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.

 

 

 

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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?

 

 

An Explanation (Finally)

So last Sunday’s post left a lot to be explained.  If you missed it, basically it was something like, “I would like to carve up my arms like a Thanksgiving turkey but I don’t keep real razors around for exactly that reason, DAMMIT.”

This week has been incredibly rough.  I went home last weekend to go to a football game and came home on Sunday night with the intention of hunkering down with my books and completing the outlining I had begun earlier.  That was all derailed around the point that I decided that I should probably check my school e-mail account (having not done so for three days) and discovered an e-mail from campus police alerting the student population to a couple of sexual assaults that had occurred on Friday.  While the term “sexual assault” isn’t one of my favourites, it is one that I have learned to handle and can somewhat distance myself from.

However, for whatever reason, the campus police decided it was in the best interest of the students for this e-mail to also contain the men’s names, the amount of bond they were being held upon, and their f**king charges.  When I read “second degree forcible rape,” I froze.  My mind completely blanked and forgot how to close the internet window. After I finally figured it out, I sat in a ball on my bed with my hands pressed into my eyes trying to stop the flow of tears.  (This was before I even realized that it was TWO charges of second degree forcible rape.)

I did my best coping (and it was pretty damn impressive).  I Skyped with a friend, putzed around on Facebook, and finally decided to just say “screw it” when it came to schoolwork in favour of taking some meds and passing out.  Before I was able to do so, however, I needed to check an event on the school calendar and found out that the ENTIRE WEEK was basically an awareness week about sexual violence because it was the 24th anniversary of two women being abducted from campus, raped, and — in the case of one of the women — murdered.  

So I begin to flip out.  Again.  Fetal position, trying to halt the tears, never mind the images.  I e-mailed my therapist and let her know what had happened so that I wouldn’t have to explain it all when I arrived in her office on Monday.  And then I took some klonopin and curled up and cried myself to sleep.

Monday morning was work, so I was able to distract myself for a few hours by the utterly adorable little boy I take care of.  But then I had a two hour drive to therapy.  And then therapy itself.

There are times when I wish that I could record my sessions with my therapist, because we discuss things that are big and important and revelatory and I want to be able to make sure I don’t forget anything.  This was NOT one of those times.  I remember entirely too much of the session as it is and wish I could completely block it from my memory.

To cut straight to the chase, I wound up having flashbacks in my therapist’s office and eventually wound up in a ball on the floor, crying.  I spent another half hour crying after the session and God bless Alie, who was willing to listen to said crying and help me come up with a plan for dinner.  Which I had pretty much planned to skip/restrict even before my therapy session, but with her help managed to eat according to meal plan.

The triggers have just continued to come this week.  One after another.  I am having to make pointed, conscious efforts to stay present and protect myself from going into flashbacks.  I have more than once had to literally bite myself to keep from bursting into tears in the middle of a class or meeting.  I have had to go back to making short-term commitments to safety because I simply don’t care to stay safe (but neither do I care to explain stitches to my therapist, dietitian, professors, or cohort).  I am disgusted by my body and want to scrub off my skin with steel wool, but I can’t stand to even see my body.

Eating disorder thoughts and behaviours have, naturally, been sky-high this week in conjunction with my self-harm urges.  I’ve been drinking, though never to the point of drunkenness and I’ve been able to justify it by saying that I need the extra calories.

Because, apparently, I do.  That was the other upsetting thing this week — I switched from my dietitian at home to a dietitian on campus because logistically and financially it made the most sense.  So when I met with this new dietitian on Tuesday (for the second time), I was already on edge, only to find out that my weight was down (again).  I haven’t been restricting (I don’t think) and I drank at least four nights out of the week prior to our second appointment.  There is no reason my weight should have been down.  No reason that I should have to be looking at weight restoration – again – this time on the outpatient level.  I texted my dietitian from home and she confirmed that I have “quite a bit” to gain before I reach my goal weight.  Awesome, right?

So even knowing that I need to gain (and having a pretty good idea of exactly how much), knowing what size my clothes are, being able to walk into a store and reach for the smallest size, knowing that what I’m seeing is [probably] a distortion — I cannot get over how huge and gross my body is right now.  And all I want to do is restrict and run.  GOD, what I wouldn’t do for a run.  I’ve been trying to stick with the plan, but it seems like it’s falling apart.

I want to trash all the food in my refrigerator, not to mention the two pounds of candy that I bought at the general store yesterday to challenge myself and get some extra calories in, and go headlong into restricting again.  If I’m right about my weight, then I could easily be back down to my April admit weight by Christmas.  Easy peasy japanesy.  

But I do NOT want to screw up this shot at grad school.  I do NOT want to have to take leave or drop out entirely and go to treatment for the fourth time in as many years.  I do NOT want to live my life like this.

And so begins the season of my “awkward harvest.”  This blessing is my prayer morning and night as I stumble through this season.

Image

From John O’Donahue’s “To Bless the Space Between Us”

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!!

The Bionic Hand

I have a real penchant for doing things while in treatment that are likely going to get me kicked out or transferred to a state psychiatric facility.  In fact, as I was relaying this story to my therapist in yesterday’s catch up session, when I got to the whole “they said if I even scratched myself I’m kicked out” part, she said, “Yeah.  I knew you’d go there.”

So I have something of a track record.  It was almost inevitable that I would do something supremely stupid to nearly get myself kicked out.  This one was a little interesting though, as my therapist sat me down and said (pretty much verbatim), “The staff are really scared of you.”  Later, girls who were on inpatient when I was on Caution Status told me that that they thought I was really scary upon first impression.  (So nobody saw it coming that I’d be a leader on the unit and phase four going on solo passes. I like to keep people on their toes.)

But I digress.  Last time I was at CFC, my last stay on Caution was because I went outside unaccompanied and punched the cement wall (that I usually used for throwing ice) about 30 or so times with both hands.  They were nice and swollen and ripped up, but no worse for the wear.  So when I found myself in the basement staring at a support beam and super pissed at the on-call therapist, I didn’t think that one or two punches would do all that much.  I figured my hands would be bruised a bit, but it would be worth the extra time on Caution just to get those emotions out.

My favourite part of this story is that I am wearing gloves.  The staff were consistently telling me to WEAR MY GLOVES!!! so that I couldn’t self-harm.  At any rate, the on-call therapist this weekend refused to let me call my family to let them know I was on Caution and wouldn’t give me orders to play my flute, which is basically one of my biggest coping skills.  And the woman on Caution with me had orders (from the same therapist!) to play piano, so I thought it’d be a no-brainer.  It wasn’t, apparently.

I was SEETHING.  The care tech who was watching us tried to de-escalate me and get me to play games, etc. and I was having none of it.  She finally left my side and went back to the table and I continued to be really, really pissed off.  So I thought about it:  I’ll use my left hand so it doesn’t affect my writing and I’ll just do one or two good punches, just to let off some steam.

*****BREAKING NEWS ALERT*****

Anorexia can seriously screw up your bone density

*****END BREAKING NEWS*****

So I punch the beam once and hear a crunch.  I figure it’s the drywall giving a bit.  I’m still pretty heated, so I punch it again.  At this point, the care tech is yelling at me and coming to restrain me (I stopped punching before I had to be restrained) and my friend (the other woman on Caution) has a sort of deer-in-headlights look.  The care tech tells me to take off my gloves (they were so effective in preventing self-harm, yeah?) so she can see my hand.  And my left hand was, uh, not right.  There was something (which was bone) sticking up, though not penetrating the flesh, and my left pinky finger was at least a centimeter lower than the rest of my fingers at rest.

Even as my hand continued to swell and turn lovely colours, I maintained that it was just dislocated and could we please just hurry this up?  I went to the ER, where they finally got me to an x-ray room to find out that my hand was broken.  Like – really, really broken.  It’s called a boxer’s break, because it’s most commonly seen in men (who get it boxing or, like me, punching a wall).  My 5th metacarpal (the hand bone below my pinky) was broken — along the long part of the bone (so it was a long break, not a clean snap).  The ER doctor shot me with some lovely local anesthetic and then proceeded to try and get the bone pieces back where they should be, more or less.

To make a long story short, I had a follow-up with a hand surgeon.  Then I had surgery — which I opted for because he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to set it without surgery and it would have a faster recovery time.  So now, my hand looks like this:

I00001

That’s a metal plate about as long as my entire bone.  And eight screws.  Seven screwed down into the plate and one screwed across (floating) to keep the pieces of bone from drifting apart.  There’s also a really lovely inch and a half scar on my left hand and I’ve been doing physical therapy for a month — and still don’t have full range of motion in my hand.

So, just in case you think your eating disorder and/or self-harm don’t hurt you, let me assure you:  they do.  Those two decided to gang up this time and man, it had some pretty impressive results.

The best part is that I might have to have another surgery to remove the plate after the bone has healed because, as the surgeon said, “it’s a big plate in a little hand” and is probably the cause of some of the mobility issues.

So now there’s a scar on my left hand to remind me of the costs of my eating disorder.

And reminding me why I never want to go down that road again.