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?

 

 

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.

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?

 

 

You Know It’s A Good Day In Therapy When…

Your therapist threatens to send you inpatient.  Twice.

In response, I attempt [unsuccessfully] to fight back tears because all I can hear is my worst fear:  You are never going to make anything of your life because you are going to be in and out of psychiatric hospitals for the rest of your freaking life.

It’s a fear I’ve had for a while — since I’ve been making yearly trips to treatment and/or the psychiatric ward a sort of annual thing.  And I’ve got to DO something with my life, right?  I’m “gifted,” I have “so much potential,” I could “change the world.”  Sure, if I didn’t have half a dozen psychiatric diagnoses that threaten to derail everything I have worked so hard for if my nutrition and chemical balances aren’t just so.

In general, I try to keep my emotions under wrap.  I just don’t have time to acknowledge them if I want to maybe possibly stay on top of my schoolwork and eating.  And who really wants to sit with the shit that’s beneath all my shame and self-contempt?

So yeah, when you ask me how I really feel, if I feel safe, I’m going to tell you.  I feel empty, sad, lonely, hopeless.  You ask me what I want to do and I’ll tell you.  I want to quit. I want to curl up in a corner and just wait for life to be over.  I want to speed up the process by starving and drinking and slicing up my arms and legs.

It doesn’t mean I’m actively thinking of suicide.  It just means I’m tired.  And yes, passively suicidal can turn to actively suicidal in time.  I understand your concern.  I understand that you can’t let me leave your office if you think I am even remotely a danger to self.  I understand all this professional ethics bullshit.

My point is, don’t push so hard if you don’t want to hear the answers.  Because dammit, A, if you’re going to push me, YES, we’re going to go into dark places and I probably WILL want to kill myself.  

But your suggestion of finding “someone else who can help me” is just as heartbreaking because you are, hands down, the most competent therapist I’ve ever had.  The only therapist I have ever really trusted.  The only therapist who is willing to put up with all my stupid games and push me and tell me I can have better and deserve better.

You haven’t given up and that’s the only reason I haven’t.

Sorrow and Suffering

I love my therapist, I really do.  Even when she is kicking my butt in session and saying things like, “You’re never going to recover if you don’t allow yourself to feel out of control and open yourself up to feeling grief and sorrow and pain.”  I wholeheartedly agree with her, but dang if it doesn’t suck.

We started talking last week about my engagement.  For quite a while now, I’ve thought that I am totally over breaking off my engagement with the only man I’ve ever loved.  I just, ya know, don’t date.  And totally freak out at the idea of sex.  But I am completely unscarred by that experience!

I left therapy last Monday and got drunk.  Even told my roommate as I started on my second or third glass of wine that I was drinking for the sole purpose of not having to think about what we had discussed in therapy.  My therapist had given me homework:  journal about the pain of my engagement, the pain of the betrayal that I had experienced.

Well, screw that, I thought.  Let’s have another drink.

I never journaled last week.  I actually completely forgot about the assignment.  But as I drove to therapy yesterday, I was thinking about — thinking about why talking about dating and “being liked” by a guy at church is so uncomfortable.  And it hit me.

I like sex.

And I HATE that I like sex.  It makes me feel dirty and shameful and like a bad person.  I told my therapist that I understand that everyone has sexual feelings and this is not somehow unique to me, but I hate these feelings and it is so much easier to starve, run, cut them away.

As I was reading her what I wrote, I was flying through the words on the page.  She took away my pen, which I was jamming into my leg rhythmically in an effort to not feel.  She made me read it again.  Slower.  And again.  She asked what I was feeling.

Dirty.

Shameful.

Disgusting.

Any time I am speaking, my eyes are on the ground, or on my hands, which are hopelessly fidgeting.  I look up only rarely, only when she is talking, not when I am revealing these horrible, disgusting, awful parts of me.

She tells me that the fact that I like sex is actually the most beautiful part of the story — that I allowed myself to love someone and be loved by someone and make myself vulnerable.  She tells me that I am feeling shame and disgust because I am trying to block the regret, remorse, pain, and sorrow surrounding the experience.  (For the record, I don’t feel any regret about having sex with my ex-fiance.  Now, my coworker/supervisor — that’s another story.)

And it’s not just about this.  I’ve been avoiding pain and sorrow and grief since she met me three years ago*, she says.  (And for many years before that as well.)  She admitted that it’s not fun to feel these things, that it’s quite awful at times, but it’s the only way to heal.  It’s horrible and wonderful all the say time, she said.

I was reminded of Hinds’ Feet on High Places, where Much Afraid is shocked to discover that the companions the Chief Shepherd have chosen for her journey to the high places are Sorrow and Suffering.  She’s sure that somehow the Chief Shepherd has made a mistake, that He meant to send someone else for her.  But He didn’t.

In her road to healing and wholeness, she had to learn to befriend sorrow and suffering, to allow them to work the Shepherd’s purpose in her life and in her heart.  She had to walk with them to reach the high places and to receive her new name and new life through the Shepherd.

I am Much Afraid, but I will take the risk.

——————

*Yes, my current counselor is my counselor from way back when I started my blog!  I adore her and I swear she just gets better and better.  I was so heartbroken when she went on maternity leave and it has been so amazing to work with her again.  She is not afraid to call me out on my crap, which I appreciate, but she is always so kind and gentle when she does it.

Varying Interpretations

What my therapist actually said:  “If you want to restrict and exercise, just restrict and exercise.”

What my therapist meant:  “If you are weighing yourself because you think it’s going to give you some sort of new information and influence your decisions, don’t bother.  Whether the scale is up, down, or the same, you’re always going to think you’re fat and want to restrict and exercise.  So just cut out the step of getting on the scale.”

What my ED heard:  “RESTRICT!  EXERCISE!  IT’S OKAY!!!!!!!!!

 

I mean, obviously, that’s not what she meant, right?  And maybe 25-30% of me believes that.  The other 70-75% believes she just gave me permission to act on my favourite eating disordered behaviours and that I ought to do everything in my power to make sure my weight is down at the next weigh-in.

That’s the other thing:  collaborative weighing.  Meaning, once a week, my therapist and I weigh me and plot it on a graph.  Fabulous.  Because nothing makes me feel like a cow more than my adorably petite therapist weighing me and having to see just how fat I am, week after week.  Right now, my weight falls “within normal limits” on the BMI chart (yaaaaaay?) and the idea, say-eth the therapist, is to keep it “within normal limits.”  Ideally, throughout this process, my weight won’t drop below the red line or rise above it.  

Well, that, again, is what say-eth the therapist.  Ideally, say-eth the ED, my weight drops out of normal limits within the first two or three weeks we’re working together and my weight inches ever closer to that 
miracle weight where everything is wonderful!  Where life is good!  Where I wake up with energy and love myself and my body!

Except…I’ve been that weight.  I wasn’t happy, I didn’t love my body.  I was miserable.  I was sick all the time.  I struggled to get out of bed in the morning.  I fantasized about killing myself all the time.  

So what’s the appeal?  Why work so mother-flipping hard to get back there?

That, friends, is an entirely separate blog post, which may or may not ever be published.  (Yes, I know what drives my eating disorder, particularly the restriction.  But I’m afraid to say it out loud.  Mainly because I don’t fancy getting committed to a psychiatric hospital.  Again.)