not someone I can cry in front of, not someone I want to be comforted by, not someone that feels safe enough to do that with.

A has been that person for me for the past two years solidly and I don’t know how I’m going to handle that void. The other person that I associate with care and nurture has just moved six time zones away. And then I start to cry and feel stupid about crying because, HELLO, I’m twenty-nine and shouldn’t I be past the point of needing to be nurtured?

I haven’t taken individual and family development yet, so I’m not sure where that puts me on the typical/atypical development scale. I’ll take it in the spring. I’ll keep you updated on that, but I’m sure it’s related to my attachment issues. 

To some degree, I think grad school is about me becoming self-aware enough to know where my issues are so that I don’t wind up making my clients’ issues worse. 

And to that point – I’ve pretty much decided that I don’t want to be a counselor. 

But more on that later. Tonight, I’m going to nurse this weird head pain, cry a bit, and crawl under the covers with The Catcher in The Rye. 

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.

If I Knew Then What I Know Now…

Four years ago today, I started writing on this little corner of the interwebz. That first post was a sort of tentative “well, I guess I’ll give recovery a shot.” A lot has happened in four years. And sometimes I wonder if I would go through it all over again. 

Four years ago, I had no idea that things would get worse and worse and worse and I would go to treatment three times. I had no idea that I would find myself in the ER more than once waiting for an admission to the psychiatric unit. I had no idea that I would lose friendships. I had no idea that recovery would hurt so damn badly that I’d rather have sutures than sit with the pain.

But I also didn’t know that it was possible to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and then go along with the rest of my day. I didn’t know it was possible to just walk into the store and buy cheese. Just buy it – not spend ten minutes trying to figure out which was “best” only to walk away without buying any. I never would have thought that I would be stable enough to try to go back to school. (Shit, I never would have thought I could get off the treadmill long enough to fill out an application.) And I didn’t know that my friendships that survived would be deeper and more authentic or that I would pick up new friends along the way.

There is still that small voice in the back of my head that tells me everything would have been fine – would have been better – if I had never attempted recovery and just stayed in my eating disorder. Sometimes, I think that voice is very, very right. But on the whole?

Things are far better than they were four years ago.

And maybe, if I can remember that, I can hang on through the next four years. 

Just. Breathe.

Today marks the beginning of my third week back in classes. My course load is considerably heavier than last semester, which makes me unbelievably nervous. 

My favourite class last semester was Multicultural Counseling, which was also the most challenging class I was taking. Because I loved it so much (and because I did not know when this professor – whom I adore – would teach a class I could take again), I signed up for Advanced Systemic Multicultural Counseling. About a week before class, he sent an e-mail with the eleven-page syllabus for this class. I freaked. Actually, a lot of us did. This class overwhelms me a lot and last Thursday’s class was positively miserable. Most of the students in the class are second or third years in Marriage and Family Therapy, so not only do they have more education than I do, but they approach counseling from an entirely different theoretical perspective. I felt incredibly outsmarted in Thursday’s class and can only hope that my negative thinking cycles were due in large part to a lack of sleep.

My sleep over the past couple of months has gotten progressively worse. Waking up multiple times in the night, staying awake for hours at a time, inability to get my head to shut up long enough to even fall asleep. Last Monday I woke up at 4:30am and couldn’t get back to sleep. By Thursday, I was dragging. I played the “everything is fine!” face as long as I could, but after class, my head was spinning with unhealthy behaviours I wanted to behave in and I didn’t know how I was going to make it safely through the night.

So I finally took advantage of my permission to do cardio. I hit the gym in the apartment office and pounded out a couple miles on the elliptical. I didn’t even spend my entire allowed time, only about half. But by the time I returned back to my apartment, my brain was slowed enough for me to actually use coping skills. My therapist and I had a long conversation last week regarding whether or not reintroducing exercise at all was wise, and she was not at all a fan of the idea. (My dietitian is the one who gave me permission to exercise again.) 

But Thursday night, I finally slept. Through the night. Thank God! I had done a handful of “new” things that night, so the rest of the week and weekend has been an experiment trying to figure out which of the three (or a combination) was the thing that allowed me to sleep so solidly. After a few days, it seems that ditching one of my pillows and taking one of my anxiety meds with the rest of my evening medications. I’ve woken up a time or two over the past two nights, but it’s usually just for a moment and I’m immediately back to sleep. It’s really delightful. The only kink in this plan is that my psychiatrist does not want to prescribe this medication for me – and I agreed with her initially, because I feel like it is more of a “crutch” and doesn’t allow me to actually work through the anxiety. However, if it’s going to help me sleep, I’m going to have to lobby for it. (I cannot take sleep medications due to a tendency to overdose and/or make “plans” with them, so I do not feel comfortable having them in my house.)

On the bright side, I am taking a class on music and the expressive arts and I am LOVING it. Unfortunately, it was canceled last week due to snow (it is a late night class) and this week I will be at a state counseling conference. I am truly bummed to be missing it. The class is so laid back! (Our syllabus is a list of books and ideas – no quizzes, no tests, no papers. Everything is experiential.) And the professor is amazing. In just three hours, he made me fall in love with music all over again. He retires after this semester, so I’m glad I’m having the opportunity to study with him now. (And – bonus! – he is also listed as faculty for our summer expressive arts institute, so I’ll get to have one more week of class with him.)

And now, I should return to schoolwork. Basically every moment of my day is scheduled this semester and I need to stay on top of things. The moment I fall behind it will snowball and everything will be off schedule. This is exacerbated that I just got an assistantship (10 hrs/wk), though on that note, it is extremely flexible, so I am hoping that it is just a good way to get my head off classwork.

Oh, and one of my semester-long assignments is to zentangle three to four times a week. I’m literally being graded on this. Twist my arm, will you?

Christmas in the Borderlands

This has been the best Christmas I’ve had since I was a child, the best Christmas in more than 15 years. I’ve been able to enjoy making a gingerbread house with my sisters, enjoy time with family and movies and Christmas traditions. This Christmas hasn’t been marked by a fake smile plastered on my face until I run upstairs at the end of the night and relieve myself by way of one addiction or another. It has not been marked by lies about where I have been or what I have been doing when I arrive home after many hours. 

This Christmas, I was authentic and stepped away when I was getting overwhelmed. I could actually shut off the voices in my head for a while and truly be in the moment with my family and friends. I took time to ponder and wonder at the idea of God coming to His creation, the very being of God in human form. I valued time with my loved ones more than time spent at the gym.

But the dictator hasn’t gone away. The dictator is alive and well, harassing me at every meal and snack, every time I choose to rest or spend time with my younger sister instead of working out. I am constantly telling that voice to shut up, to just leave me alone because I refuse to comply. 

This is what Marya Hornbacher refers to as the “boring part of eating disorders.” Going back is not an option, so I eat and I hate it. I sit around reading and I hate it. I do what my treatment team says and I hate it. I am envious of friends who are struggling and I hate it. 

This is where rubber meets the road. Things have, for the most part, settled. All the things that you reclaim in early recovery (memory, relationships, stamina, personality, hope, etc.) are there and their presence is not a new, exciting thing. The presence of these things is normal and every day and that is fantastic, but without that excitement, everything is just sort of blase’

Image

Beautiful, but I have memorized the details.

It feels like I am in a perpetual holding pattern. There is no rest here, because I still have to work to make this recovery thing happen – it is not yet ingrained in my mind such that I can lay off the vigilance for a moment or two. So I am working hard to stay in the air, to avoid losing altitude, but I’m going around in circles and seeing the same thing over and over and over again. And even though the scenery is beautiful, it gets old after a while and you would welcome a drop in altitude just to get a different view.

But you know that you cannot let off the controls for even a moment, because the smallest drop in altitude could turn into a free fall. Free fall is almost certainly fatal and the risk is too great to chance it.

So even though I know that flying in these circles is better than the turbulence and excitement I experienced before, I long for something new, something exciting.

I want new scenery, but the only place to go is up and I’m not ready yet.

It is boring here.