Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

living with grace

 

The morning of my heart walk, with amazing friends.

The morning of my heart walk, with amazing friends.

Well, the first week of classes is finished.  I have to say that it pretty much wiped me out.  Friday afternoon I took a much needed nap and was still asleep by 9.  I gave my students the “if you are coughing/sneezing/wheezing you sit in the back row.  If you are contagious with any strain of the flu, do not come in my classroom.”  If you’ve been following my blog, I recently had surgery to place an ICD because of the ARVD. I cannot afford to get sick.  

Thursday I get an email that one of my students has the swine flu, which is making its presence known quite strongly here at Mizzou.  Those little flu bugs best have stayed on her.

In general, the week went well.  I was more tired than normal, but I think it will be a good semester.  

One of the things my therapist and I have been discussing is the fact that I function at a rather high level, but I don’t always do so gracefully.  I will keep it together while I’m on campus or with friends.  But the energy that requires sometimes leaves me so raw that I come home and I’m pretty useless for anything other than curling up in a numbed out little ball on my bed, either staring at the wall or sobbing for no one specific reason.  Rather, the buildup of emotions becomes overwhelming and I find myself shaking.

I’ve been thinking of mindfulness as a specific action that I sit down and practice.  Like the tea drinking mentioned in my second mindfulness entry.  But my therapist has a much broader view of mindfulness, one that I’m coming to appreciate and welcome into my life.  He defines mindfulness as the ability to bring the mind back to a specific task at hand or thought.  In the case of my tea drinking, I constantly refocus on the sensations of drinking tea–the taste, the smell, the feel of the mug, the warmth, the color and shape of the mug, the sound of the cello music playing in the background.  My therapist suggested practicing this throughout the day, and especially at night, when sleep often eludes me because I am obsessing about health concerns and what I need to get done for school and work.  

Tuesday, my second day back at school, I had a full, busy day of classes (both as a teacher and as a student) and meetings, and I had homework to do for Latin, which was driving me nearly insane, and it was late and I needed to go to bed.  But I was so overwhelmed I had that urge to curl up and cry.  But I couldn’t.  Yes, I need to allow myself time to feel these things, but at that moment, I needed to sleep.  I needed to make sure I was taking proper care of my physical body so that I don’t get sick.  So I took out a book of crosswords and made myself focus on that.  My  mind kept wanting to stray and think about doctors’ appointments and all the “what ifs” that we’re only just starting to address regarding the ARVD.  But I kept returning to a crossword clue, forcing myself to think only about that. Eventually, I felt calm and much more relaxed–in a better place to try to sleep than I had been.  

Since then, I’ve made a conscious effort to gently remind myself of my task at hand when I find myself getting overwhelmed or upset.  It’s not coming naturally, but even the small progress I’ve made has made a difference in my daily life.

August 30, 2009 Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, health, heart, mindfulness, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lizzi Miller

Lizzi Miller’s Glamour shoot

I love it.  And I would love to hear what you think.

August 25, 2009 Posted by | Body Image, Eating Disorders | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

asking for help

I have a difficult time asking for help.  Help in all its various forms.  When I was in third through eighth grades, I rode to school with my father since he was a teacher in the same building, and I’d have my school bag and a gym bag and my saxophone and I wouldn’t allow him to carry anything for me, and I hated that he would have to open the door for me.  I was fiercely independent, and prided myself on not relying on anyone.

I think some (a great deal) has to do with the early childhood trauma and learning that it was not safe to trust adults.  As I grew older, that morphed into “It’s not safe to trust anyone” which automatically included accepting help that was offered and asking for help when I needed it.  Then there was a period of time when I was just beginning medication and was in and out of the hospital for depression and self-harm, and I in allowing a couple of people in, I dropped all walls and couldn’t really maintain healthy boundaries, and then placed my trust in people who really shouldn’t have had it in the first place.  This list includes not only peers, but people who were in positions of authority and in two cases, treatment professionals.  

Now I have a healthier sense of boundaries and respect for other people’s needs and space, and I’ve gotten better at asking appropriate people for help if I need it but, as I said, it’s still difficult.  For example, I would rather have a trunk full of recycling and and additional two bags in my kitchen that also need to be taken to the recycling place, but instead of asking someone to help with these, I’ll wait until the restrictions from my surgery loosen up and I’m able to lift more and reach more, thus enabling me to throw the box into the dumpster and reach into the depths of my trunk to retrieve the cans and bottles that fell out of the boxes.  I hate that feeling of dependency that comes when I ask for help.  

But I have, both materially and immaterially.  Yesterday, two friends with a jeep took me to Target so I could get a sofa/bed for my spare room.  They were my heros for the day, even if they came with self-imposed guilt.  And recently, my therapist told me he was going to take off the week before classes started, and impulsively, acting on my gut instinct, I asked him if I could see him twice the following week because I was having a difficult time adjusting to the “new normal” of having ARVD and an ICD.  I’m not sure I could have done that in the past.  

This semester will be . . . interesting.  I’m not fully healed from my surgery yet.  I don’t have my full energy back and there are restrictions on lifting and movement.  I somehow think that I’m going to have to ask for help at various times throughout the semester.  I hope I’m up for the challenge.

August 23, 2009 Posted by | Eating Disorders, heart, recovery, self harm, therapy, trauma | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I hate my body!

Or, should the title be: My body hates me?

I can’t really tell the difference right now, and the two are fueling one another.  

I’m not talking about body image, although as I said, I am still working on that.  I am talking about my physical, corporeal, biological being.  Everything inside of my skin seems to be rebelling against me.  

A) We have the Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia and the ICD that was put in.  Now, yes, I am happy we found the correct diagnosis.  I am happy that Lily (that’s what I name my ICD.  I named her after Lily from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse {my second favorite book of all time. The first is Woolf’s The Waves.}) is inside my chest, preventing another sudden cardiac arrest.  I think I’m pretty lucky to have lived through one; I don’t want to live through another.  But my body is still healing.   Sometimes the site is sore.  I can’t lift my arm above shoulder height yet.  And for a few months, the amount I can life will be pathetically small.

B) As a result of the surgery and the subsequent medication, my lower GI tract has decided to stage a revolt on me.  And the remedies have been worse than the symptoms at some points, and we’re still not sure if they’ve worked.  

C) I may or may not have hypothyroidism.  My level last week jumped up by 2.0.  We are going to redo the test this coming week, with some additional labs, and see what happens.  But I definitely have some symptoms: weight gain, fatigue, constipation, and the wonderful depression that always seems to be a part of whatever I’m diagnosed with.  

I really do feel as if my body is attacking me, and I’m not sure why.

I was voicing this to a friend, and she asked:

What do you do with the hate you have towards your body for being sick?

My instinct has always been to restrict, cut, etc. I figure, it hates and hurts me, I’ll hate and hurt it back. Now that I’m not letting myself rely on those behaviors, i feel weird.

Exactly.  I was balled up on my bed Tuesday night crying.  Just crying because of everything.  No specific anything but just the overwhelming everything.  This is very new for me–letting myself cry rather than deny the feelings.  Even after I stopped using behaviors, I was still pretty good at shutting down emotions.  But lately, with everything going on, I haven’t been able to.

What do I do when I feel this way?  Well, another DBT skill is Self-Soothe.  Basically, you have five senses, and find away to use those senses to calm and soothe you.  When I was in the treatment program for self-harm, I had to make a self-soothe box.  Taste was difficult for me, but I put in a couple of different types of teas.  For Sight, I put pictures of friends and family in the box and decorated the box with inspirational quotes.  For Sound, I had a CD of classical music by Aaron Copland that I loved to listen to.  For touch, I actually cut off a piece of my cat’s fur to put in a baggie (I was at my parents for the weekend, and they were watching my cat), and for Smell I put in an aromatherapy stress ball (which could also be touch).  I kept adding to this box as my year in that program continued.  

Now, I don’t have an official box, but I do know that I can’t let myself take this hate out on my body.  No one’s body deserves that, and mine is just too vulnerable that now.  But doing nice things for my body, taking a bubble bath or practicing mindfulness by sipping tea, does help alleviate some of the distress.  

I also do a lot of cognitive therapy–challenging the irrational thoughts.  There are still a lot of things I am able to do in life.  From walking to teaching to knitting.  

And hate is a difficult emotion for me to hold on to, much like anger.  It takes so much energy.  And I feel as if that energy is needed elsewhere right now.

August 20, 2009 Posted by | Body Image, coping, Eating Disorders, health, recovery, self harm, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How long did it take?

One of the comments from my last entry:

I know it is a very pragmatic question, and probably really superfluous, but how long did it take you to dicover yourself? I believe we are growing and changing daily, but I mean, I guess, I am looking for what shapes me, what directs me, what guides my thinking, like the true self deep down inside, that so many people seem to oppress. Have you really found that self?
How?

This has had me thinking quite a bit.  It’s not exactly an easy question to answer.  

Yes, we are all growing and changing daily.  I really did used to think that you matured and were done working on yourself, but now I have learned that since life is always changing (oh and how I hate that fact), then I must change and adapt in response.  If I don’t, I’ll be stuck in the past.  I lived for too long in the past, and I just don’t want to do it anymore.

But I also believe that there is a core self, the essential part of who I am.  What drives me, what motivates me, what I love, what fulfills me.  “Losing weight” does not answer one of these characteristics.  

Honestly, I don’t think I learned who I am until I really let go of the eating disorder.  Which is a terrifying concept for most of us.  Not knowing what’s on the other side.  Of course it’s terrifying.  But while I was still clinging to the behaviors and mindset, I couldn’t see anything else.  It did take awhile, learning who I am. It was several months before I could write a conclusion to my manuscript about who I am in the present moment.  And since that time?  I have continued to learn more things about myself.  I could list these things, but they won’t help you.  You can’t appropriate me and feel fulfilled.  

In the Skills Training Manual, the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills book, there is a list of Pleasurable Activities.  I think there are about 150 different things on this list.  Obviously, not everyone will find every activity enjoyable, and there are plenty more than 150 activities.  But one of my assignments while I was in the Partial Hospitalization Program the last time was to do one of those activities (or one of my own) every evening. This had two purposes: it helped prevent me from engaging in eating disorder behaviors and also gave me time to figure out what made me happy, what I liked to do.  I knew I liked to knit, but really, aside from that, I didn’t have much on my list of “Things I Enjoy.”  I’d been too focused on the eating disorder and my academic career (which were closely tied together) to explore anything else.

So that’s what I did.  Explore.  A lot.  Things that had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the eating disorder.  On the DBT Pleasurable Activity List are things such as “enjoy a favorite meal or snack” or “go to your favorite restaurant” but those weren’t really options for me because they were triggers for the eating disorder rather than things I could enjoy.  

I started reading again–things that I wanted to read rather than what was assigned for school.  I forced myself to socialize.  This is something I still have to do at times.  I am a very strong introvert, and social situations exhaust me.  But they are necessary for breaking the isolation that can lead to depression, which can, of course, lead to eating disorder behaviors in some.  

Do I know exactly who I am right now?  No. I do know I am a driven individual.  I like competition.  I love research.  I like to create things.  I love my little nephew and niece, and I love teaching. 

I’m not an anorexic.  I’m not sick.  I don’t want to ever go back to having an eating disorder; that enticement is finally extinguished.  

But there’s still a lot of space between the “what I am” and “what I know I am not” that gives me a lot of room to grow and change and become.

August 20, 2009 Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, identity, recovery, self harm, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Identity, Take 4

 

Parts of Me as Seen on My Cubicle Wall

Parts of Me as Seen on My Cubicle Wall

I seem to be tackling Identity more often than anything else, but I think that was my intention with this blog.  Because I think a reason a lot of us hold back from making that final step towards recovery is the grip of fear behind, “Who am I without the eating disorder?”

(For my previous posts on Identity See Take One, Take Two, and Take Three.)

For a lot of us, we feel that the eating disorder has been there as long as we can remember and we can’t remember not having an eating disorder.  So logically, the next thought would be, “If I have always been an anorexic or bulimic, then if I give it up, there will be nothing there.”  

You were not born with an eating disorder.  You were born with an appetite, a healthy one, and you knew how to make that need known (crying) and when to stop eating because you knew and respected fullness.  Toddlers know when they are hungry and when they are not, and some days, despite their mothers’ pleas to “Eat something!” at dinner, they just aren’t hungry.  But maybe the next day, they’ll be hungry as hell and will let you know.  

As a child, you played and grew and went to school and interacted with other children.  You were not an isolated eating disorder bumping into “normal” six-year-olds as you passed through the hallway.  

For some of us, we can remember when we weren’t sick, but it’s just been so long that we don’t know if that person even exists anymore.  Some of us fear that it’s been so long and now we’re older, so even if that person did exist, the time and situation has changed.  What good would my 18-year-old self be to a 30-year-old body?  

Regardless of the situation, how long you had the eating disorder, or why you think there isn’t anyone inside you beside the anorexic or the bulimic or the compulsive overeater, life gives all of us–and not just those with an eating disorder–a chance to redefine ourselves every single day.  Each day is a chance to create or re-create a new you.  A chance to uncover what you buried for so long.  

So you don’t know who you were before the eating disorder?  Who would you like to be? Sit down and write out what would be a perfect day in your eyes. A day without an eating disorder.  Write down every single thing you would do from the time you got up to the time you went to sleep. Image where you’d be, who you’d be with, what you’d eat, where you’d eat, whether you’d have a pet, where you’d be working or going to school, what you would do for fun.  

What is stopping you from making all of that come true?  Nothing, except the eating disorder.

When I was trying to figure out who I was without the eating disorder, I thought I had to be one thing, because I was giving up one thing.  But nothing–nothing–was going to be able to fit that hole perfectly.  And I discovered that I didn’t want to be one thing.  That I couldn’t be just one thing.  The picture above is my cubicle wall at my desk at school.  It’s a fair representation of who I am.  There are pictures of my nephew (there will be pictures of my niece added in the fall), pictures of me and my friends, musician postcards, a TWLOHA postcard, a pin from the Eating Disorders Coalition, a postcard from Poet Lore, where I used to work.  There’s a Obama rally flyer from when he came to our campus and there’s a postcard of a photographer I like.  I enjoy all of these things.  And more.  I don’t have pictures of my favorite authors up there, or pictures of my knitting, or a pointe shoe hanging off of a push pin.  

These things are all part of who I am.  It’s a much more well-rounded person than I was five years ago.  I am free to enjoy all of these things in a way I wasn’t before.  I have time; I have energy; I have passion.  Everything the eating disorder took away.

August 16, 2009 Posted by | Eating Disorders, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fiestaware without a real house?

Fiesta

When I was still in undergraduate at Moravian College, and because I was involved in the Christian Fellowship Group on campus, I had several friends who were at the Moravian Theological Seminary.  I bought a guitar from one of them.  I sublet an apartment for a summer from another.  I was a counselor at Camp Hope with some of them.  I learned how to make popcorn on the stove from one of them.  

I remember that I once told a friend from the Seminary, “When I’m grown up, I’m going to have my own teapot.”  I’m not really sure why I thought I had be “grown up” to have a teapot, and since I was going into my junior year of college, I’m not sure at what point I would have said, “Okay, I’m grown up now.  Bring on the teapots!”  My friend pretty much felt that if I wanted a teapot, I should enjoy having a teapot, regardless of age.  Why should I have to wait for something so inconsequential?  And for my birthday that year, she bought me my first teapot.  

I now own four teapots: two I inherited from my great-grandmother along with several old tea-cups, and two Fiestaware teapots.  

Fiestaware was another thing I had this rule about.  I said, “Once I get married and have a real house, I’ll get real dinnerware.”  I’d been living in my own apartment for a few years by then, was working, and was an official adult.  My first Fiestaware plate setting was Periwinkle Blue, given to me by a friend who had an extra place setting in that color.  She gave this to me right before I moved to DC to begin my master’s program.  For awhile, that was my lone fiesta ware setting.  Eventually, one by one, I added a new color.  And now I have serving dishes, canisters, a cream and sugar set, a sugar packet caddy, teapots, tea cups, salt and pepper shakers (two different styles) and a spoon rest.  

I am not married, nor do I have a real house.  

These rules I made for myself of only being able to do certain things “if and when I do/have accomplished. . .” were pointless and only kept me from enjoying things.  I still make rules:  If I don’t finish this reading by this time, I can’t knit today.  And while, as a PhD student, some of this is necessary, I’ve learned in the past year that I need to say, “I’m going to knit today (or do something that equals downtime) regardless of the amount of work I have to do or I am going to go insane.”  

Rules.  Control.  Order.  Everything nice and neat and tidy.  It all sounds ideal, but the world rarely fits into any of those categories.  So I’m in the process of learning not to make them.

August 15, 2009 Posted by | Eating Disorders, identity | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Taking Back History

I am similar to many survivors of early childhood sexual abuse and rape: in the beginning, we blame ourselves for what is happening or what happened in the past.  We do this because we are taught explicitly by the abuser or we learn it implicitly because in a child’s head the only way abuse can make sense is in a black and white world “I’m good, I don’t get hurt” or “I’m bad and deserve to be hurt.”  

It took years to begin speaking about what happened, and even though my adult mind could logically know that I was not the one at fault, I still felt like it was my fault.  I couldn’t get passed the years of being told that I deserved it; I couldn’t get passed the years of living in fear; I couldn’t get passed the believe that I didn’t deserve intimacy or care as an adult. For awhile, as I told the my family therapist when I was admitted to the hospital the next-to-the-last time, I honestly believed that I was “over it.”  And then because of events that happened in therapy, all the memories came back, and I discovered that I was anything but “over it.”  But during that stay, working with an excellent trauma therapist, I did begin to let in the idea that I was not at fault in any way shape or form.  And over the next year, those ideas grew stronger until I fuller accepted and believed them.  I could place the blame on his shoulders, even if it took some mental processing to do so.

Today I was at my favorite little hole-in-the-wall mexican restaurant and was re-reading part of my manuscript to prepare it for a guest lecture I’m doing.  And I got to one of the abuse scenes just as my order was called.  And I started to eat and re-read, looking for typos, and I thought, “Maybe this isn’t the best scene to be reading while I’m eating.”

And then I thought, “This bastard kept me from enjoying meals like this for over twelve years.”

This was the first time that I honestly went directly to that correct conclusion without any intervening mental gymnastics to get my head in the right space.  I placed the blame where it belonged with ease.  

And it felt amazing.

August 13, 2009 Posted by | Eating Disorders, recovery, trauma | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Identity, Take 3

Okay, I’ll get to the second third installment in my identity series (first post and second post).  The following question was posed to me on my topics page: 

What was recovery like, in the very beginning, and how has it changed for you as you’ve progressed?

As I stated in Identity, Take 2, the beginning of my recovery was ugly as hell: depression, anxiety, more depression, more anxiety, the internal crisis of Who the fuck am I without the eating disorder?  I ended that post in the following manner: 

“The first months of recovery were terrifying.  I didn’t know how to cope, I didn’t know who I would be in the end, I didn’t know how I should tie my shoes in the morning.

But I kept doing what I normally did, minus the eating disorder symptoms.  I went to work.  I went to school.  I talked to people.  I talked to my treatment team.  I kept working on recovery.  

And I settled into life.  Life, with all its rawness that can leave one feeling whipped at the end of the day.  

Life, with all its promises for joy that can leave one feeling loved and nurtured at the end of the day.

You can’t have the latter without the former.”

 

I know, I know, I made that last bit sound so easy.  It wasn’t.  The “settling into life” took a good several months.  I am serious when I say I went about my daily actions because they were there.  Without the anorexia, I had no idea if I still wanted to be a writer (why my career depended on my illness, I have no idea).  I considered dropping out of my MFA program and not taking the GREs and the GRE Literature Test to apply to PhD programs–because why would I take the tests if I didn’t want to get my PhD?  But I couldn’t think of anything else to do instead.  I had wanted to be a writer since high school, going through the “It’ll just be a hobby” stage into the “I’ll write on the side of a “real career”” stage to the “I”m going to follow this with everything I’ve got stage.”  I didn’t have anything else I wanted that much.  

I was scared shitless when I returned to school that fall semester.  Most people hadn’t seen me since I had dropped out of the spring semester in the beginning of March, right before I went inpatient the last time.  Of course I was prepared for the “I didn’t recognize” you comments and the head-to-toe-to-head scans that result in a slight moment of shock in the onlookers eyes.  Both of these happened.  

I remember one day, sitting in the English Grad Student lounge, a mentor and professor–who had visited me while I was in the hospital–walked passed the door to the lounge and then walked back and looked at me.  He said, “I didn’t recognize you.   You look completely different.  You actually look alive.”

My reply shocked me.  “I know,” I said.  “Isn’t it wonderful?”  There were no “He thinks I’m fat” thoughts or “He’s only saying that to be polite.”  I knew him, and I trusted him not to bullshit me.  

Our poetry workshop that semester was nothing short of . . . intense.  Out of control.  There was a dynamic in the classroom that raised the electrical current in the air a few levels.  Fingers were pointed.  I was proposed to.  Excellent poems came out of that workshop.  And I was a part of it.  Never before had I been so vocal.  I would bring up my points, but I would never dare get excited or flare up.  Not this semester.  I was in the middle of things.  And it was an amazing experience.  We had the perfect people for that type of workshop.  That much drama could kill another group of people, but we fed off of it and let it lead us into really great places.

Our writing workshop classes were always evening classes, and that fall I took both Nonfiction and Poetry.  Often, the nonfiction crew would grab coffee afterward, but the poetry group always went out to this Mexican restaurant for margaritas and dinner, professor included.  We had the best, most intense talks about life and art and poetry and love.  The first time I went out, I had a diet coke and nibbled on tortilla chips, nervous about what others would think if I ate in front of them, not knowing what was “okay” to eat.  The second time I went out, I ordered something small.  But no one commented or even looked at what I ate.  We were too busy talking and having an intensely good time.  After that, I ordered whatever I wanted.  I spoke up in the conversations, let myself get carried away in the laughter.  Let myself be present. During a meal.  In a restaurant.  Two of my previous triggers.  Two of the things that kept me from engaging with people and with life.  

I went out with friends for coffee that semester, and the following semester.  After taking the GRE Literature Test (which equals Hell), a friend and I went and got burgers and fries and stopped each other from bashing our heads into walls because of the stress.  I let someone cook for me.  I let someone tell me what I wanted to eat–not as in taste wise, but what my body wanted because of my emotions at the time.  This friend has an uncanny ability to appraise someone’s emotions and inform them what foods will help.  And before you all think “Oh, emotional eating, bad bad bad.”  No.  Responding to an emotion with a food that feels good is healthy and normal.  Sometimes it was meat she suggested (you need to keep your iron levels up during this time of the month), sometimes it was ice cream, sometimes she stopped at a fancy candy shop and bought four pieces of really good, expensive chocolate and we experimented with our favorite flavors and textures.  

Without realizing it, I began wearing clothes that fit better.  I used to wear these jeans that were about four or five sizes too big for me, along with XL hooded sweatshirts.  When my brother came to take me on a pass during my last IP stay, we went to buy two pair of jeans that fit since I wasn’t allowed to wear a belt on the unit.  I bought them so they were still a little roomy, so I was still in my comfort zone.  But as I returned to full health and weight restoration, those jeans became the size I should have always been wearing.  I had stopped hiding in my clothes.  This didn’t mean that I was wearing skin tight clothes and low cut tops–that’s just not my style–but it did mean that people could actually see me and not layers and layers of clothing.  

I recently purchased a sweater from a friend who was cleaning out her closets.  A few days after I “ordered” it, I thought, “that looks familiar.  I wonder if it’s from Old Navy.  I think I had the same exact sweater in the same exact color.”  And when I got my package, I was right.  Same sweater, same color.  FOUR sizes smaller.  And it fits perfectly.  When I owned the much larger sweater, I was at a much lower weight.  But I was determined to hide, no matter how ridiculous it must have looked.  

All of these things have helped me as I moved 1000 miles away to my PhD program.  I can’t say I wasn’t nervous eating in front of people I had only  met a few days ago, but in grad school, the way to get people to attend meetings is to provide food.  (And coffee.)  I’m still introverted by nature, but I always have been.  Fourteen years ago, I first took the Meyers-Briggs Personality Inventory and I was an INFP  (we’re the introverted, idealistic dreamers of the world). That has never changed, and I’ve had to take that test several times.  

Recovery didn’t change the core part of who I am; it allowed that person to surface and grow stronger. It doesn’t mean that life is easy with this knowledge.  It means that life is real with this knowledge, that I am a part of it.  For the first time of my adult life, I am a part of what is going on around me.

August 11, 2009 Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mindfulness, take 2

A long time ago (when the earth was green . . . sing along everyone!)–actually 10 years ago, I was struggling with severe self-harm and did a three-month inpatient Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) program and a three month DBT outpatient program, followed by a year of a weekly DBT skills group and individual therapy with a DBT therapist. I can honestly say that I was an extremely resistant patient at first.  It’s not that I didn’t want to stop cutting; I just hated the program. The structure, the modules, the skills sheets, the homework, the behavioral analyses if you self-injured or went against treatment protocol.  Everything felt so forced.  I felt cornered.  

Who would have thought that ten years later I would willingly return to DBT for individual therapy, not because the self-harm was out of control, but because the anxiety and depression were out of control.  I knew DBT had helped me once before–after I had my session of telling my therapist off followed by a session of complete breakdown that resulted in me saying, “Fine.  My way’s not working so I’ll try things your way.  But I’m not promising anything.”  (The program was a life-changing program for me and I don’t regret taking a full year off of college to do it.)  I figured I’d give DBT another shot.  So here I am filling out my diary cards every night, rating emotions and checking off skills. 

Last week, I was told by my therapist that I needed to “embrace the back of my therapy card more.”  The back is the side that lists all the DBT skills and you check off what ones you used that day.  I would maybe check off two or three.  Max.  So he said, “Let me tell you what skills you’re using,” and proceeded to list a whole lot more that two or three.  At the end of our session, he gave me a refresher cheat sheet of the skills to look at as I’m filling out the cards. And, like the good little student I am, I’ve done so.  And I discovered two things: A) I’m paying more attention to my day–the positive aspects of my day, the things I do well rather than critiquing what I’m “failing” at, and B) I’m paying more attention to skills again.

There are two skills that are difficult for me: Mindfulness and Nonjudgmental Stance.  Mindfulness, or “one-mindfully” means that you are allowing yourself to focus on one thing–letting go of distractions and being aware of the here and now.  Nonjudgmental stance is, as it sounds, when you accept something as it is without labeling it or judging it.  

As I was walking today, I was thinking of these things.  And how I get stressed about school and if I’m going to be able to keep up this semester because of health problems and what am I going to do if I get overwhelmed and what if I have to drop a class and and and . . . And I realized that I am always multi-tasking.  Always.  I eat while reading for school.  I drink coffee while doing school work.  I knit while watching tv.  I am never just doing one thing.  Except maybe when I’m sleeping.

But I like drinking tea.  And I’ve decided to try a little experiment.  I’m going to make a cup of tea every day and sit and drink it. Not while reading or doing the dishes or walking around putting things away.  I’m going to sit down and smell the tea, taste the tea, and breathe.  I’m hoping that if I do this now, before school starts, it will become a habit for after school starts and then all the “what if” questions might not need to be asked.

August 10, 2009 Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, self harm, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments