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?

 

 

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.

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