Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

paint a heart

 

Unfortunately, this is the only “video” of the song I could snag.  But the lyrics are listed under the video on the YouTube site.  Props for that?

Seriously, I’ve kind of felt like the past year-and-a-half could fall under the “not my year” category.  Cardiac diagnosis, surgery, a period of denial followed by the “what the fuck was I just diagnosed with and how I am supposed to live my life” depression and anger and confusion and bitterness, a near-relapse, and a depression that just keeps getting worse because the meds that have always worked seem to have stopped working.

I want a do-over.  Rewind time and let me go back to the Spring of 2009 and do it all over.  I can’t get rid of the faulty DNA, so the cardiac diagnosis would, unfortunately, still be there.  But I’d be ready for it.  I’d change the outcome somehow.

If only.  I can’t go back.  None of us can.  But we can go forward.  We can’t change what happened in the past, but we can change how we react to similar events in the future.  Sometimes we can make amends and repair relationships; sometimes we can’t.  Sometimes, we just have to grieve what was lost and cherish the good memories and move forward.

I’m not all for making New Year’s Resolutions.  If I see something in my life that needs changing, I’m not going to wait until the first of the year to do so.  But as I was driving back from Virginia yesterday, I was listening to this song.  People talk about Bucket Lists, and I think I’m going to make one.  I think I need to look forward to things more.  Not dwell on what might happen, but think about the things I could make happen.

Right now, caught up in the midst of a depression, it’s easy for me to listen the lines,

“Movies, TV screens reflect just what you expected
There’s a world of shiny people somewhere else
Out there following their bliss
Living easy, getting kissed
While you wonder what else you’re doing wrong”

But the words I need to listen to are:

“Breathe through it, write a list of desires
Make a toast, make a wish, slash some tires
Paint a heart repeating, beating, “Don’t give up, don’t give up.””

One thing that will be on my Bucket List is to actually pain a heart.  One repeating and beating the words, “Don’t give up.”  Whether or not my heart will keep beating is not in my hands.  I mean, I follow the doctor’s orders, but since we know so little about this illness, they’re precautions, not prescriptions for sure success.  And while I need to let myself feel all of the anger and confusion and bitterness and fear, I can’t live with those feelings all of the time.

Nor will I give up on this depression.  I’ve been working with my treatment team, and I trust them, and beginning next week, I’ll start ECT sessions again, this time with the knowledge that I may continue them on a maintenance basis.  My heart is beating, right now, and I refuse to settle for depression while it’s doing so.

2010 did have some good moments.  I made it through my first semester back at school, even though I almost walked away from it all on two occasions.  I saw my nephew and niece for the first time in a year-and-a-half at Christmas.  My parents came out to visit me.  My knee surgery went well and I can walk and do some ballet and not be in pain.  I knit hats for people who loved them, and that always makes me smile.

Even if 2010 was not the year I wanted, 2011 is right around the corner, and there are things I can do to make it the year I want.

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December 29, 2010 Posted by | coping, depression, health | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Triggers

trigger

Yet another post generated by my earlier Black Swan post.  One person commented about triggers.  I had written that “some people look for triggers, and when they choose to do so, they will find them in any situation.”  I do believe this is true.  There is a stage of this illness where many of us purposefully surround ourselves with images or quotes that “help” us with the eating disorder (meaning, they help us stay sick).

This commenter pointed out that sometimes we don’t have control over what triggers us.  And, I agree.  I believe that purposefully seeking out triggers is a choice.  But that’s different than just walking about in the world and encountering something and having this thought or feeling pop into our heads.  It’s not like when we started out on the journey of having an eating disorder we were given a list of possible triggers and checked off which ones we would allow to trigger us and which ones we would ignore.  (Can you imagine some scantron sheet that we submit to this otherworldly person in a ticket booth upon entry into the Realm of the Eating Disordered?)  What triggers one person will not trigger someone else.  And our triggers change during the course of illness and recovery.

I re-read my post, and I don’t think I implied that being triggered is a “bad” thing.  It just is.  How we react to those triggers can be healthy or harmful, however.  We can do our best to fight them (and I believe that if you are fighting, no matter the outcome, you are winning).  Or, we can choose to act on symptoms in response to the triggers.  And there’s whole shades of greys in between these two extremes.  The unconscious versus conscious acting on symptoms.  The fact that sometimes we’re not even aware of our triggers at first.  The fact that sometimes all our fighting wears us down and then we’re hit by another trigger and another trigger and things get overwhelming and become too much.

I would love to rid the world of triggers.  That would mean ridding the world of the the world itself.  This is why I said that the focus really should be on helping those who are having difficulty with triggers.  Identifying them, naming them, expressing the feelings behind them, putting words to those feelings, and learning how to cope with the triggers without self-harming behaviors.  There are some triggers you can avoid.  But you can’t avoid all of them.  And that’s why I think there needs to be an open discussion on what do you do when . . . Suggestions that can help other people in similar situations.  So that maybe you can have a list of things to do in certain situations, especially since this time of year is difficult for a lot of people with eating disorders and self-harm issues.

Be a Girl Scout: Be Prepared.  Have your survival kit with you.  Protect your recovery at all costs.

December 19, 2010 Posted by | Body Image, coping, Eating Disorders, feelings, recovery, self harm | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

ballet. yup. i’m going there.

Me.

I knew I’d get flack for my Black Swan post. I’m sticking to my original point that the movie does not encourage eating disorders or even the pursuit of the “little ballerina” body.  The way the ballerina lifestyle is portrayed, it seems like a good movie to show a young daughter to say, “Hey.  You thought you wanted to be a ballerina.  It’s not all pink tutus and ribbons.  It’s mainly pain.  In fact, it’s kind of synonymous with pain.”  Yes, there’s thrill and joy and this strange sense of rising above everything else around you when you’re dancing, but you’ve got to go through the pain.

Yes, ballerinas are prone to eating disorders.  (So are actresses, models, gymnasts, ice skaters, etc).  Yes, ballerinas are thin.  A great many ballerinas–the truly successful ones–do find a way to dance and maintain their body shapes while eating healthily.  I do think more needs to be done in education and prevention of eating disorders in the field of dance.  (All dance, not just ballet.)

If we want ballerinas to gain weight, then we will have to accept an entirely new form of dance.  There will be no more pas de deux lifts that make the audience gasp.

There will be no more dance sequences in which the ballerina is supposed to appear lighter than air and move through space with seemingly no resistance.  Forget the leaps.  Forget the endless turns.  Forget the fancy, quick footwork.

There will be no more pointe shoes.  The ballerina’s entire body weight is supported by her toes when she stands en pointe.  Sure, there’s a shoe around her foot, but if you’ve ever put one of those shoes on, you know it doesn’t really support you all that much.  The more weight on the foot, the greater the risk for snapped tendons, stress fractures, and broken bones.

If we look at ballet historically, the weight of the ballerina has gone down.  The choreography is more demanding, the footwork is loads more difficult than ever before, the lifts are more strenuous, and there is considerably more pointe work.

What we lack in the history of ballet is proper education about how to eat to maintain strength and health while dancing and what to do if and when disordered eating habits occur.  There are cases of ballerinas overcoming eating disorders and going on to dance much more successfully.  The “one sugarplum too many” dancer is just the most recent example, and even though the company’s director and her fans never questioned her weight, one critic’s review has resulted in her having to defend a weight that allows her to dance one of roles that little ballerina students would love to one day dance.  She’s not “sickly thin” but she is slender, and she’s an amazing dancer.  Most successful ballet dancers have had to find a way to maintain that slender build without crossing the line to “too thin” or weighing “too much.”  Being “too thin” means they don’t have the energy or strength to dance.  Weighing “too much” prevents them from completing some of the elements central to ballet.  It is an art form where size is a factor.  It’s the reverse of pro-football.  You wouldn’t through a ballerina into a football game and expect her to make it.  And you would throw a football player on stage and expect him to perform.

One commenter wonders what ballet dancers who recover from an eating disorder and are no longer thin enough to dance should do.  With the implication that they are now not thin enough.  If they find that dancing is not allowing them to be healthy, then they should not dance.  I discovered while I was in college that competing at the national level for Track and Field was hurting me, and went and told my coach I would no longer compete for the team (or at all).  A recovered alcoholic would probably not want to resume his or her job as a bartender right after getting out of rehab.

And in another 100 years, ballet will probably have changed again, requiring a different ideal body shape.  But it is an art form that depends, to some degree, on the body.

 

December 18, 2010 Posted by | Body Image, Eating Disorders | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Black Swan

Okay.  So I’m daring to dive into these controversial waters.  And I highly doubt my views will garner much enthusiasm.  And I have no idea why I can’t get the picture of Natalie Portman larger.

But this is the image that I think defines the movie.  Not her thinness.  Not her dancing.  Not her diet before the filming.  Not whether or not the movie encourages eating disorders.

See that crack running down her face?  That perfect porcelain ballerina damaged beyond repair?  That’s what this image represents: the chipping away of the self in what turns out to be a futile effort to be perfect.  The damage suffered at the hands of art (ballet in this case).

Do I think that losing weight as she did is dangerous and unhealthy?  Yes.  But I give her a lot of credit for knowing it was unhealthy and returning to her normal weight and eating habits immediately after filming ended.  Do I think the world of ballet needs to change?  This is a tricky one.  I think that more interventions needs to be in place for those in danger of eating disorders and I think that there needs to be more prevention work and educational work in the field of dance (and gymnastics and ice skating and modeling and acting . . .).  I do not think that the aesthetics of ballet will change.  And I may receive flack for this, but I don’t want them to change.  But there are dancers who manage to live the world of ballet in a healthy way, and that needs to be promoted.

Do I think Black Swan will encourage eating disorders?  No.  Honestly, I think Girl, Interrupted is much more likely to do so than Black Swan.  Black Swan does not glorify in any way the lifestyle of dance.  In fact, it casts it in a very harsh light.  It shows the prices that ballerinas pay for what they do.  It shows the ultimate costs of sacrificing so much of yourself for the sake of art.  If anything the message of this movie is “Don’t follow in my footsteps, because the price I paid was not worth it in the end.”  Especially given the ending.

There’s all this media uproar over ballet right now.  But I dare you to walk into any grocery store, any convenience store, any gas station and look at the tabloids and not see something much worse than what is portrayed in Black Swan. I dare you to turn on your television and watch a movie or a sitcom.  I dare you to read the popular young adult books that get passed around as thinspiration.

I’m not saying Black Swan has no potential to be triggering.  But let’s be honest, there’s not a movie out there that can’t be twisted to become thinspiration.  Some people look for triggers, and when they choose to do so, they will find them in any situation. Blaming one film is the equivalent of needing a scape goat for a much larger problem.

Perhaps the focus should be less on the film’s potential for triggering people and more on discussing ways to help people who are triggered, not just by Black Swan but by common television shows and magazines and books.  What are ways to talk yourself away from the triggers?  How can you counteract them?  How can you express your feelings in a healthy way without reacting to the triggers in a harmful manner?

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Body Image, coping, Eating Disorders, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

after long silence

my "art"

So the end of the semester really caught up with me and my blogging time slipped through my fingers.  Now I just have a couple of final projects and a Latin final and one stack of papers to do before I can do my students’ final grades for the semester.  Then I can breathe a little.  A little.

Things have been a bit . . . stressful and overwhelming here.  I have some decisions that need to be made, things are not improving on the depression front (Bipolar I) at all, and there are a great many days when I doubt whether or not I should be in the program at all.  I am counting on things getting better after two more semesters.  But right now, I’m focused on each day.  One day at a time. . . I think I’ve heard that somewhere before 😉

One thing I realized is that I need an outlet.  Some creative outpouring.  My listening ears I have always counted on are 1000 miles away.  So what you are looking at is my kitchen table that is in the process of being mode-podged and a few art projects on top of it.

I am not an artist.  I took art classes in high school.  I was a decent drawer.  But I sucked at painting.  Which is, perhaps, why I am turning to painting now.  I have no prior expectations to live up to.  I can make a mess.  I can use whatever “technique” I want to.  I have a bunch of brushes and I know they are each used for certain effects, but I have no idea what those effects are supposed to be.  I kind of just mix paint and choose a brush.  What I’m working on now is a book.  I bought a children’s board book and have painted the cover and back and will paint the lyrics of a song on one spot of the cover.  Inside will be more painted pages, collaged pages, pages with pockets, pages with paper to write on, quotes and poems and whatever I feel like putting in it.  My “treasure the book at all costs” self is cringing at the destruction of the book but is pacified when I tell myself I’m simply making a different book.  Recycling it, if you will.

I think maybe a lot of us need to find outlets.  I know a lot of my readers are highly creative people, but maybe it’s time to try something you haven’t done before or that you know you’re not skilled in and just let yourself play.  No judgments.  No expectations for a perfect piece.  Just your vision for the day or your words for the day or your sound for the day.  Something to get what is inside outside.

This whole idea of getting what is inside outside is something I’m really working on right now.  It sounds so much easier than it actually is, but I recognize it’s importance.  And I really do think every time you try something new, non-eating disorder related, you strengthen yourself and the eating disorder loses some its power because you find out you are capable of doing something without that eating disorder peeking over your shoulder.

So challenge yourself and do something new.  Something fun.  Something imperfect.

December 12, 2010 Posted by | coping, depression, feelings | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Jar of Hearts (how the f@(* did I do this?)

 

One of my facebook friends pointed this video/song out to me recently.  I love it.  And I want to dye my hair like she does.  But right now, half of my hair is purple, so that will have to wait.

In a recent post, someone basically asked, How the fuck did I manage to stay in recovery during the initial stages.  And this video say s a lot of about how I did that.  No, I wasn’t trying to avoid a lover.  Or was I?  An abusive lover, for sure.  One who made so many promises–that if I ate this and exercised this much–the world would be mine.  And in the end, none of those promises came true, life become something that happened around me not to me or with me, and my heart was broken (on many levels).

The way I stayed in recovery early on was a daily struggle.  In some respects, it was harder than decided to recover, because now I actually had to do the work, face the world, and deal with all the inside voices telling me “to just go back and it will be easier.”  I had to remind myself several times a day of why I was fighting so hard to regain life.  A full life, not a partial life.  I had a list, an actual written down list, that reminded me of these reasons.  Sometimes I rewrote these reasons in my journal.  Sometimes I doodled them in the margins of my notes when I was in class.  I kept pictures of the people important to me in my journal, which is always with me.  I wanted to keep the strands tethering me to life as close as possible.

the following stanza of this song seems fitting:

And it took so long just to feel alright
Remember how to put back the light in my eyes
I wish I had missed the first time that we kissed
Cause you broke all your promises
And now you’re back
You don’t get to get me back

In the beginning of recovery, I didn’t feel “all right.”  I felt like hell.  It took a long time to get to the “okay” stage, and then it took time to get the light back in my eyes.  I’ll admit, there are times when life seems hard–too hard, too painful, too overwhelming, just too much–and I want that romance back, but I really do wish that I had never kissed this eating disorder, that we had never met, that I could have avoided so much pain and suffering and hell.    Sometimes the eating disorder creeps in with its false promises, but I keep reminding myself that there is no way that the eating disorder is going to get me back.  I get me back.

In the beginning, I made myself a promise–to do recovery 100% for one full year, and if I didn’t “like it” by the end, or find it worthwhile, I could always go back.  I realize a year is a difficult time span to consider.  But how about a month?  Or a week?  Or a day?  Do it on your terms, based on what you can handle.  Remember, no one is forcing recovery on you.  It’s your choice.  (Which in and of itself was a freeing thing for me, since I felt the eating disorder was not a choice.  So I finally felt like I had the power and control.)

Make a list of every single thing you want to recover for.  Big things, little things, random silly things.  Make a list of everything that you will lose by going back to the eating disorder.  You have had to give up so much up until this point.  Don’t give up any more.  We want you here, giving us all that you have to offer the world.  I know you have something to offer.  You may not believe it, but I know it to be true.  We all have a gift to give to this world.  Give yourself a chance to shine.  Don’t let anyone else have your heart.  Claim it as your own.

December 1, 2010 Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments