Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Preciousness and Welfare

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I attend a weekly sitting meditation group.  I haven’t been attending all that long, a few weeks before the semester started.  But it is already something I look forward to each week, and it’s on my “Must Do” list for the week.  Not many things make that list. 

As the name implies, we sit and meditate.  Which I value.  My therapist had been trying for ages to get me to try mindfulness meditation.  Now I know why.  And then after the sitting portion of the hour, the leader has something to discuss, something s/he brought in to read, or something s/he had been thinking about lately, or some words of wisdom s/he found to pass along. 

This past week, the reading was from the dammapada:

If one knew oneself to be precious,

One would guard oneself with care.

The sage will watch over herself

In any part

Of the night.

 .. . . .

Don’t give up your own welfare

For the sake of others’ welfare, however great.

Clearly know your own welfare

And be intent on the highest good.

This passage really struck home with me.  I’m in recovery, but I’m still working on “knowing myself to be precious.”  Or, maybe, I know myself to be precious now, but I’m still learning to watch over myself.  I still need a lot of help with that, especially in the night.  But I guess one could argue that accepting that help is watching over myself.  In the past, I never used to accept that help, and there were times when I was quite passive aggressive (aka manipulative bitch mode) in denying that help from friends and loved ones.  

The second part of the passage is something that’s difficult for me.  And it came up for discussion at a good time in my life.  A time when I am currently helping several others in various ways, and constantly thinking about reaching out and how best to go about it, and thinking about what various people need most.  And in the meantime, I’m going through a bit of a rocky period myself.  Oh, not as rocky as it was even a few months ago, but when I look at it honestly after hearing this passage, I have to admit that right now I need to make sure I’m not “giving up my own welfare.”  It’s something I’ve been good at in the past:  choosing others over myself.  But again, if I’m honest, that never did lead anywhere good.  I think I’ve finally learned that you really can’t help others if you don’t help yourself. 

So I encourage you to sit–and meditate if that’s your fancy–and think about one way that you can know yourself to be precious.  Write that one thing down and stick it in your pocket.  When those moments hit when you’re questioning recovery, read that slip of paper.  And maybe in a more peaceful moment, add another reason.  Keep adding reasons as you dwell on this idea of preciousness.  And be sure to take some time for yourself.  I know a lot of you are busy people.  But five minutes of silence, five minutes of calm breathing, five minutes of curling up with your cat–just five minutes can bring about peace.  And I don’t know about you, but I will take peace, however fleeting, for just five minutes of silence.

September 27, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 4 Comments

documentaries and memoirs

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ImageI seem to write one blog and then immediately get inspired for another one and then go awhile with nothing.  So my mind works in spurts. 

This post is another one sparked by my activity on facebook.  I’ve noticed people posting youtube videos–“eating disorder documentaries”–and apparently there are a plethora of them out there on youtube.  These documentaries are supposed to be educational, documenting what an eating disorder really is and the hells of having an eating disorder.  And they succeed. 

But why do you need to watch them if you’ve already got an eating disorder?  You know the hell of having one.  You know the realities.  There’s nothing that one of these documentaries can show you that you don’t already know. 

You may claim that it’s reassuring to know other people out there struggle like you.  You already know that.  Look at your friends on facebook.  Look at the friends “liking” these documentaries and most of them have eating disorders already.  So you’ve already got a network of others like you.  And real live people tend to be more supportive than a two minute montage set to a depressing song.

This brings me to my problems with these videos.  If they were meant to provide support and encouragement, I’d be all for them.  But these videos whose purpose is to show what an eating disorder really is do one main thing:  trigger the hell out of people stuck in the hell of an eating disorder.  Without getting too descriptive and, therefore, triggering, I’ll say that the montage of pictures are what I would label as “pro-ana” or “pro-mia” images. 

If you want to recover, these are not the images you need to be looking at.  These images do nothing but reinforce the eating disorder and make it more difficult to make choices toward recovery. 

Similarly, reading and rereading and rereading eating disorder memoirs and underlining and marking passages and quoting them on facebook and then rereading them some more is only doing more harm than good.  Again, you know what the hell of an eating disorder is all about.  You don’t need to read about it.  You need to read about people who have recovered, people who have fought the battle of recovery and won.  

These are two choices you can make to further your own recovery.  I know it’s not easy.  The pictures and the memoirs have their pull on the part of you tied to the eating disorder.  But if you really want to recover, you can help silence that eating disorder part of you and help the real you grow and flourish.

Recovery is a choice.  Not one choice.  A million and a half small choices that must be made on a daily basis.  Some of them will need to be made multiple times.  But the power is in your hands.

September 16, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

I Will Not Live a Wasted Life

Every so often I look at random friends’ About Me pages on Facebook.  I like learning about people, and I like reading the quotes people have posted.  I came across this one last night:

“You never come back, not all the way. Always there is an odd distance between you and the people you love and the people you meet, a barrier thin as the glass of a mirror, you never come all the way out of the mirror; you stand, for the rest of your life, with one foot in this world and one in another, where everything is upside down and backward and sad.” -Marya Hornbacher, ‘Wasted’

Just to answer some questions ahead of time: I’ve read Wasted.  Both while I was still sick and while I was in recovery.  I have very mixed views on whether this book is beneficial to the general community, and I won’t go into all of them here.  I do think Marya Hornbacher is an excellent writer, gifted at putting the internal experiences into words.  

But this quote?  I honestly wish I could not somehow delete it from all copies of her book.  I feel it does a great disservice to the eating disorder community.  I think, in a lot of cases, it can take away someone’s hope, and without hope, what are you left to fight with or for?

I once thought I’d never fully recover, that the anorexia would be there, in some form, for the rest of my life.  And it was so disheartening.  So defeating.  And then I met someone who told me that until I let go of that idea, I wasn’t going to fully recover.  But that person had never had an eating disorder, so I pushed their advice to the side.  What could they know about my battle?  But then that person introduced me to someone who would become one of my closest friends.  This person knew about my struggles.  She had been there.  She had fought them.  She knew what hell I was going through. 

And she came out on top.  Not a few feet from the top, but she climbed the summit of the mountain and stood in glory, savoring the feeling of succeeding at what would be the toughest climb of her life.  And seeing her, knowing her, and hearing her story gave me hope. 

I am here to tell you that while Marya described the hell of an eating disorder quite well, she is wrong in the conclusion, that you will never truly be free. 

I am here to tell you that you can be free.  Completely, 100% free.  You can stand on the summit of your own personal mountain and bask in all the glory.  The hell, the pain, the fears, the struggles–you can beat them all and they will disappear.

The world does not have to be upside down and backwards and sad.  You don’t have to see the world through any type of barrier.  You can be part of the world.  Wholly and freely.

Your relationships with others will be healthy.  The distance between you will fade away, and you can interact with people on a level that is rewarding and fulfilling. 

This all takes time.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes patience and faith and perseverance.  But all of this is possible.  And it doesn’t mean that life will be all smooth and wonderful for you.  Life will still throw nasty stones in your direction, but now you will be strong enough to handle those stones in healthy ways.  And you’ll continue walking with your head held up with pride for not succumbing to eating disorder symptoms. 

You can be part of the world instead of a pale observer.  You can interact with the world.  You can make goals and watch those goals come to fruition. 

With both feet firmly plantedin this world, you can live without being pulled in two directions.  You can be free.  100% free.  Forever. 

September 15, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

treatment teams vs stubborn wills

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I know there can be a lot of mixed feelings about your treatment team, especially when you’re caught up in the thick of an eating disorder or addiction or in the midst of a bad depressive episode.  You like to think that you know what’s best for you, and these people that only see you once a week or once a month–what do they know?  And all too often, they suggest things that just rub the wrong way–seeking more intensive care, finding a nutritionist, trying new coping skills that sound pointless.

I have to admit that I once had that relationship with my treatment team.  And then I decided I wanted to get better.  I didn’t want to continue the “sick life”–constantly weak, in and out of hospitals, fainting, lying to family and friends, not being able to function fully in life.

Once I really made the decision that I wanted to be well, that I was tired of the eating disorder, my relationship with my treatment team changed.  I figured that I had tried it my way.  Plenty of times.  And I only ended up sicker, or in the hospital again, fighting with staff to let me go home.  There was one way I hadn’t tried, and that was what the way my treatment team was pushing for.

So I let go.  I let go of my stubbornness and my pride.  My clinging to the idea that I knew what was right–all the time.  And I put my trust in my treatment team.  I told myself I would try it their way.  I would go where they sent me and try all those stupid coping skills and not put up a fight.  Or, at least do my best not to put up a fight.  I had no idea where this would lead me, but I figured that my way hadn’t worked out so well.  In fact, every step of the way, my way turned out pretty damn bad.

This was not easy.  I ended up being in the hospital for much longer than I had in the past.  I went into my doctor’s office and said “I want to go home” a few times.  He always countered with, “But I thought you wanted to get better?”  And then he said, “You will stay for now.  But you will never come back.”  And he was right.  And when I did go home, I went back to my outpatient team and was ready and willing to work with them.  I extended my trial of doing things their way rather than my way.  It still wasn’t easy.  My comfort zone expanded in a great many ways.  But I tried their coping skills.  I tried things the nutritionist suggested.  I followed the treatment plan.

Their way worked.  In a way my way had never come close to in the past.  And I began to recognize the positive changes in my life.  And I began to feel more comfortable, bit by bit, with this new way of living.  It was still scary as hell, but my life was changing–for the better.  I was living.  Actually living.  Without an eating disorder to hold me back or tug at my shoulders when my friends decided to go out for lunch and I decided to go with them.

This philosophy of trusting my treatment team has continued.  I know I’m not always the perfect patient, no one is.  But I really do try to listen sincerely and put things into practice.  Sometimes it takes a couple tries, but eventually I’m on path.

The past two years have been rough.  The depression has been worse than any other depressive episode in the past (I’m bipolar).  Trusting my treatment team has meant going inpatient and trying new medicines and trying new treatments.  I can’t say I wanted to go in the hospital, but I also knew one thing.  Two things, rather:  I wanted to live and, if I was going to live, I wanted to get better.  And I’m not sure that could have happened if I hadn’t listened to my doctors.

There are times when mental illnesses block  your logic.  When you can’t see the path in front of you clearly.  When you can’t tell which way to turn.  When the knowledge of what is best for you is skewed.  This is when my treatment team steps in and says, “Here.  Walk this way. Try this new thing.”

I’m thankful I chose their way.  I’m thankful someone stepped in and took me by the hand and showed me which way to go.  I’m alive.  And living freely again.  It took awhile.  And I wanted to fight back at times, but then I remembered what happens when I go my own way.

I’d much rather walk down an unknown path with someone guiding me than walk down the hell of my own paths alone and in the dark.

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments