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.

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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.

 

 

 

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.

So What? Now What?

I’ve been home for just over two weeks.  It has really flown by.  I am actually moving in FOUR DAYS to the city were my graduate school is.  Are my bags packed?  Er, not exactly.  But I’ve used this opportunity to get rid of things that I don’t need, don’t want, don’t use.  I want to live a far more simplistic life than I do now.

When I was in Utah, my entire wardrobe consisted of a few dresses, about three pairs of pants, and 10 or 15 shirts.  And you know what?  I got by okay.  I realize that small a wardrobe isn’t necessarily conducive to life in “the real world,” but the reality is that I hold on to far too many things that have long since lost their purpose or meaning.

FOUR FREAKING DAYS.  It seems entirely too soon and yet the hours seem to drag.  I am so excited and so anxious for the entire school experience.  I haven’t been in a classroom in over five years.  And yet, school is the place where I feel most “myself” — I love the intellectual stimulation, the new friends who share your (possibly nerdy) interests, and yes — the three week winter vacation doesn’t hurt either.

But good grief if change isn’t scary.  I’ll be two and a half hours away from everyone I know.  In fact, the only friend within a reasonable distance is moving away two days after I am. (::facepalm::) I’ll be two and a half hours away from my treatment team.  My therapist and dietitian are absolutely wonderful and we’ve had the discussion about how often they’ll want to see me “in person” — and how often we can do skype or phone sessions.  Does it make me a little uncomfortable to be sharing all my intimate crap aloud in a room that doesn’t have soundproof walls?  Sure.  But realistically, my roommates are going to catch on pretty quick to the eating disorder (I mean, for pete’s sake, I write a national blog that I promote on my facebook).

And then there is the question of whether or not all this change is going to throw my eating disorder recovery for a loop.  I’m hoping to get a part time job so for at least 15 or 20 hours a week I’ll be occupied and unable to act on any eating disorder urges.  I only have class two nights a week and the rest of the time just…is.  In some ways, it will be nice to slow the pace of my life and put time into school and work and relationships.  But too much time alone can be disastrous, especially if I’m stuck in a negative mind space.

But I am hopeful.  “Cautiously Optimistic” as I told the CFC staff when asked how I felt about discharging.  

Has my recovery been perfect since I have been home?  

HELL NO.

About a week ago I seriously screwed up and was a mess.  But you know what?  I hopped back on the recovery train within 12 hours and was honest with my entire team about it.  We put stop gaps in place to prevent it from happening again.  We came up with ways to deal with the situations I was in.  Making a mistake wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

As I heard it said at AA on Sunday:

“So what [that you lapsed]? Now what?”

Recovery isn’t the smooth sailing, though sometimes there are calm waters.  The essence of recovery is what happens when you accidentally flip the canoe.

Do you say, “Aw, screw it. I’ll just swim, even though I know I’m a terrible swimmer.  I know last time I nearly drowned, but it will TOTALLY be different this time.  Really!”

Or do you say, “Okay.  Let’s get this canoe right side up again and keep heading down the river to the launch so we can grab our picnic lunch.”

I’m a fairly decent swimmer.  I can function remarkably well, even when I’m in my eating disorder.  But it is so much more tiring and far less fun than going down the river in the canoe.

So what? I had a slip. Now what? I get back on track. ASAP.