Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Depression and Eating Disorders and Spirituality Mosh Pit


Delicate_Things by *aspi at DeviantArt

I want to address something that certain commenters have deemed appropriate to challenge me on, not necessarily here, but through not-so-anonymous questions of formspring.

One question resulting from my last post: “Recovered and working the twelve steps?  I’m confused.”  I have two answers to this.  The first is that my post explicitly stated I wasn’t using the Twelve Steps in a traditional manner to stop an addiction such as an eating disorder.  I am using them to take a deep spiritual inventory.  And, personally, people who have never had a mental illness or addiction could use the Twelve Steps for that purpose.  And I may use them again for that purpose twenty years from now because my faith is ever growing and changing because I am ever changing and growing.  The second answer to that:  I write as someone recovered from an eating disorder.  That does not mean that I have nothing else to work on.  That does not mean that the depression will go away. (more on that later) And a lot of people who recover from alcoholism using the twelve steps then go on to apply the twelve steps to another addiction–because it is extremely difficult to tackle everything all at once.  Not saying I’m an alcoholic and will now need the Twelve Steps for that.  I’m saying it’s not unusual to go through the steps more than once–while in a state of recovery from something else.  I learned that from the mental health techs at Rader, many of whom are in recovery themselves. (the Rader patients stay on the same unit as the chemical dependency patients.)

I’ve also been challenged that recovery from an eating disorder would mean no body image problems and no depression and anxiety problems.  I would agree that the depression and anxiety resulting from the eating disorder goes away.  I do think that for those of us who have had an eating disorder for most of our lives and it was tied up with performance or appearance through certain sports, body image issues take longer to resolve.  I will admit that I still have distortions, but they’re in my head and don’t result in me acting on symptoms.  They’re now “just” cognitive distortions that I need to work on by countering them with reality checks and logical thinking.  They aren’t tied up in my identity anymore.

And yes, I am struggling through one bitching hell of a depression right now.  It is as bad as the depression I had in 97-98-ish.  Here’s the thing:  I am also Bipolar Type I.  According to NIMH, Type I “is mainly defined by manic or mixed episodes that last at least seven days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, the person also has depressive episodes, typically lasting at least two weeks. The symptoms of mania or depression must be a major change from the person’s normal behavior.”  I usually tend toward depressive swings, but I experience full blown mania as well, excluding me from the Type 2 category.

There is no cure for Bipolar Disorder, just like there is no cure for epilepsy.  They manage the symptoms as best as they can.  I mention epilepsy because Bipolar Disorder and epilepsy originate from the same part in the brain, which is why all anti-seizure medications are also mood stabilizers.  There was no medication used for Bipolar Disorder until they discovered Lithium, an anti-seizure medication, controlled mood swings as well.

What does this mean for me?  It means that this depression is independent of my recovery from an eating disorder.  They don’t even have a correlation, let alone a dependence.  Right now, I’m being treated for Bipolar Disorder and see my regular doctor for routine labwork and weight checks, which will happen for years because I’m not naive and fully realize that there are medical consequences to the years I had an eating disorder and my medical doctor is an important part of my team.

People sometimes think that recovering from an eating disorder means happiness and joy and life will be awesome from now on.  And recovering from the eating disorder has allowed me to experience happiness and joy and awesomeness, but life is still life.  Shitty things are going to happen and there will be resulting difficult times when it’s the hardest thing in your day to smile for the cashier at the checkout line.  And there are still other illnesses that cause other psychiatric symptoms that don’t disappear when the eating disorder vanishes.

My bipolar disorder is the smile of the cheshire cat that still hangs there in mid-air after the body of the cat (the eating disorder) has vanished.  Except in this analogy, the smile will always be hanging in the air, an interrupted slice of the sky.

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April 14, 2010 - Posted by | Eating Disorders, faith, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. As someone who has not dealt first-hand with an eating disorder, doesn’t everyone have body image problems? Even those of us who haven’t had an eating disorder to work through? And, even if one who has recovered has body image issues, isn’t that normal as long as it doesn’t result in an eating disorder relapse? It seems to me it would go against the nature of human beings as a whole to have NO body image issues.

    And, further, life is hard. People have so many facets and identify themselves in so many ways with so many titles that it’s just plain hard any way you dice it. But to have more severe, inherent, endogenic issues on top of the various ways of identifying the self only serves to exacerbate the difficulties of life. It seems to me, based on this logic, that it’s only natural for someone living with bipolar or endogenic depression or epilepsy or whatever to be LIVING WITH THEM and, more importantly, THROUGH them. And sometimes that’s a kind of “hard” that exists far beyond the basic difficulties of life. It’s the kind of hard that will come back and smack you right in the back of the heart when you’re not looking. It’s like playing golf with a huge handicap, only this is the kind of high-level of points that’s stacked against a person at birth and no matter how good they might get at life, that number is never going to get as low as the rest of the world’s, those who don’t have the handicap at all. It’s playing at life with an unfair disadvantage and doing the very best possible to keep living through it. Some days, years even, it’s better than others, but it’s never going to be like starting out on the same ground level as everyone else.

    Playing and living the best way possible is the only real way to win. I’m proud of you all the time, Lexie, because you’re fighting to get that win, decrease that handicap as best you can, and that is no easy or small feat. Some people just don’t get that.

    Comment by Neesha/Dustin | April 14, 2010 | Reply

  2. I’ve never commented on your blog before, but I’ve been reading it for quite a while. Amanda sent it to me. I just wanted to drop by and say a few things to you. I’ve been meaning to comment, but haven’t found the right moment yet. I believe this is it. I want you to know that, in no way, are you alone with how you’ve been feeling. I’ve suffered from depression for years and I know how impossible life can feel sometimes.

    Depression is an all-day, everyday, pride-swallowing siege. You are not alone in feeling or dealing with this. I know that may not seem like much, but I’ve recently been taught that when you share the pain, it’s lessened and when you share the joy, it’s multiplied. I know that, right now, you are in the pain. But, my reason for telling you this is because of the blog you recently posted about possibly continuing on with the steps. I’m an alcoholic in recovery. And, I could certainly tell you that ever since I got sober, life has been amazing and everything has changed. That would be a lie. I still suffer from depression and life is still very hard some days. But, slowly, I’m working my way through it in the program. I know that I have a solution. And, quite honestly, that’s one of the few things that I find comfort it.

    I just want you to know that if you have any questions regarding the 12 steps, I’m here. You’re welcome to ask me anything you’d like. Or, if you just need someone to listen, I’m here for that as well. I’ve been listening to you all along and I commend you for being brave enough to write it all out. It’s hard, sometimes. Writing makes you see things you don’t want to see and face things that feel impossible. And yet, through everything you’ve been through, you’ve continued to write. You’re a fighter. You can do this. Never let anyone, ever, tell you otherwise. Especially yourself.

    Comment by Panda | April 14, 2010 | Reply


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