Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

But I’m Not Ready Yet

“There is never a sudden revelation, a complete and tidy explanation for why it happened, or why it ends, or why or who you are. It comes in bits and pieces, and you stitch them together wherever they fit, and when you are done you hold yourself up, and still there are holes and you are a rag doll, invented, imperfect. And yet you are all that you have, so you must be enough. There is no other way.” ~ Marya Hornbacher

I’ve been using this quote a lot lately, for various reasons and people, including myself.  It’s a quote that has helped me out a lot, and it takes a lot for a quote to do that.  It’s a reminder for me that sometimes you can’t wait until you want to change to go ahead and change.  Sometimes, you’ve just gotta dive in and, to complete the cliched analogy, completely submerge yourself in the process of change.  When you jump in the pool, you jump in with the faith that you’ll pop back up to the surface, that you’ll legs will kick and your arms will reach, and that your head will break the surface and you can breathe again.  But there’s always that second when you’re kicking and reaching and you’re just not there yet and there’s that touch of panic that you won’t get there in time.  And then you get there.

Recovering from an eating disorder is often much the same way.  You just have to jump in.  No waiting for the perfect temperature.  No dipping your toes in first and testing the waters.  Sometimes, our bodies are ready–they need–recovery before our mind is ready.  The starvation, the binging, the purging, the overexercise has taken its toll and your body screams “ENOUGH!!!” and you end up in the ER or you keep getting sick all the time or you’re just plain exhausted to the point of weakness.  You can’t afford to wait for some big revelation to come to say, “Okay.  I’m ready for recovery now.”  If you wait that long, your body may give out completely.  Sometimes, you just have to accept treatment with the blind faith that the motivation and desire will come, that you’ll make it through the initial stages of discomfort and pain and anxiety and that you’ll break the surface of the water in time to breathe again.

My decision to recover came as a result of lots of small realizations.  There was no one moment that made me change, and in the beginning of the process, I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing.  I wanted the old, reliable, familiar, eating disorder.  I didn’t want the anxiety and the pain of dealing with all the shit that was going on in my head as a result of getting treatment and not acting on symptoms.  But I stuck with it, because I was tired of being The Sick Girl.  I had no idea how not to be that person, but I knew I was exhausted.  As the months went on and I continued accepting the help that was offered, more and more realizations happened that told me that recovery was what I wanted.  That it was what I needed.

If you are struggling, go ahead and dive in to recovery and seek help.  I don’t care if you’ve had the eating disorder for years or for weeks.  An eating disorder can kill at any stage of illness.  You may not be at your ‘thinnest” or your “sickest” but the eating disorder doesn’t care about such trivialities.  You deserve to be free of this hell.  You can be free.  Go ahead and dive in and kick and reach and fight your way to the surface.  The air you’ll breathe without the eating disorder is the purest air you’ll have ever taken in.

July 29, 2011 Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, recovery, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

We Are What We See

“Each of us literally chooses, by his way of attending to things, what sort of universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit.” ~William James

I came across this quote today, right after reading about the idea of destiny and fate, which have never sat well with me.  I believe that we have the ability to choose what our lives will be and how we live them.  I am now recovered, living freely, because of choices I made, decisions I labored over, and dreams I had the courage to believe in.

Are you ready to choose recovery?  Are you ready to choose freedom?  There are so many small choices you can make to help that sometimes seemingly impossible decision along.  One of the decisions you can make is to surround yourself with positive people and things and, yes, images.  I see so many Facebook albums of images and quotes picked up from various places online.  The albums are created with the intention of empathy, of putting into words and pictures what the collector feels.  But so often, these images are ones of thin and bony bodies, and I’ve even seen images of arms or torsos covered with scars.

These albums do voice the internal thoughts and feelings, but they also serve to keep you trapped in the very thing you wish to escape.  So many of these albums fall into the category of “thinspiration” and, instead of encouraging change, encourage illness.  The quotes aren’t that much better.  And I see these images pop up on my news feed and wonder, “How many people are being triggered by this right now?”

Why choose these images?  Why not choose inspiring quotes and beautiful images of things that bring you joy and happiness and hope?  They’re out there; I see those albums pop up on my news feed as well.  It all depends on what keywords you type into the search engine.

I am not encouraging denying your feelings.  Write them down; get them out of you.  But do take care with what you surround yourself with.  Choose hope.  Read those quotes and sayings until they sink in.  Read them enough and you will start to believe in them.  Let them take hold of you.  Choose your universe; create a world of beauty and walk in it daily.

July 22, 2011 Posted by | Body Image, Eating Disorders, recovery, self harm | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Weekend Challenge

I’ve been noticing something on Facebook again.  Yes, yes, I know.  Too much time on Facebook.  I honestly do have a life full of other things.  But back to what I’ve noticed:  the amount of care and worry and concern we all have for our friends, and how Facebook has given us a way to leave encouraging messages on our friends’ walls.  We can remind them of all that they are fighting for and how much we care for them and how much they are worth the fight.  On a difficult day, how nice it is to see kind words from friends.  On a day when we want to give up, we are reminded why we must keep forging ahead.  We have lists of reasons for each other.

Why not apply this same amount of care and concern and worry and encouragement to yourself?

So here is my challenge for this beautiful Sunday afternoon, and any day when you need a little boost:

Write a wall post to yourself as if you were writing your best friend.  Remind yourself why you are fighting and why you can’t give up.  Tell yourself that you are worried about the direction you are headed.  Tell yourself that you are worth it and deserve it. If you find that this is difficult, find a recent post that you wrote to someone else and substitute your name for his or her name.  Then post this comment on your own wall.  Then, write it down on an index card or a slip of paper and stick it in your wallet or use it as a bookmark so that you see it several times a day.

My current bookmark is a list of all the reasons I could think of of why I could not relapse, which turned into a “all the reasons I want to live” list.  Each time I open my book, I see that reminder.  Even on good days, it’s a comforting affirmation of why I chose recovery.  Write down what you stand to lose by choosing the eating disorder.  Write down all you stand to gain by choosing life.  Keep these lists near.

You spend so much time encouraging others.  YOU deserve that same amount of energy and time.  YOU deserve that same amount of care and love.  I know it’s difficult to see that, to believe that, but if you practice it enough, if you make these lists and read them enough, it becomes easier.  Each time you read the list of all you stand to gain by choosing life one more reason will dig its claws into you.  Life will begin calling to you, and its voice will keep getting stronger the more you listen.

Choose life.  Choose to treat yourself as if you were your best friend.  Some day, you will find that you are your best friend.

July 17, 2011 Posted by | depression, Eating Disorders, recovery, relationships | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I want to get better but this treatment place sucks . . .

I’ve noticed a trend on Facebook lately.  Maybe it’s not a new trend, but I’ve only noticed it in the previous few days.

“I want to get better.  I am so sick of this eating disorder.” followed by “Off to the Fat Farm.” or “This treatment place sucks.” or “There’s no way I’m following all these stupid rules.” or “They must think I’m crazy if they want me to eat this.”  or “I hate it here.” or “This is pointless.”

No treatment place is *fun.*  Sure, I met a lot of great people there and I even have some good memories from a couple places.  But here’s the big shocker: Treatment isn’t supposed to be fun.  Excuse my frankness, but you don’t check yourself in for a bunch of shits and giggles.  You check yourself in because you have a serious problem and need help.

I realize not everyone goes to treatment willingly.  I didn’t the first couple of times.  And I expect to hear “This place sucks” out of them.  But if you chose to seek help and packed your bags willingly, I am tired of the whining about how unfair the program is or how “everything sucks” or how “these people (the staff) have no idea what they’re doing.” These comments do wonders for those contemplating recovery and contemplating seeking help (heavy sarcasm in this sentence).

Really?  They have no idea what they’re doing?  I guess all those success stories must be made up myths to attract more customers.  I guess all the people who claim to have gotten help there are paid to lie.

And if the staff doesn’t know what they’re doing, I’m assuming you know what you’re doing.  Because what you’re doing has worked so well for you so far.

Here’s the thing:  there comes a time when you have to stop blaming the facility.  Or facilities.  There comes a time when you actually have to accept the help that they are offering.  There comes a time when, if you really do want to get better, you have to start listening to other people and consider what they’re saying.  There comes a time when you’re going to have to surrender.  You may not “like” it there.  Who honestly does?  But you do have admit that what you’ve done up to this point just hasn’t been working and accept the alternative, which means accepting the help that’s offered.

There are a couple of alternatives:

A) You die.

B) You just move from one treatment place to another one, comparing notes but not really getting any better.

This may sound harsh. It may sound like I have no right to say these things.  But I’ve been there.  And the first four times in treatment I claimed the desire for recovery while stubbornly fighting the program any way I could.  Was it the specific program’s fault?  No.  They were trying to do one thing: keep me alive.  The fault was mine.  I thought I knew better than they did.  I thought I knew what was best.  And yet I kept relapsing.  I kept ending up back at their doors, or at the doors of another facility.

The shift occurred when I realized I had no idea what the hell I was doing and I had no idea how the hell to change and that it was finally time to listen to those dreaded experts and actually give what they were saying a shot in hell.

If you truly want to be free from the eating disorder, then you are going to have to let go and trust the people who are so desperately trying to help you.

July 13, 2011 Posted by | Eating Disorders, recovery, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Annual Heart Walk

I normally don’t use this blog this way.  But this is a cause that is near and dear to my, well, my heart.  I was diagnosed with Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia two years ago–a heart disease that has caused a sudden cardiac arrest, multiple episodes of V-Tach and I’ve lost count of the hospital and ER trips.  I now have a implantable defibrillator.  But there is no cure, no treatment.  It’s a progressive and degenerative heart condition, which basically means, the muscle cells in my heart are slowly dying.  I do this walk every year to help raise money for the American Heart Association, which helps fund research.  Maybe someday they’ll find a cure or at least a treatment for my illness.

My fund raising page

Please consider donating.  The minimum online donation is 25, but if you don’t have a credit/debit card or if you want to donate 5 dollars, message me through my Facebook Page and I will send you my snail mail address.  ANY amount is appreciated.  I only have one month left to reach my goal of $500.  I did it last year, so I know I can do it again.

July 12, 2011 Posted by | health, heart | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“the soul looked out”

“Immortal Love”

By Louise Glück

 

Like a door

the body opened and

the soul looked out.

Timidly at first, then

less timidly

until it was safe.

Then in hunger it ventured.

Then in brazen hunger,

then at the invitation

of any desire.

. . . . . . . . .

 

We are a society that values the instant and immediate.  I think of the phone I grew up with—a rotary dial, no call waiting, no caller ID, no voice mail.  Just a phone.  Then I look at the phone I have now: I’m in the middle of several scrabble games with friends, I can send and receive text messages, take calls, see who’s calling, access the internet, listen to music, and take pictures.  To name a few things.  All with a nice little tap of my finger on a screen.

Recovery isn’t like our phones, although we want it to be.  Snap our fingers and be done with it all.  It’s a process, much like the opening to Louise Glück’s poem, “Immortal Love.”  First, we look at the pool, the water shimmering in the sun.  We look out and contemplate recovery.  An important first step since no one can make us recover.  Then we dip our toes in the pool, testing the temperature. We enter treatment, talk to someone, seek help.  Eventually we confront our fears and jump in.  It’s terrifying at first, feeling like you can’t breathe and wondering if you’ll reach the surface in time.

Then the shift begins.  We gain power from confronting our fears.  And we gain courage to continue facing them.  Eventually, we learn we have enough power to face our biggest fear: the world.  What we were trying to escape with our addictions of various types.  The power and courage and strength we gained in taking tiny steps helps us when we make the move into the world.

There will come a point when the world will call you, and you will desire it, and you will venture out into it.  You will be ready.  And you will be able.  It doesn’t matter how long it takes, and never compare yourself to someone else’s journey.  We each have our own journey, regardless of the destination.

 

July 9, 2011 Posted by | Eating Disorders, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

the power of the conscious mind

We have this tendency to blame our unconscious for many things: our fears and desires, our habits and tendencies, our addictions.  The power of the unconscious mind is a phrase that comes to mind. 

I’d like to refute that phrase completely, but I know I have my own fears and tendencies that inexplicable, that just seem to be.  My eating disorder began as an unconscious way to deal with stress I couldn’t handle.  However, at some point, it became a conscious choice to continue with the eating disorder rather than seek recovery. 

For those of you who don’t know, I have Bipolar Disorder, and I recently went through a severe depressive episode.  Getting out of bed was a chore, hence my lack of writing here.  More important than the lack of motivation and energy to write, however, was how I unconsciously started slipping into old habits of dealing with depression: restricting my food intake. I found the numbness easier to handle than the depression.  It only took a week and the pattern of restriction led to the old eating disordered thoughts.  I am grateful for a therapist who believes in proactive action rather than reactive action.  He and I talked about what was happening and why, and more importantly, what would happen if I continued to restrict.  So often, relapses “just happen” and I hear “there was nothing I could do to stop it.”  But I came face to face with the fact that I had a choice about the path I was about to take.  Whether or not I decided to relapse was completely in my hands. 

Personally, I was overwhelmed and terrified.  I had never started to slip without it turning into a full-blown relapse and needing to go in the hospital to turn things around.   Have you ever made a list of all the reasons why you can’t afford to relapse?  And put on that list the biggies such as “I could die” to the little things like “If I’m in a hospital I can’t knit things for people”?  It’s a powerful exercise, because it forces you to see every little thing that you would be giving up by relapsing. I made that list, and it made me see just how much I did not want to follow the old patterns, however familiar they were.  I decided I was going to forge a new path, and that I was going to turn things around on my own.  I’m not saying it was easy.  But I kept in close contact with my therapist, and I set my mind to following a plan that would get me back on track. I had friends that were supporting me.  I had the list, reminding me of all I stood to lose.  And I didn’t want to lose a single thing.  Sometimes, the power of the conscious mind is much more powerful than the unconscious mind.

****please note, I am not in any way saying that someone should not go inpatient or seek medical treatment if necessary.  I myself have needed the help of inpatient facilities to turn things around in the past.  If you are at a point where you are choosing recovery, but know that you need extra help, please seek appropriate care. ****

July 6, 2011 Posted by | bipolar disorder, coping, depression, Eating Disorders, recovery | Leave a comment