Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Let’s talk about sex . . .

one common secret

one common secret

another common secret

another common secret

I just couldn’t resist the throwback to the great 1991 hit single.  Although someone was asking about identity in my Topics page, she also brought up the issue of sexuality.

I think it’s a topic a lot of  us with eating disorders would like to ignore, but I don’t think we can. The two are intimately linked, no pun intended, even for those without histories of sexual abuse or trauma.

There is a fear of sexuality, of growing into an adult female form.  We become instilled with the fear that men can hurt us.  And we found a way to prevent this from happening: We starve our bodies down until there are no feminine curves.  We eat until we can hide behind an excessive amount of curves so that no man would would want us.  We purge to numb the fears away.

Here’s a short run-down of my story: I was sexually abused and raped from the time I was four until I was eight.  I thought that if I could just make myself small enough, no one would see me.  If no one could see me, no one could hurt me.  Problem solved.

Except my solution was killing me.  Literally.

As an underweight anorexic, a part of my recovery required weight restoration (I do not believe you can recover and maintain an unhealthy weight).  One of the most triggering parts of weight restoration was whenever I had to change my bra size.  Silly, huh?  Not the size of my jeans (although that bothered me), but the size of my bra.  That meant that men must be looking at me, appraising me, and that they would take advantage of me as soon as they could.

That didn’t happen.  Part of recovery was also learning how to take care of myself, and that meant having proper boundaries and learning how to protect myself.

But sex in general.  These two “secrets” (from PostSecret) are not uncommon.  The first one was the first part of recovery.  Where I just shoved aside anything sexual or intimate.  My only experiences with sex had been negative, even as an adult.

The second secret is still a common fear of mine, again, because it’s been so prevalent in my history.  I thought I had found someone to prove me wrong, but I was mistaken.  But when I look back at the experience, I learned two things: I am no longer afraid of sex and that I should have waited in this one situation.  Not in the “saving myself” waiting, but in the “I really didn’t know enough about him” type of waiting.  If I had waited, I would have learned that I was not going to be loved.  But I did learn that when I find the person who can offer more than sex, I am ready.  That doesn’t mean I won’t need a little reassurance.  That doesn’t mean I won’t be a little shy.  I haven’t completely healed from the trauma, and the person who is willing to love me is going to have to be willing to work with that.

And I will have to be willing to continue to work on my body image, the way I think about my body, the way I think other people picture my body.  I spent twelve years building up a repertoire of  negative comments and my head is filled with distortions.  Sometimes, I find I have to tell myself to just “shut the fuck up, already” and get dressed in the morning and walk out the door.

I noticed someone watching me, appraising me in a sexual kind of way,  as I walked by her the other day.  And I kept my head held high, and after I had passed her, I actually smiled.

September 29, 2009 Posted by | Body Image, Eating Disorders, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Food

And now for an entry taken from the Topics page.

The questions

How do you cope with the very real relationship that food has for someone with an ED, in all stages of an ED: active, in treatment, recovery/recovered?  Describe your relationship with food, now and then, what you found easiest and most difficult in your journey.

I have a feeling this may take more than one entry.  As do a lot of my topics.

We’re always told “The eating disorder isn’t about the food or the weight; there are underlying issues that need to be dealt with.”  But food has to be dealt with, too.

When I was actively anorexic, food was an excuse.  I couldn’t go to social events that included food.  I couldn’t eat if I hadn’t exercised.  I couldn’t eat certain foods just because (there really was no logic to why I cut out certain foods.  I was never a calorie counter or a fat counter.  I would just one day decide that food was no longer okay to eat, regardless of whether it was healthy or not).  I was terrified of food.  I hated being seen while eating.  I hated going out to dinner and having to decide what to get off the menu.  It was painful to make that decision.  I hated food.  I knew it was necessary, and I knew I needed some of it in order to do my ridiculous exercise regimen, but I hated the taste, the texture, the fullness, the act of swallowing.

(Some of my fears/hatred of food stems from early childhood sexual abuse and rape and the equation of forced oral sex with swallowing.  This was dealt with both from an eating disorder therapy standpoint and a trauma therapy standpoint.)

While I was in treatment.  Obviously, the first thing that was taken away from me was my control–what I ate and when and how much.  The first hospitalizations, I never got over the hatred of this.  But during the last two, when I was ready to recover, after the initial rebellion/discomfort at the lack of control, it was actually a relief to have someone else make those decisions for me.  The hospital I was at gave us choices–each day we chose from a list of entrees and sides and the nutritionist made sure we were meeting all of our requirements–but I think I realized that I had to trust my treatment team with the food requirements.

At first, I relied on safer foods–things I had eaten before, things that didn’t terrify me as much as the other options.  My breakfasts were pretty much the same every day for awhile and then I decided to try french toast and stray from my normal scrambled eggs routine.  I survived.  And I remembered that it tasted good (for hospital food).

At this hospital, we had Therapeutic Lunch once a week.  It was always a combination food, served buffet style, and always challenged several different fears at once.  I hated those days.  Chinese stir fry.  Pizza.  Mediterranean sandwiches.  Pulled pork sandwiches.  Subs.  But a strange thing happened through those lunches–I learned that I could eat those things.  That nothing bad would happen to me if I did.  And I discovered some new foods that I had never eaten before now love.  In fact, tonight I just went to a friend’s house where a bunch of us have Sunday potluck dinners or themed dinners.  And tonight was make your own pizza night.  And I was able to make my pizza, eat it, enjoy it, and have fun.

After treatment:  I stuck with my meal plan religiously for awhile, afraid that if I strayed, I would relapse completely.  I had this tendency to eat the same exact thing at the same exact time every day.  That way I knew I was getting was I needed.  But there was no variety, and there certainly wasn’t any fun.  My nutritionist thought it was important that I not eat from a meal plan, but learn to eat based on hunger cues and what sounded good at the time.  We started by adding variety into my diet, and then we started rating hunger and satiety before and after meals so I could learn when my body naturally wanted to eat and when it was full.

I remember one day I was walking home from work and I was exhausted.  I had spent most of the weekend at the bedside of a friend in ICU and then went to work the following day.  I went into a corner-store and stared at all the frozen dinners and was too tired to make a decision.  Then I saw the ice cream.  And I grabbed a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and went home, sat in front of the TV, ate all of it and went to sleep.  I was terrified my nutritionist was going to yell at me for that.  Instead, she told me that what I did was perfectly normal.  It wouldn’t be normal if I had that for dinner on a daily basis, but I was stressed, emotionally and physically exhausted, and wanted something comforting.

Today:  I eat.  There are still some foods that are difficult–casseroles and lasagna.  I don’t have to remind myself to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  And I only plan ahead for dinner because I have to know what kind of meat to take out of the freezer in the morning.  Usually at meal times, I look in my cupboards or fridge and find something that looks good.  There are no foods I won’t let myself have.  I make a conscious effort to get fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet every day.  I can go out to dinner with friends and order whatever I want without guilt.

Four years ago, a get together like tonight would have been impossible for me.  A bunch of peers socializing around food.  Eating food.  Laughing.  I would have been sipping diet coke and nibbling on tortilla chips and waiting until I could leave–if I even went at all.  But now I can go and participate and relax and come home and be glad I have the group of friends I do.

September 27, 2009 Posted by | Eating Disorders, health, recovery, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Being Seen

TWLOHA day from a couple years ago (?)

TWLOHA day from a couple years ago (?)

Since my last two entries have been about body image and the concept of being seen, I decided to keep on this theme, from a slightly different angle.

This picture sums up a lot of how I wanted to be seen while I was still sick.  Except if this was from when I was still sick, I would have had a huge hoodie sweatshirt on and pants were a few sizes bigger.  But the angle of the picture–the fact that most of me is missing, unavailable to your sight–that’s what I want you to understand.

My anorexia was not in any way an attempt to look like fashion models.  Fashion models are watched in everything they do.  I wanted to disappear so that no one could see me at all.

But, wait–didn’t I just write that it’s difficult not to compare myself to college freshmen and yes, even some of the people I see through various media forms?  Isn’t this contradictory?

When I say I compare myself to others, I don’t think, “I want to look thinner than her because then I’ll be beautiful” or “I want to look thinner than her because then I’ll be better than her.”  Social comparison was a way I judged how close I was to disappearing (and yes, I now realize that this is impossible).  Now social comparison is a reminder of how I used to look compared to now.

I still prefer not to be noticed for my body, for the curves I now have, for what is now a feminine figure and not an asexual one.  I’ve been more daring, challenging this discomfort.  Wearing clothes that are more similar to the ones in this picture–clothes that are my appropriate size.  I’ve started wearing things like skirts and heels, and although I feel very self-conscious when I do so, I walk confidently.  I don’t look around to see who’s watching, because I think I’m still scared to know that someone may be noticing me.

I think this is one of the hardest things for people to understand about eating disorders: they aren’t about looks, they aren’t about weight.  There are always underlying issues.  Usually multiple.  I can list mine, but they all lead to the desire to disappear, which is the opposite of being seen.

When you see someone afraid to put that apple in her mouth, don’t always assume it’s the apple she’s afraid of.  She may be afraid of what the apple represents.

September 25, 2009 Posted by | Body Image, Eating Disorders, identity | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Seen from the Outside

IMG_3192So yesterday I wrote about my body’s changes and how I wanted to regain the strength and energy I had before.

But I think there are questions of,”Okay, so what do you really think of your body–when you look at it?”

Admittedly, this is still a difficult one for me.  Especially since during my last time I was hospitalized, I hit my idea weight–not the insurance’s ideal weight, but my actual ideal weight where I functioned best–and then in the previous year I have gained even more. Enough that I bought new jeans and shirts that were form fitting were a little too form fitting for my comfort.

Sometimes I get angry.  I realize some of this–aging, the slowing of my metabolism, surgery, lifestyle changes–are all out of my control.  But I like being in control, especially when it comes to my body. So yes, sometimes I feel like I’ve done something wrong to get to where I’m at.  Sometimes I look in the mirror and I don’t like what I see.  Because I still picture me X pounds ago, and somehow that still sneaks in there.  It’s difficult working on a large university campus where I see (and teach) young women who haven’t even finished puberty yet.  That social comparison is still there.  Even though I’ve 14 years older than them, I still think I should look like them.  And I have to remind myself that they aren’t fully developed yet, that by the time they graduate, their bodies will have changed, too.  And that there is still a difference between a 22-year-old body and a 32-year-old body.

I don’t know if it’s called radical acceptance or willingness or turning of the mind, but the temptations to restrict or overexercise are not there.  I have a respect for my body I did not have before recovery, and harming it is not an option.  But there are still some cognitive changes that I’m working on.

I do not believe that having body image problems means you have an eating disorder.  If it did, then probably 98% of our society would be hospitalized right now, and while that would clear up road congestion, it’s not realistic.   As I said in my previous entry, we are wired to have these negative thoughts about what we should look like.  Yes, these thoughts are stronger for me partly because I had an eating disorder.  But right now, I don’t attribute it to the eating disorder.  It’s more of a quality of life thing that combines physical health with mental health.  As I’ve stated before, I’m still a work in progress, recovered or not.

September 24, 2009 Posted by | Body Image, Eating Disorders, health, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wired Image

Wired_Beauty__On_Sale_by_LemnosExplorer(This is not my artwork, but this image is for sale at DeviantArt.)

The title of this is Wired Beauty, and I think it’s such a great portrayal of the problems in our culture, in most Western cultures: this believe that there is one beautiful form out there and that we have to make ourselves fit into it.  By wiring ourselves into garments (corsets are making a comeback), squeezing into tight fitting jeans, and dieting and working out to fit into this shape that is present all around us in the media.

But if you dare look around you, you will see women and men of all shapes and sizes.  And it’s beautiful.

But it can also be frustrating for some of us.  This whole piece of body image that was part of the eating disorder.  I, restate, once again, that I am not anorexic.  I am fully recovered.  But my body has gone through some changes this year, and I’m having a very hard time adjusting.  I haven’t reacted in any way.  I’m taking steps, with my treatment team’s consent, to get back into a comfort zone.

That’s a dangerous phrase, no?  “Comfort zone.”  For most people with eating disorders it came to represent something under what his or her doctor recommended as a healthy weight.  I’m completely fine with being at a healthy weight.  In fact, my healthy weight is almost ten whole pounds above what the charts say is normal. And I’m okay with that because that’s where I’ve found I’m healthiest, strongest, and have the most energy.

But then this whole cardiac diagnosis came along and I’m no longer allowed to run or bike or swim.  I take these leisurely walks where I’ve been yelled at from cars to “pick up the speed a little.”  Some of the effects of the surgery itself have resulted in some weight gain.  And I don’t mean a couple of pounds.  I mean significant weight.  A whole new wardrobe that I can’t afford kind of weight gain.

There is always that line, a very dangerous line, for someone who has had an eating disorder and should lose weight for medical reasons.  What I’m looking for is to re-find that spot where I felt physically healthy and strong and energized.  This is part of my body image.  How I see myself from the inside, what I’m capable of achieving in this body.

September 23, 2009 Posted by | Body Image, Eating Disorders, health, heart, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Faith, part 2

The_Silence_by_ilsilenzio So I think I’m already jumping in on Faith, part II.  If you are not familiar with the layout here, just click on faith to get to Faith, part 1.  (It’s the previous entry.) (And please feel free to comment here and not just on Facebook!)

When I think of my faith and my spirituality, I think of silence and being alone.  Not in a negative way, as in isolationism and not hearing anything from God.  I mean that depending on who you are and how well you know me and the social context, I’m not going to talk about my personal faith.  I’ll answer questions if you ask.  But it’s a very private thing for me.

I was very active in the Christian Fellowship Group at my undergraduate school.  It was the first time such a significant group people my age gathered together for study and worship because they wanted to be there and not because their parents made them.  That group gave me a lot support and as close to unconditional love as is possible from humans.  They knew about my hospitalizations, wrote me letters while I was away, and always–even the new people who had shown up while I was away–welcomed me back with open arms and no questions asked.

But there’s been this discussion going on on Facebook lately, about faith-based treatment centers.  I am all for treatment centers that incorporate your spirituality into your recovery process.  If you are a spiritual person, then that needs to be addressed. An eating disorder affects every part of a person.  And a person may be able to draw strength from their spirituality during a difficult day or meal.  And treatment may be a place where a person can explore their beliefs and strengthen them.  (I believe this can happen in any treatment center, by the way.)

What I don’t appreciate is someone telling me that I need to go to a faith based program in order to heal.  That going to an inpatient facility or a program with a spiritual component will not allow me to recover.  When I was looking into treatment when I was 24-ish (?), I was told by one treatment center that God was the only to healing my eating disorder.

Really?  Then why didn’t I just go to church more?  Why didn’t I have my congregation do a healing ceremony for me?  The messages I came away (from that particular treatment center) were:

Wasn’t I praying hard enough?  Didn’t I believe enough?  Was my faith not good enough?

If these things were true, God must have it out for young men and women and eating disorders and addictions and self-harm must all be a test of our faiths.  And I don’t, or can’t, believe in a God who would do that to a twelve-year-old girl.

I believe God has a part in healing.  If you have a relationship with God–whatever God is to you, however you define God–then you need to address that relationship during recovery, just as you would any relationship that has been harmed by the eating disorders or self-harm or addictions.  How you go about that will be different for every person.

For me, accepting healing from God did not mean that he was going to “heal me” and take away the eating disorder.  It meant that he was going to stand with me and help me as I did a lot of really difficult and painful work.

And I think now that the main storms have raged, I need to take a seat on the bench and reflect.  Where I came from, where I’m at now, and where I want to be and how my God has been involved and will be involved through all of it.

September 22, 2009 Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, faith, identity, recovery, self harm | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Faith

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Faith.  Before you all go run for cover and cry, “Not another Jesus Freak trying to tell me if I prayed harder God would heal me,” please pause and read.

Yes, I am a Christian.  Although, when I think about it, I wonder if the mentor who first introduced me to Christ would say I am a Christian still, or if I’ve allowed too much worldly influence into my spiritual beliefs.

I mean, look at the tattoo on my left wrist, written in Sanskrit that translates roughly: I acknowledge the divinity within me.  I suppose we could Christianize that with the Holy Spirit residing in each one of us.  But I was reading a Bible in the store the other day and it said that people who worship the “inner divine” were idol worshipers and there was no place for them in heaven.

(My definition of God is not necessarily the Christian God.  Or even that God is singular.  There are many civilizations who worship many Gods, people who have never been exposed to the Christian God.  And who is to say that “my” God isn’t the same God that an Indian is bowing to across the world?  I don’t feel comfortable making that call anymore.)

You know, it took me a long long time before I could acknowledge the divinity with me.  For the twelve years I was actively anorexic, there was no divine presence within me at all.  And my connection with God was shaky at best.  My connection with people in my life was shaky, so how could I connect with someone I couldn’t see and touch?  And I was aware of this absence, but I was also more focused on the eating disorder.

Lately, I’ve been pulled to return to some formal study.  Private study, reflection time, lectia divino, whatever you want to call it.  I obviously did not pick the study Bible that said I was an idol worshipper and was lacking a place in heaven.  I picked a study Bible that is geared toward women in their 20s and 30s and it’s about identity.  Not labeling myself as “a PhD student” or “a graduate instructor” or “an aunt.”  Just me and my God.

I’ve just felt a little discontented lately–several months lately.  There’s been periods of joy, but joy and happiness and sadness and anger are all emotions that come and go.  Contentment is a feeling of “this is good where I am.”  And I’m hoping that re-opening this aspect in my life will allow me to do so.

September 20, 2009 Posted by | Eating Disorders, feelings, identity | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“I’m afraid I’m letting you down.”

I’ve been an advocate for many women seeking treatment for eating disorders and self-injury, helping them find appropriate treatment centers and helping them know what to ask (or even who to call) when calling their insurance companies.  I’ll admit that I love watching these young women (I’m sorry, but I’ve never worked with a male before, but I am fully aware that these illnesses do not discriminate between sexes) grow in recovery–be it in leaps and bounds or small victories.  Every step forward is, indeed, a step forward.

A few days ago, one such person commented to me that she was afraid that was was letting me down because she was having a difficult time adjusting to being in treatment.  Although this worries me on a couple levels, the most important one I want to mention is that your recovery is your recovery. It is not mine; it is not your friends; it is not your therapist’s or doctor’s; and it is not your parents’.  It is yours.

I think a lot of us grew up trying to live up to the expectations of other people, and the guilt that sets in when we think we’ve let them down can sometimes be crushing.  Recovery is the last place you should feel the need to please people.  Everyone’s journey of recovery looks different.  I can only tell you what has worked for me, what has helped me along the way.  I cannot promise you that it will work for you.  And if you happen to do something different than me, I will not feel disappointed.

I will not feel disappointed if you have rough days or if you have those moments where you want to throw in the towel. Are you still trying?  Are you still taking some small step forward in some part of your life?  Are you willing to consider the possibility of recovery?  Are you willing to still listen to people who have been there?  Are you willing to pick up the pieces and give it another shot, no matter how sucky this day was?  If you can answer yes, how could I ever be disappointed?  You’re alive.  You’re fighting.

But on the other side of things: Have you given up completely and walked away from all treatment professionals and supportive friends?  have you literally told us all to “Fuck off” and “Mind your own business”?  Have you decided that the eating disorder is the only way you can live and are unwilling to consider another possibility?  If you answer yes, you haven’t disappointed me, but you may want to see if you are disappointing yourself.

Because this isn’t about me.  It’s about you.  You get to claim all of the hard work you’ve done along the way, the discoveries you’ve made, the knowledge you’ve gained.  That’s not mine.  It’s yours.  And once it’s yours, no one can take it away from you.

September 18, 2009 Posted by | Eating Disorders, identity, recovery, self harm, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

My family

IMG_2136

 

Hold on.  I need to refill my coffee cup . . . 

 

That was only partly in jest.  This comes form my Topics page.  I’ve been avoiding it because it is so complex.  So this entry may be long and jumbled.  (But I’m procrastinating at the moment, so it’s all good.)

The topic suggestion:

what is your family’s take on your eating disorder and recovery? that’s the part of the story that is often missing. i’m always curious – it goes so far beyond “well, she was sick, and now she’s better”.

 

My family and my eating disorder.  I’m hoping that if a member of my extended family reads this and reports back to them, my parents will agree with what I’ve written here.  

I did not develop full-blown anorexia until after I left my parents’ house.  I began over-exercising when I was 13, but I was also an extremely talented athlete and had been competing in something since I was a child.  So it would have been difficult to look at me and draw the line between “healthy” and “unhealthy” exercise unless you knew the motivation behind it.  And, of course, no one did.  For me, every workout was a way to escape, to numb out, to pound out every feeling inside of me until nothing was left.  For my coaches, this desire to “do more” was a sign that I wanted to succeed.  And I did want to succeed.  

So my parents were not witness to my dropping weight, my skin color changes that are all too evident when I look back at photos, or my odd behaviors around mealtimes.  My first inpatient hospitalization specifically for the eating disorder was in 1999, and I needed my parents to take me, and I called and told my mom, “My therapist said I need to be hospitalized for anorexia or they will 2PC me (involuntarily commitment) me.”  Her reply was, “But why do you need to be hospitalized?”  

This idea that anorexia was not as serious as, say, my suicide attempt, remained constant for several years.  There was always a disappointed sigh when I said I needed to be hospitalized, along with the question, “Why?”  There would be the “But you were doing so well” comments and the “I thought you were being good” comments.  

All of this being said, I was not always honest with my family.  I did not tell them–or anyone save two very close friends–about the sudden cardiac arrest (which we originally thought was attributed solely to the eating disorder but now think was mainly due to the ARVD and was aggravated by the eating disorder).  They didn’t know about the extent of my exercise, the types of pills I was taken, or the number of nights spent in the ER.  

We had done family therapy–a couple of sessions when I was in the hospital–but my parents were not receptive to that and the sessions were mainly filled with the therapist attempting to explain to my parents why it was so important I be there and why I needed their full emotional support and what that could look like.

When I went to Sheppard Pratt the first time, I initially told them I didn’t want to do family therapy with my parents, but my social worker/family therapist pretty much insisted.  So every week by conference call and once in person, we did family therapy.  And this time, my parents started to listen.  (I do have a gut feeling that my father was more receptive because I had a male therapist.)  Prior to this IP visit, my parents didn’t really see a problem with over-exercise, until my therapist forced me to list, in detail, exactly what I did each day, which shocked my parents.  My parents were also made aware of certain behaviors that were previously unheard of to them.  I failed my first meal pass because I hid half my food at the dinner table and lost weight the next day.  Then I had to tell them why I had failed the pass.  They had never heard of anyone hiding food.  

The second time I was at SP (my last hospitalization), we continued family therapy.  And yes, we did have to cover some of the same groundwork, such as no, I was not happy to be gaining weight and didn’t want to drink the supplements because I knew they would help me gain weight.  By this point in time, my voice was stronger, and I had the support of my therapist, and I set up ground rules such as, “Do not comment on weight.  At all.  Positive or negative.  No comments.”  And similarly, “Do not comment on my eating.  At all.”  These rules are starting to bend a little, but it’s been almost three years.

I think a major part of the change in my parents willingness to work with my therapist was that for the first time, one of my family members was witness to my relapse.  I was living in DC and worked in my brother’s office.  I went to his house on weekends so I could see my nephew.  He saw me losing weight.  He could see how it was affecting me physically and mentally.  

Now?  I still get the occasional, “Are you being good?” questions that I both cringe at and shrug off because it’s not about “being good,” but I also know this is how they know how to phrase things.  I’ve learned to understand the ways that my parents are able to offer support.  We are only just beginning to be emotionally close, which I used to be upset about, but they would–and will–pay for my electricity bill if I need them to, or they will send me money if I need to buy food.  I’ve come to accept this concrete form of help as one of the ways they can show support.  In the past year, we’ve been able to talk about things more–my discomfort with my new size, how much it makes them happy to hear me say while shopping, “I’m hungry, can we get something to eat?”  

My parents and I have been through many changes–as any child and parent does.  I think the healthy development of our relationship was delayed because of my eating disorder.  I sort of skipped the adolescent anger and just shut down all forms of communication.  I think they were not receptive in the beginning.  They are not emotional people, and I am very emotional by nature, and I’m not sure they knew what to do with that.  I know I didn’t tell them everything at first  (And there are reasons for this dating back to my adolescence.), so in some circumstances I never gave them the chance to support me.  I can be stubborn and willful, so that may have something to do with it.  But I get that from my father, so that may have something to do with it.  

I will say that unless Sheppard Pratt had “forced” me to do family therapy every week, I would not have the relationship with my parents that I do now.  I would not have been comfortable with them coming to take care of me after my surgery, and instead, I was thankful my parents were with me through that ordeal and missed them when they left.  

It’s not a perfect relationship.  But I’ve yet to see a “perfect” relationship.  But we’ve come a long, long way.

September 13, 2009 Posted by | Communication, Eating Disorders, recovery, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Honesty Box

So one of the may applications of Facebook is the Honesty Box.  People who are on your friend’s list (who also have the application) can leave random, anonymous comments in your Honesty Box.  You can ask people to answer a specific question, which I have done in the past, but usually I forget to update my question and end up with random comments.  Some of which have been hilariously out-of-line/ignorant, and some of which have honestly made me think.  (I prefer the latter, by the way.)

Recently, I had someone ask me about my involvement with the eating disorder community, and how that affected my identity since I make it a point to say that I am fully recovered.  If I am fully recovered, then why am I blogging about it and why am I in certain Facebook groups and do either of these things keep me (too) involved in the eating disorder community.

(I will restate that I am fully recovered.  That does not mean that I’m done with dealing with the underlying issues.  Those took years to build up; a cessation of behaviors is not going to make them magically disappear.)

My previous therapist and I used to go back and forth about my involvement in the eating disorder community, and it took awhile for me to see his points and agree with them.  He was concerned that if I was trying to recover, then being so actively involved in advocacy work, in Facebook groups, and staying in peer groups made up of people with eating disorders who may not be healthy would keep me tied to my identity as Anorexic.  The last time I was in the hospital, I realized he was right, and oh how I hated admitting when he was right.  

So, for a year after I was discharged, I did not attend Lobby Days with the Eating Disorder Coalition (not only had I attended Lobby Days in the past, but I had also organized meetings for three different states on two separate years), I did not participate in National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I did not speak at any university or college, I did no presentations at conferences, and I limited the contact I had with other individuals with eating disorders and, yes, to be honest, the only “ED friends” I hung out with face-to-face that year were ones I would have been friends with regardless of the ED and who were doing well.  I didn’t go to online forums.  I dropped out of all of the Facebook groups for all of the hospitals I had been at, choosing to stay in the EDC group and the A Chance to Heal group (especially seeing how I had been on the advisory board of that group before moving to the midwest).  

Yes, it was difficult.  Now that I sit back and look at that last paragraph, that’s a lot of eating disorder stuff that was in my life.  At a time when I wasn’t healthy.  This is the key point.  I was doing all this advocacy work and trying to help other people while I was still sick myself.  I don’t mean the support we offer to each other when we are struggling.  I was calling treatment centers and finding out policies and calling insurance companies for people and spending a lot of energy making sure they got the help they deserved.  I spent a lot of time speaking at universities and colleges, warning about the dangers of eating disorders, when I looked like hell.  I gave one presentation less than two month before I was admitted to the hospital for the last time, and I was this sickly yellowish-pale color.  My energy should have been spent on my recovery.  Doing so isn’t being selfish; it’s a form of self-preservation.  

Now, after taking that break, after settling in to a new state and a new academic program, I am ready to resume my advocacy work.  And I have.  And it’s not as draining as it was, and I have a stronger voice when I speak.  

No, I do not think my advocacy work or my blogging keeps me tied to the eating disorder community.  To be honest, I already am tied to it, and always will be, until every single person I know who currently has an eating disorder recovers.  My previous therapist and I debated how much I should or should not communicate with people from treatment or Facebook.  And I decided that I couldn’t walk away.  I’ve had friends walk away while I was at my sickest, for both the eating disorder and self-harm, and I refuse to do the same.  I refuse to be the ever-so-annoyingingly-false-positive “You can do it, hun!” voice; I will be the voice that says, “Yes, I believe you can do it, but not if you keep doing what you are.”  

It breaks my heart every time I hear about another friend who has died from these disorders.  That’s why I can’t walk away.  Too many of us are taught that we are either doomed to a live of managing the eating disorder or dying from it.  I believe there is a third option: recovery.  Full recovery.  

And if convincing people that this is possible, if demonstrating that it is possible, keeps me tied to the community, then I don’t mind one bit.

September 12, 2009 Posted by | Body Image, Communication, Eating Disorders, identity, recovery, self harm | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments