Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Coming Out As A Recovered Anorexic

I am a recovered anorexic.  I am stating this on my blog.  (Returning readers will already know this, but I wanted to state it clearly and succinctly.)  My blog is linked with my name.  I am fully aware that anyone, including my students, could google my name and find this.  I hope they do.  I am a writing professor after all.  Hopefully they’ll read this, and realize that I can actually write.  Hopefully, if someone reads this and is suffering, he or she will know there is hope and help and will maybe even ask for help.  (This scenario has played out in that fashion, by the way.)

But I read this blog entry today, an article about how NOT to come out as a recovering anorexic:

http://www.bustle.com/articles/34701-i-came-out-as-a-recovering-anorexic-and-heres-how-not-to-do-it

I want to state right off, that the route I took may not be the ideal route for you.  We are all individuals with unique situations and circumstances and we all have different needs.  Please take care of yourself.  Always take care of your needs first.

How did I ‘come out’ when I first admitted/realized I had an eating disorder?  I had a very good support team comprised of friends, my fellowship group and chaplain, professors, and a therapist.  My relationship with my parents at that time was . . . not all that functional.  I was completely scared shitless about telling my parents that, not only was I struggling with depression and self-harm, I was struggling with an eating disorder.  I knew that when I told them, there would be an extremely difficult conversation with a lot of questions.  I told my best friend, first.  Then I told my chaplain.  Then I told my therapist and asked him to help me talk to my parents.  I went into that phone call scared, but also confident that I had support if I needed it.

As for how I went about telling them, I kind of did wing it with my friend, or at least stumbled through it.  But I did plan out what I was going to say to my parents.  Not including a power point.  Which wasn’t invented yet, but there were no visual aides of any type.  The conversation did not go as planned (do they ever?) but I think it went a lot smoother because I knew what I needed to tell them by the end of the conversation.  I had those things written down in front of me.

I do agree that you shouldn’t let yourself get too annoyed by ignorant comments or questions, because you will get a lot of them, not only when you are initially coming out but when you are in treatment and after you are better.  I still get asked, “So, what, you like, got really thin or something?”

As for blogging about it.  I would hope that if you blog about anything, you realize it will be read.  Maybe by people you’d rather not read it.  I do not regret blogging the process of recovery.  It was very therapeutic.  I felt connected to a larger community.  And I do not regret attaching my name to the blog.  I am not ashamed to say, “I used to have an eating disorder and this is how I recovered.”  And if it helps someone, that is wonderful.  And if one of my students comes up and asks questions, that’s super wonderful.  Because this needs to be talked about.  But if you don’t want random people to know who you are, do not use a blog.  Or a facebook.  Or twitter.  Even if I didn’t state my name here, I’m pretty sure there are some people who could hack into it and find out where it’s coming from.

I did write an article–while I was still sick, but after I had decided to recover.  I knew that lots of people would read it.  But I also have my MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing, and having people read things about me kind of comes with the territory.  In fact, it’s usually my goal.  If this scares you, do not write an article or allow yourself to be interviewed.  I presented my paper at a conference.  I do not regret this decision.  I took a lot of questions–but during the Q&A period and afterwards.  I really do strongly believe that eating disorders and mental health need to be talked about openly.  But if being in the spotlight and answering some possibly ignorant questions makes you nervous, do your best to support mental health awareness by donating to the EDC or NAMI or join a fundraising walk where you’ll be one of hundreds with no spotlight.

I do not think there is a right way or a wrong way to come out about having an eating disorder.  No matter how you do it, it is difficult and scary.  But doing so will hopefully extend your support system and make you feel less alone and help you find appropriate treatment.  You need to consider who you are talking to and how to approach said person.  And you need to consider your own needs and comfort level.

One thing that did help me before coming out to people I knew, was joining an anonymous community for support.  I learned that I was not alone.  I got used to conversing in “eating disorder language.”  People encouraged me.  People offered helpful suggestions.  I “met” people whom I’d stay in contact with for many years.  I met some of them in real time and they remain my friends.  BUT be careful about the community you choose.  There are many pro-eating disorder communities.  Find one that is pro-recovery.  I would recommend:

https://www.graceonthemoon.com/

They have information about eating disorders, recovery, and finding treatment.  And their forums are pro-recovery and you can reveal as much or as little about yourself as you want.

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September 12, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

thankfulness

CUS474Thankful

I dedicate this post to my friend, Mindy, whose blog post from a few months ago made me pause and think about how things have been recently.  Mindy wanted to practice noticing things to be joyful about.  I realized that while I’ve been trying to give words to my progress this summer, this in itself has required that I dwell on or explain some of the stressful things as well.  And the other day, someone asked me how I was, and my response was, “I thought I’d be better than this by now.”  Not fixed or fully recovered, but better than this.  But I cannot deny the progress and moments of joy.  So I’m making my own list.

  • I am very pleased with the psychiatrist I am working with in NY.  I was very nervous about it, but it’s gone well.
  • Meeting up with old friends has been wonderful.
  • I had forgotten how beautiful upstate NY can be. 
  • I’ve had some very gratifying talks with my parents, and our relationship has gotten stronger.
  • I am doing significantly better than I was in May.
  • I have had some difficult conversations with doctors, which in the past I wouldn’t have done.
  • I have a new kitten named Camena. 
  • I am writing again. 

 

In my wise mind, I am proud of myself for this summer, for how I’ve handled the transition, for how I’ve been assertive, and how I’ve allowed myself some grace in the fact that I know I will not be cured in a day, and that I will have bad days.

I like that I have this list here, because when I’m in my emotion mind, I tend to be harsh on myself and I feel anything but proud.  This list reminds me of my progress, my joy, and my growing strength.

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The bad, the good, and some confusion

I’m thinking this will be more of an update post rather than a post with some grand enlightenment.  But if you have any enlightenment for me, please share!

I’ve been in NY for three months now.  I am finally a NY resident and own a car that has NYS plates and is legal to drive and everything. I don’t remember any previous move being this difficult, but maybe I’ve blocked those difficulties from my memory. 

Some things have been difficult:  I had to put my older cat to sleep, my grandfather is in the hospital, change is always difficult for me, and I feel like I’ve seen a zillion doctors in trying to get my treatment team set up.  And, I thought it would be most difficult finding a cardiologist familiar with my condition, but there just happens to be a specialist at a nearby hospital.  I’ve had a nasty rash off and on, although we don’t know what it’s from (a higher than normal pollen count of a mystery plant is our best guess right now).  I’ve had labwork several times.  I’ve had a CT scan of my brain.  The results have been positive in that no tumor has taken over my brain and my iron stores are normal (which is nice since I hate getting iron shots). 

Some good things:  the anxiety is not as severe as it was, and I have been handling stressful situations with more grace than I was in the spring.  I love my new psychiatrist and trust him–and some of you know that when I say that about a shrink, it’s pretty significant.  The ECT treatments began at ten day intervals and are now at 17 day intervals.  It was a smart decision to move back to NY and although living with another person in the house has been a big transition, I am grateful for not living alone right now and very thankful for everything my parents have done.  And I got a kitten:  Camena.  Who can’t smile while watching a two-month old kitten?  My dad has even fallen for her. 

But sometimes, I am just so frustrated and tired.  I knew I wouldn’t be better in three months, but I was hoping I’d be better than this.  And finding doctors has been draining.  My psychiatrist was set up for me when I moved here, so everything was set and ready to go and there was no lapse in treatment.  But finding a therapist was riddled with obstacles–and I really had no idea what to do.  When I moved to Missouri in 2008, I contacted the student health center and specified my concerns and they called back with a treatment team all set up.  This summer, I wanted to scream, “What am I doing wrong?  Someone find me a damn therapist!”  And then I found one, and then I had to decide how to tell that therapist I would prefer working with someone else, someone with a different therapeutic approach.  And now I am super nervous about meeting him for the first time this week and really wish I could call my old therapist for support, advice, or answers.

And I’m back in that spot many of you can understand all too well.  I don’t feel like my doctors believe me. I mean, my psychiatrist definitely knows the severity of the depression and anxiety because he’d been talking to my doctors in MO for a good three weeks before I moved to NY.  But my general physician–I don’t know how to make her see that I am scared.  I know the physical effects of depression and anxiety.  Quite well.  What I’m feeling now is not the same as being depressed.  But how do you argue with labs?  I’m starting to question if these symptoms are just in my head.  And maybe I just need to buck up and move on.  Except for the whole “it takes too much energy to get out of bed” thing, that sounds like a grand idea.

My only comfort this summer has been that I’ve recently started working on my writing again, with the intention of sending things out.  I can’t sit and write all day like I used to, but I have made progress on certain essays.  So maybe things are better than how I feel they are. 

So please, enlighten me with your wisdom.  Or ask me questions so I can spend my time obsessing about something else!

September 6, 2014 Posted by | bipolar disorder, Communication, coping, depression, Eating Disorders, ECT, family, feelings, guilt, health, heart, progress, recovery, therapy | Leave a comment