Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Feeling and Knowing

 This song was on my mind today as I was walking at the park.  A) I like the group.  B) I just like it.  But I like how this song can talk about feeling alone and knowing you’re not alone at the same time.  And I guess I relate to that right now.

I’ve noticed in the past few days that I’ve wanted to escape.  Put up walls.  Retreat.  Get away.  Run away.  There’s lots of words for it.  Mainly it consists of not wanting to feel what I am currently feeling.  What am I feeling?  A shitload of depression, that’s for sure.  I’m at the point where everything takes an extraordinary amount of effort.  It’s better than it was in December, I’ll admit that, because then I was having suicidal thoughts again, which is why I had the ECT.  So if it makes sense, the depression is at the same level but the suicidal thoughts are absent, which makes things better.  But I go to bed and wake up, and It (the depression) is still there.  I take a nap; It’s there.  I go for a walk; It’s still there.  I watch a television program to distract myself or play some stupid game on facebook and It’s still there.  And I want a break.

Normally, I’m a fairly happy person.  I’ve never been the giggly-hyper-do-cartwheels-and-walk-laughing-into-every-room kind of girl, but I can laugh and joke and smile in the appropriate situations.  And lately I can’t.  Sometimes the old me can break through, but it’s rare.  And I want to bring her back because that’s the Lexie people want to be around.  Let’s face it, this Lexie isn’t much fun.

And in the past, there have been three ways I make the old Lexie come out, even if it’s just an act.  Because acting like that Lexie when I feel like this takes a hell of a lot of energy and I need some additional help doing so.  Those three ways were restricting, over-exercising and self-harm.  Each in their own way, they allowed me to conserve all emotional energy so that when I needed to be the Happy Lexie, I could draw on that reserve and bamn! there the Happy Lexie was.

I’m eating.  I’ll be honest.  It’s been hard.  I don’t want to get out of my bed to make food.  I rely on frozen dinners a lot.  Which, in DBT terms is called “being effective and doing what works.”  I exercise.  I walk 1 1/2 hours a day.  Sounds like a lot, but at the pace I’m going, it’s not.  I got passed by a 60-year-old today.  That made me swallow my pride.  So, needless to say, I am not exercising to the point of producing a bunch of feel-high endorphins.  And I no longer carry razor blades with me wherever I go.  We’ve come a long long way in that department.

So I’m feeling this need to retreat/put up walls/run away/not feel but I know I can’t and I’m going to have to weather this through and have those crying sessions where I use up 1/3 of a tissue box.  Sometimes I feel sort of hopeless, that I’m meant to be depressed forever.  But I’ve felt that way before and eventually gotten back to normal.  I’m starting to wonder if I do need a medication adjustment.  We’ve gone on the “you’ve had a really difficult year and are adjusting to a lot of difficult things that affect your identity” theory (which is true) and so haven’t tried medicating this away.  We’ve been trying to solve the existential dilemma, I guess.  But maybe it’s time to tweak some things.

I just want normal to come soon.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, feelings, self harm | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Who are you?

So this is my little corner of who I am.  I think there’s some misunderstanding–and I will fall into this trap at times, too–that we are what we do.  But that’s a pretty dangerous assumption, because what happens when, say, you define yourself as a Runner and then get diagnosed with a heart condition and have a cardiologist tell you that you will never run again?  Or when you cling to the identity of an eating disorder and then make all these steps toward recovery and are symptom free and then realize you don’t know who you are?  Basically, the shit hits the fan.

But wait a second . . . everything in this picture is something I do.  I write.  I read and study.  I knit and crochet.  I drink coffee out of Fiestaware mugs.  I collect hearts and Build-A-Bears.  I dance/d and play/ed the piano.  I take pictures.

And yes, I d0 all of these things.  But I do them for a reason.  I write because I love the worlds I create with my words and the feeling I get when writing.  I read and study because I am curious and like gaining knowledge and I love getting lost in a good book.  I knit and crochet because I’m creative and these are outlets for that, and they are also ways I relax and ground myself at times.  Taking pictures has always fascinated me.  I’ve never taken a class in photography, but I love the effects of angles and colors and light and the whole idea of capturing something forever.  Piano used to be an escape for me, and the option is still there, but mainly I just play around right now.  And no, I’m not on pointe anymore.  But that passion will never go away.  And the Build-A-Bear and heart?  Everyone has their obsessions.  I’ve finally found healthy ones.

We all have these things we do, but I don’t think we ask ourselves why we do them.  And maybe if we did, we’d discover other things that we might also enjoy and add to our arsenal of “who we are.”  There will always be room to add things.  And some things may disappear (notice there are no running shoes in this picture).  We are not static people, but changing.  Maybe, right now, I need to let go asking “who the hell am I now that I can’t do all these things because of my heart?”  and just do all the other things I love doing.

In the book Alice in Wonderland, Alice changes sizes twelve times.  (I think that’s the right number.)  Imagine growing too big to fit in a house and then shrinking to the size of a lizard?  If she came out of it all right, I think we can manage this.

March 28, 2010 Posted by | Eating Disorders, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Hungry Season by T. Greenwood

The Hungry Season by T. Greenwood

This post is long overdue.  After I got back from Radar, the whole “you’re a hypocrite,” “you’re not recovered,” comments flew my way and so I addressed those and then tried to get back into my normal mode of blogging.

I don’t endorse many eating disorder books.  We have books written by or about someone who has an eating disorder, has had an eating disorder, has died from eating disorder, or who grew up in the midst of someone else who had an eating disorder–in both fiction and nonfiction format.  I truly believe these books are necessary and there are stories still to be told and that more people–in certain populations–need to read them.  But I also know that people with eating disorders tend to pick up a book about eating disorders without really wanting to find the inspiration.  They are looking for tips or tricks or triggers.  And so I tend to keep quiet about what books I have found helpful, because I don’t know what’s going on in everyone’s heads and how they would “take” the book.

The Hungry Season is not an “eating disorder book.”  The premise is the loss of a family member, a daughter and sister, due to anorexia.  But the book is not about the immediate grief, anger, sadness, and confusion resulting from her death.  It’s about what happens to the people she left behind, how it affects the mother, the father, the brother–all in different and profound ways.  It’s about how they struggle to redefine family when part of that family is gone.  It’s about longing and desire and hunger in every day life.  What happens when those things are lost and the world you held dear is shattered in an instant?

The text doesn’t bring up the family memories struggles of trying to get their daughter or sister to eat, or taking her therapy or treatment or trying to instill in her the will to hold on to life.  It is about their reclamation of the will to hold on to life in a world without her.

What would your parents long for if you were gone?  What would your brother or sister turn to for consolation?  Would they be able to carry on as before?  Would their appetite diminish and how long would it take to get it back?

We–those of us who are suffering from and dying from eating disorders and those of us who attempt suicide or are thinking of doing so–often use the excuses of “they’ll be better off without me,” or “I cause too many problems,” or “they won’t even miss me.”  I know I thought those things before my suicide attempt.  And I certainly didn’t think my eating disorder affected those around me to any great extent.  It was, after all, mine.  The Hungry Season proves all of this wrong.  Our lives are only partly our own.

I have known over ten friends in real life who have died from their eating disorders, and through Facebook, I have known even more.  Each time it happens, it rips a hole through me that’s just about three inches above my navel.  Each of these beautiful individuals gave me a unique hole, and no other person can fill it.

Never think you will not be missed, that your life does not impact others, or that you death will be a minor event.  Your ghost will live on and, in some way, haunt those who hunger for you the most.

For information on T. Greenwood and her other books, please visit her website.

March 27, 2010 Posted by | death, Eating Disorders | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How do I feel about myself?

So, I was going to blog about something else today, but someone on my Formspring page asked me how I felt about myself right now.  And it was a muddled answer, because there is no easy way to answer this question.

I wrote:

I am proud of myself for seeing that a relapse was inevitable if I didn’t get help and so I got that help. I am proud of myself for not really wanting to slip back. I love having the freedom from obsessions when I go out to eat with friends.

And all of these things are true.  I think I’m a pretty creative person, and that I’m intelligent.  I thrive on learning, and I like that about myself.

I also wrote:

I’m pretty depressed right now and lonely, and that always makes me feel worse about myself in general. And I’ve still got a lot of work to do on my body image/body distortion thoughts.

And all of these things are true.  I don’t think having body image distortions makes me any less recovered.  I mean, I spent the vast majority of my life thinking my body looked one way and now I’m challenging those ideas with reality.  That takes time.  And while I don’t obsess about what to eat when I go out with friends or anything, I’m bordering on obsessing about my weight again, because of the oddness and inexplicability of what is going on with it, and I don’t like that about myself.  I feel like being in the hospital twice in the winter for depression and ECT and then at the Rader program for three weeks in January/February has put this “social piranha” label on me and I feel like I’ve become the unstable/crazy one that people want to avoid.  So these thoughts bring me down a lot.

I also wrote, “I’m excited for school to start in the fall. I miss it. I love teaching. And I think I’m a good teacher. And I want that drive in my life back.”  I do think I’m a good teacher, and my student evals have supported that.  And I am missing that thrill I get while I’m on campus and studying and writing and teaching and going to class.  It’s this vibe I get, and yes, it may be nerdy, but it’s one of the things I like about myself.

So thoughts about myself are pretty much convoluted and jump between positive and negative all the time right now.  I can logically know that depression is a major cause of this because major depression (I have Bipolar disorder) is a bitch, but my feelings often win out.

So there’s a better explanation to the “how do you feel about yourself” question.  And there’s probably more to it that I’m not seeing/feeling right now.  And it probably changes on a frequent basis.  But it is what it is.  For now.

March 23, 2010 Posted by | Body Image, feelings, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

confusing mesh of identity thoughts

me+coffee in a fiestaware mug=love

This will be in the identity post series, although I warn you, it’s going to be a rambling kind of post.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, but those thoughts aren’t exactly the most organized.

My previous identity post discussed how we label ourselves: “I’m an eating disorder patient.”  “I’m a cardiac patient.”  In fact, here are my exact words:

“I originally thought, when I got my cardiac diagnosis, “I am now a cardiac patient forever.”  That was pretty depressing for awhile.  But no.  I have to take certain precautions to keep me healthy, but I do not have to succumb to the idea that ARVD is who I am.”

But you want to know what?  I did fall back on calling myself a cardiac patient.  Maybe I didn’t walk around declaring it to people, but inside, I was still feeling that way, and it was a feeling based on fear.  I couldn’t let go of all the things that could go wrong, that could happen, that I was restricting activities and fearing what my heart would do to me next.

There’s still some fear there.  But I met this girl at the hospital who had every “right” to identify herself by her loss and by the eating disorder and to live in fear of both.  And she didn’t.  I’m sure there was a time when she did, and I’m sure she still grieved what she lost.  But there was joy and thanks and this ability to find life in each moment.  And I looked up to that and admired that, and it made me realize how much more work I need to do to stop living in fear of my own heart.  And I realize this isn’t going to happen overnight.  But just the thought, “I don’t need to fear my own self” is a very freeing thought.

Okay, so sort of on an unrelated subject, but not.  I promise you the two ideas will connect once I get there.

So I grew up this super star athlete, winning all star awards in my sports and going on to compete in two Varsity sports in college, becoming my college’s first freshman two-time All American.  After college, I continued to run, I had started studying yoga when I was 18, and eventually started teaching yoga.  Yes, the running got tied into the eating disorder.  But I did a lot of work–including forcing myself to take a full year off of all exercise–to break that tie.  And I learned to run and enjoy being outside and I felt strong and I started doing road races (I am not a distance runner, but I found the company and the vibe to be amazing).  I didn’t train, other than to do one long run a week.  Other than that, I just ran.  And if I got dressed and went outside and hated the weather, sometimes I ran and sometimes I walked back inside and didn’t run.

Enter the cardiac diagnosis that took that away from me.  Yes.  I am angry that I can’t run.  But I am also angry because my body seems to be doing things that are beyond my control.  The weight gain is one of them.  The distribution of that weight is another.

I don’t think I’m a different person now that I weight XX pounds more than I did before.  What’s different is that I used to be the one in charge of my body.  It was my choice if I worked out.  It was my choice if I ran or lifted or did yoga.  I could control my fitness level.  And to a great degree, now I can’t.  And I was reading a book last night for school and this thought came to me:

I can’t fix my heart, so at least I should be able to fix my body.

yeah, well, the first half of that sentence is true.  The second half is partly true.  There isn’t a whole lot I can do to change my body right now.  There are things going on medically that my treatment team are confused about and can’t figure out.

There is also a major flaw in my realization, the idea of “fixing” my body.  Aside from the heart problem and some lingering, minor health stuff from the eating disorder, my body doesn’t need “fixing.”  I know this.  What’s behind it is that fear that I now have lost any say in how my body reacts to just about anything.

This lack of control has shaken me.  I am doing all the “right” things and the opposite of what should be happening is happening.  The fear of losing control is different than that feeling of losing control that I would always have when in treatment and gaining weight and eating their meal plan.  That was fear of losing my eating disorder.  So there’s got to be some other, deeper fear in here.  I just don’t know what it is.  Yet.

So I’m not a “cardiac patient” who fears her body.  Yet I fear that no matter what I do, my body is no longer mine to control.  Because of the fact that I’m a cardiac patient.

Conundrum, no?

March 20, 2010 Posted by | Body Image, Eating Disorders, heart, identity | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Help from my readers for my readers

Harley and Spes go for a scenic ride. Safety belts on of course.

Brother and Sister Build-A-Bears went on a scenic tour on MO.  Well, it only included driving two hours from Columbia to St Louis, but it’s a long ride for little guys.  They were tuckered out at the end.

Harley is on the left.  He was sent to me while I was at Rader from a friend.  Spes, which means “hope” in Latin, is on the right.

A comment on my wall this morning got me thinking.  It was about time passing since treatment.  And this is a question for all of my readers.  I am out here, trying to convince people that I do not have an eating disorder, that there is life beyond an eating disorder, and, despite what doctors like to tell us, you don’t have to “manage your eating disorder” for the rest of your life.  You can be totally free of it.  I know I’m not the only one who has gained this freedom.  What I’m asking is for any reader who has also gained this freedom to leave a note letting other readers know it is possible.  Be as long or as brief as you want.  But please answer the question about whether or not you would trade the life you live now, free from the eating disorder (given that life in and of itself isn’t just going to be great without the eating disorder), for the life you had when you were sick. You can always leave anonymous posts on my diary.  But I really do think that the more people hear that others have made it to the other side and aren’t white-knuckling it through each day just to stay healthy, the more we help those who are on the verge of making that decision to get help or more intensive help or to be more honest with their team, or or or . . .

I know you are out there.  Help me with this one.

(Oh and the photo was chosen because A) I’m obsessed with my build a bears and because B) if these guys can get out there and face the world, so can you.)

March 14, 2010 Posted by | Eating Disorders, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Twelve steps? What? Me? No way.

So, my first couple of days at Rader were a bit, well, rocky.  There was confusion about my medications and I wasn’t getting my Effexor XR, and for anyone who has ever taken that, you go through immediate withdrawals if you skip a day.  And then I find out I landed myself smack dab in the middle of a Twelve Step program.

My first response to my therapist was, “I’m not a “stepper”.  Yes, I used the term “stepper.”  She handed me the folder of assignments anyway and just said, “think about it,” and headed out for the weekend.  My first assignment was to write my life story, and since I’ve written a memoir, my only problem with that assignment was to try to keep it within a reasonable length.  I left the three packets (steps one, two and three) neatly tucked in the right hand pocket of my folder.

That weekend was the weekend of the snowstorm that pretty much trapped everyone in tulsa in their homes.  I laughed at the five inches that fell.  But it did mean we had more free time, and without my iPod or computer, I finally got bored and looked at Step One.

Step One really pissed me off.  (Admitting your powerlessness and the unmanageabllity of your life.)  Absolutely not.  Yeah, things were starting to go downhill, but I took power into my hands by admitting I needed help and seeking help.  And I think a large part of me couldn’t, and still can’t, apply “powerlessness” to me.  That’s what I was between the ages of four and eight when I was being raped.  I have finally taken the power back into my own hands and claimed my life as my own.

But, there were questions to be answered, since we were using a workbook, and I like anything where you get to write answers, so I decided to just answer the questions and take what I could use and leave what I couldn’t.  By the end of the weekend, I had finished Step Two.

Did I learn what caused the eating disorder way back when?  Did I unearth any unresolved crises in my life?  Did I come to new realizations about behaviors and symptoms?  Nope.

Did I learn a hell of a lot about myself and how I interact with other people and why?  Absolutely.  Did I learn about some other areas of my life that may need improvement?  Yes.  Did I spend more time building my relationship with the Divine and seeing how I could strengthen that relationship?  Yes.

Did I come away from that whole experience a better person?  I’d like to think so.  If nothing else, I was able to turn from willfullness to willingness and allow some radical acceptance and wise mind to slip into my life again.

While I say that I am recovered, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for growth as a person.  (And let’s not forget the fact that I’m bipolar and have PTSD and am still working on those issues.)  There are stagnant people out there.  The ones who think they’ve learned it all, or changed as much as they can/need to.  And don’t you get the feeling that they’re the ones who sort of need to do a little more growing?

Think of stagnant pools of water.  They tend to stick and acquire muck and mud and debris.  Think of the things that flourish in life.  They are things that are moving and growing and forever changing.  They’re the things that survive.

March 13, 2010 Posted by | Eating Disorders, recovery, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

and thus it ends


Fides and Spes

While walking yesterday and while driving today, I came up with a few thoughts.  This whole “definition” thing has gotten way out of hand.  What started as a “hey, I’m back and here’s where I stand” type of thing has turned into me attempting to prove to other people that I am who I am, or that I am who I am where I am.

It would be easy to say, “don’t listen to people who are critical.”  But it’s not all that easy to follow through on, because it comes down to people–some of whom know me personally and some of whom told me how inspirational I was for seeking help–not believing me and, in some cases, attacking me for it.  So yes, I felt the need to try to explain myself.

Let me use a fairly common example for people who have ever been in treatment for an eating disorder.  At one place I was treated (my favorite place, by the way, and the place I received the most help), there were repercussions if you did not “make weight” in the morning (if you were on a weight gain plan).  These involved taking away a number of privileges, one of which was you were not allowed to shower that morning because the staff wanted to make sure you were not exercising while in the shower.  I don’t know how many times I heard people cry out, including myself, “But I ate everything and drank my supplements yesterday and sat on my ass all day.  It’s not my fault.  Go ahead and watch me take a shower, but I am NOT exercising.”  There was this self-righteous anger at not being believed when we were doing everything “right.”

Or if you’re outpatient and you know you followed your meal plan and didn’t binge or purge but your weight does something funky, the finger is automatically pointed at you and what you must have done “wrong.”

So yes.  I wanted (want) people to believe me.  And while one person has said he/she knows me in real life and still thinks I’m a hypocrite, there are some people who have never met me telling me I’m in denial.  I’d really like those people to talk to my treatment team–all four members–and argue their case against me.

I’ve kept my tongue in check through a lot of this when certain people have questioned me.  And I will continue to do so.  But here ends me attempting to prove I’m recovered to people who don’t really want to listen.

I’m recovered.  Deal with it.

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Eating Disorders, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

what is a relapse?

my favorite park. again.

So between here, Facebook, and Formspring, I’ve gotten a lot of people questioning the fact that I am still claiming to be recovered.  I’m “rushing things,” or I’m “in denial,” or I’m a hypocrite (yes that was the actual word used) because I “went back to ED.”  On this last one, I will never go back to “ED” because “ED” is not a person.  I don’t personify my cardiac condition, why would I personify this illness, when both are likely to kill me?

Here’s the big headline of the day:   I don’t believe I relapsed.  (And if you’re going to comment on this post without having read the posts since I came back from treatment, do yourself a favor and catch up first.)

According to Merriam-Webster Online, relapse, in the medical sense of the word, means “a recurrence of symptoms of disease after a period of improvement.”

Hold your horses!  According to this definition, I did relapse.  There was a recurrence of symptoms.  Oh no, I’m screwed now.

Except I still maintain I didn’t relapse.  I’m not in denial.  There were symptoms of an eating disorder present and I’m not being so idiotic as to come home from treatment and say goodbye to my outpatient treatment team because “I’m all better now.”  I realize the potential for slipping, and I have frequent appointments with people who have an objective viewpoint and who will be honest with me if they see me having problems.

The eating disorder, in my case, was always a way to cope with emotional stress and a way to deal with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  For a very long time I feared change.  For a very long time I had no skills to cope with these things any other way, and then it took time to learn to trust that the new set of skills I was learning would work just as good, if not better, than the eating disorder ever could.  But then I learned I could cope and be healthy.  (Please keep in mind there is a lot more to the eating disorder, as to how it developed and why it persisted and why it was difficult to let go of.  This paragraph is a very shortened history lesson of my eating disorder.)

I have experienced relapses.  It was always during a time of acute stress and change and I would fall back into my “safe” ways of coping without realizing it, often until I was rather well into the relapse.  Sometimes it was gradual, and sometimes the relapse happened very quickly.  But the eating disorder always remained a coping mechanism.

This time around, the return to behaviors was not a way to cope with anything.  I was using all my healthy coping skills to deal with emotional and mental stress.  The return to behaviors happened after I, in a healthy manner, supported by my treatment team, attempted to lose weight.  I returned to the behaviors because losing weight=restricting is the formula that is almost instinct in me now.

I realized what was happening.  I told my treatment team.  I tried changing things on my own.  I saw the potential for a relapse.  Why do I say I hadn’t relapsed yet?  Because I was getting anything emotionally from the behaviors. Other than fear that they were there at all.  I was afraid that I would start numbing out from the restricting and that I would start liking the feeling of being empty again.  I was afraid because of the mental and emotional hell that involves, but I was also afraid for my physical body.

So if I didn’t relapse, what exactly happened?  I am saying I slipped.  I think there is a difference between the two.  And I think sometimes we throw the word “relapse” at someone way too soon, after he or she has only struggled again for a week or two.  We don’t learn to walk without falling a few times.  And yes, I’m further along in my recovery journey that you may think I should be stumbling anymore.  But I believe I’ve seen enough adults trip and fall on the sidewalk to know we all make mistakes.  And if someone is saying “relapse relapse relapse” then it’s easy to just say, “Fuck it all, I’ll show them what a relapse is.”  And as I’ve said, I’ve been through relapses.  This was not one of them.

I think people who are in recovery or who are recovered can slip and then regain their recovery almost immediately if that recovery was well-established to begin with. I think sometimes life throws a lot of shit at someone all at once, as happened to me these past few months, and maybe even I was naive in thinking I was going to get through it unscathed.

But no.  I’m not a hypocrite.  I’m honest.  I’m a real person who reacted to real life and told the truth.

And I can’t help but wonder why so many people have issues with me saying I’m recovered.  Do these people question everyone who claims to be recovered?  Do these people not believe in full recovery?  Do these people not believe that real, imperfect human being can make mistakes?  Do these people not see the beauty in acknowledging your mistakes and learning from them and then being able to grow as a person because of that?

March 10, 2010 Posted by | Eating Disorders, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

trauma and eating disorders

Someone left a comment on my Topics page:

I recently learned there is a high correlation between those who have experienced rape/sexual assault or domestic violence and those who have eating disorders. I wonder why this is not addressed more often when talking about eating disorders – is it something you’ve heard talked about? How can we (as people who want to make change in our culture/world/etc.) work to address these issues? I’ve been frustrated lately because I was raped and then developed an eating disorder but feel this was never addressed in any of my treatment (and though I recognize it not as solely causal, I think it is important to recognize as there is such a high correlation)!

To answer your first question, this is an issue that is addressed and talked about, both among professionals and in treatment centers.  Some eating disorder treatment centers also have some type of trauma program or track for individuals who need it.  One of the places I went to had a trauma track and we had separate groups on certain days of the week.

One of the reasons trauma may not be brought up in certain cases is because often, addressing trauma issues is usually extremely intense and emotionally draining and takes a lot of energy.  Often, in an inpatient setting, the focus is on restoring physical health and quite often, that’s all that can be accomplished inpatient because of insurance time constraints.  But also, sometimes restoring physical health is a necessary priority because it keeps the individual alive.  And also, it’s difficult to address trauma issues in the early stages of treatment because there is so much anxiety, fear, confusion, anger, and a whole bunch of other feelings.  And if an individual is malnourished-regardless of weight-physical health has to be restored before he or she will have the cognitive ability to deal with the trauma.

Here’s what happened to me.  I finally told my therapist about the abuse and rape that went on during my early childhood years.  I hadn’t ever repressed memories, but if I happened to have one, I’d push it away before I could really think about it.  I was in a partial program for the eating disorder at the time.  My therapist, who specialized in early childhood trauma, suggested I read Courage to Heal, an excellent book for survivors of childhood abuse and rape.  It’s pretty damn thick and includes stories of survivors, strategies for coping, and questions to ask yourself about where you are at with healing.  I bought the book and read it in a day.  I do not recommend that anyone do this. I relapsed immediately–it was ugly and fast.  I tried dealing with too much at once and I ended up back in the hospital.

Healing from the eating disorder is important.  Healing from sexual trauma is important.  But you need to have priorities clearly outlined when you are working on both.  And if you decide to work on both at the same time, there needs to be a plan for what to do if dealing with the sexual trauma begins to affect your recovery from the eating disorder.  In my case, this meant taking a break from the trauma work from time to time.  Even if there is no eating disorder in the picture, I think taking a break is a necessary way to regain strength and energy again.

As for why this isn’t talked about  more, I think it may have to do with the tendency for survivors to keep the knowledge of what happened to themselves out of fear or shame or confusion.  It may have to do with our society’s tendency to not really want to talk about such issues.  I think there’s a great deal of isolation when it comes to sexual based trauma.  We often feel that we are alone, not realizing that if we walked down a city street a great number of the women also have similar histories and are feeling just as alone.

If you have experienced sexual based trauma, I would recommend finding a trauma specialist as a therapist.  Something Fishy has an excellent treatment finder, and treatment centers will often have a list of area resources as well.

March 4, 2010 Posted by | Eating Disorders, recovery, trauma | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments