Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

100 Things

Quick entry before I leave for my brother’s for Thanksgiving.  I’ve read a lot of my friends’ statuses doing the 26 Days of Thankfulness.  And I’ve been listening to Jars of Clay, and there’s a lyric that goes “and when you need it most, I have a hundred reasons why I love you.”

I didn’t do the 26 Day Challenge, and I’m not going to ask someone to write out 100 reasons why they love me.

I am challenging myself to write a list of 100 Reasons to Keep Fighting.

During a depressive cycle, when things start getting bad, my therapist asks me to write a list of reasons I don’t want to commit suicide.  But that’s a hard task when you look around and see nothing worth living for.  But now?  Now that I’m 90% of the way out of this depressive episode, now would be a good time to write a list of things I am thankful for, things I am passionate about, people I love, and random inspirational items.

The truth is, I am Bipolar.  I am going to completely beat this episode of depression, and hopefully I will stay well for a good length of time.  But I will eventually go through another depressive episode; it’s a kind of given with this illness.  Honestly, I am more terrified of future depressive episodes than I am of my terminal heart disease.  Because during a depression, my mind is truly not my own.  Maybe if I have a lengthy list already written out, I can pull that list out during the hard times–and it won’t require me to come up with nice happy thoughts when I’m in the hell of depression.  I’ll already have that list as a reminder.

Please have a safe and healthy Thanksgiving and make sure you take care of yourself.

And maybe think of 100 reasons why you want to do so.

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You’ll Get There In Time

my meditation beads

my meditation beads

I’ll reveal my age with this entry by listing a couple musical groups that scream “I’m from the 90s!”

(I’m 37)

I was driving to the pharmacy earlier, to pick up a prescription from my trip to the ER last night.  Emotionally, things are improving greatly.  Physically, things seem to be deteriorating greatly.  These lyrics came out of my iPod:

“So you know who you are
And you know what you want
I’ve been where you’re going
And it’s not that far
It’s too far to walk
But you don’t have to run
You’ll get there in time
Get there in time”  (Jars of Clay)

When I was in recovery from the eating disorder, I really really wanted to leave the hospital and be better.  I’m sure many of you have felt the same way.  In fact, I think the fact that we expect the hospital to cure us ends up harming us in the long run.  Because, really recovery only begins in the hospital.  People had told me that recovery is a journey and not a destination, and I both agree and disagree with that statement.  I believe recovery can be a destination.  But it does take a journey to get there.  A long, hard journey.  I was lucky, because I had a friend who had reached that destination I was after, and she reminded me over and over again that it takes time, and that I don’t have to rush anything, and I would get there when I was meant to.

And I’m not all that big of a fan of Miley Cyrus, but Hannah Montana’s “The Climb” — If I’m alone in my car while it is playing, I will sing louder and better than at any other point in my life, including all those sight singing finals I had to take!  The whole freaking song seems to apply to my life.  There will always be another mountain and I will always want to make it move.  As in NOW.

The beads in the picture are my meditation beads.  I mainly use them when I’m obsessively worrying about something, and I’ll  finger each bead and breathe with each one and that seems to help me return to the present moment.  I cannot make tomorrow come faster; I cannot move any mountains in one minute’s time; I cannot fix the future.

This recent depressive episode has reminded me that recovery takes time and that I cannot force it according to my schedule.  (My schedule rarely works, anyway.)

My recent physical illness of some unknown origin has reminded me of this process . . . this is going to take time.  I have found doctors who are listening to me and looking for answers.  I am doing all that I can do.  Just because I am not better when I wake up tomorrow morning does not mean I won’t eventually get better.  And “get better” includes different scenarios, and I really can’t control what happens.

I can take care of me today, now, in the present moment, with the reassurance that this will help me in the future.

For today, remember that you are doing what you can in this moment.  That is all you need to be doing.

November 23, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not My Year

quote

I’ve used this image before.  But it keeps kicking me in the gut, so here it is again.

I’m in a particularly scary stretch of not knowing.  I have been here before.  While living in DC, hospitals and cardiologists kept telling me nothing was wrong with my heart–aside from the fact that I was anorexic and “we can’t help you there.”  I move to Missouri, still complaining about my heart.  The cardiology team wrote me off.  My physician happened to be an eating disorder specialist, so when I fainted while running–after a solid year of symptom free behavior and health–he knew something was wrong and sent me to St. Louis.  I finally met a cardiologist who listened to me and believed me.  And then he diagnosed me.  And then I had my ICD put it.  And then I went through a fairly long period of doubt and questions regarding my faith.

Now?  I have spent the summer going to doctors in the area, and they kept telling me that all my labs were fine and I was normal.  I kept advocating for myself, because this is not normal, and my GP referred me to an ENT.  I only had to travel one hour and five minutes to get to his office–and found a doctor who listened to me and believed me and hardly glanced at my psychiatric history and believed I was in a great deal of pain.  Why the doctors here couldn’t see that, I have no idea.

I don’t have answers yet.  The doctor sat me down and discussed a few likely possibilities with me, all of which kind of scare me a great deal.  He ordered some special blood tests and is waiting to see my CT scan pictures before he decides our next move.  No matter what, I am probably on my way to a neurologist and possibly a rheumatologist.  I could be looking at surgery.

I’ve really been working on radical acceptance–I cannot do anything at all right now that would have any effect on the outcome.  So I am trying to stay focused on the present moment, not all of the what if? questions.  I try to put a positive face forward.  But the truth is:  I am very scared.  I can feel my faith; it’s still there.  But how do you maintain hope in this situation?  How do you maintain trust in this situation?  And the fact that this physical conundrum is happening right in the middle of a “What am I supposed to do with my life?” crisis does not help.

This may not seem to relate to my normal blog entries, but I promise there’s a link.

Yesterday, I had planned on cleaning my room, clearing out a space for my yoga mat, and doing some research for an essay.  And then I got a certain piece of mail and my positive attitude and perseverance and determination all crumbled away.  I curled up on my bed with my cats and cried and then fell asleep for a good while.  Not because I was tired physically, but because I was tired of dealing with “all this shit.”

I see this as progress.  There were no plans to self-injure, no plans to skip lunch, no plans to throw things at my walls.  I really wanted to stay curled up on my bed and never come out, but I had initiated a new Knitting Circle in my town, and last night was our first meeting.  It would have looked bad if I wasn’t there.  So I went, and had an awesome time and smiled and laughed–not because I “had” to but because I wanted to.

Some might say that curling up is maladaptive.  But honestly, I had been trying to stay busy all week and had been trying to solve certain problems and I know a lot of “normal” people who have days where they just throw up their hands and take a nap.  It did not spiral into a deeper depression and there were no dangerous coping skills involved.  And I realized that ten years ago, the outcome would have been a different one.  Hell, two years ago, the outcome would have been different.

One of the most important things (according to me) in recovery is acknowledging the progress and giving yourself credit for the hard work behind that progress.  Small progress, big progress, any type of progress . . . we need to step back and say, “I just did a good thing.”  We focus so much on our symptoms and behaviors and situations that helped lead to the eating disorder and, of course, we beat ourselves up for any sign of regression.

I challenge you all to get out a real piece of paper and tuck it away someplace you will always see it.  For me that’s my journal.  On that piece of paper write out your progress.  Every day write down one thing that you are proud of.  If it’s drinking all of a supplement instead of only have, write it down.  If it’s forcing yourself to go to a knitting group, write it down.  If you are deeply mired in a horrible depression and have been thinking about suicide, write down “I am still alive.”  Be proud of these things.  These are the small steps necessary for recovery.

I was listening to The Weepies “Not Your Year” today, and of course I can relate to that song right now.  But my favorite lyrics from that song 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.”

Remember your desires and throw ice at the shower wall.  And if anyone can paint a beating heart with the words “don’t give up” for me, you’re my hero!

November 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Owning My Body

Once again, I will thank my friend Mindy (fully recovered for 7 years) for sparking this entry.

There is this common misconception that you go to treatment, control behaviors, and restore health and that you are “in recovery” if you continue to control behaviors and stay healthy.  And yes this is absolutely necessary.

But there is so much more.

I have been in full recovery for almost 8 years–but that doesn’t mean that for the previous 8 years, I had it all figured out and I was recovered and done with everything related to the eating disorder.

Yes, I was done with the eating disorder, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have work to do–on the issues surrounding the eating disorder and just me in general.  I still am doing work in order to improve myself.  I am learning to love myself–not just for what I do or accomplish but for just plain being me.  For so long I didn’t accept myself.  Now I am learning the peace of acceptance.

Immediately after my last hospitalization, I was confident I would maintain recovery–but my body image was horrible and affected my sense of self-worth.  One of the things I did after that hospitalization was take a year off of any type of aerobic exercise in order to break the cycle of exercise addiction.  When I hit the six month mark, I began slowly adding yoga back into my lifestyle.

I had started yoga in college, but had seen it as a workout.  I became a yoga instructor, but in my classes, I emphasized strength and conditioning.  I didn’t spend much time on the concepts of peace or love or acceptance.  It was only a way to work out.

In 2007, I began the return to my mat.  But because I was moving slowly and my focus was on health, my perspective changed.  I began appreciating my time on the mat as my time.  I started with the opening sun salutations, something I used to do only to warmup for the rest of the workout.  But now, I took my time through each individual pose, focusing on correct posture in a way I hadn’t done before.  And one day, after finishing the opening salutations, I sat on my mat and suddenly thought, My body just did all that.  My body. 

The body I had previously hated, degraded, starved, and denied.  The body I tried to hide from everyone.  My body was strong enough to go through all five A Salutations and all five B Salutations.  I wasn’t going on to do the rest of the Astanga sequence; I finished with the salutations.  And appreciated my body for allowing me to do that.

I’d like to say from that day forward, I fully accepted everything about my body and was filled with self-love.  It didn’t work quite as well as that.  But my time on the mat began to mean something other than workout time. I began to cherish the time on the mat as a way to relearn my own body–its shapes and curves and lines and strengths and weaknesses.  And I was proud of that body.  Amazed at the things my body could do.  I hadn’t felt that way since 1996 Indoor Nationals when I placed 4th and 6th.  I loved my body.

Again, that was not the end of my recovery process.  I still had to learn to love my body when I wasn’t doing yoga.  I began using all those positive affirmations I had once scorned:  My body just walked up a flight of stairs.  My body just allowed me to run and catch a bus.  My body allows me to carry all of my books and my laptop to school and back.

Eventually, I came to the realization that my body was my body.  And my job was to love and care for that body and help it anyway I could and appreciate my body not for what it was doing but for the fact that it existed.  That was enough.

As I learned to appreciate my physical body, I learned to appreciate my mind, my feelings, my heart, and my faith and spirituality.  I really do believe that taking time off from all types of exercise was necessary for me, and that starting my yoga practice slowly and deliberately taught me a great deal about my self.

I admit that today, I prefer to be working toward something.  To be accomplishing something.  But I am now learning that my worth does not depend on what I am producing.  I am learning to sit with myself, just as I am, something I would not have been able to do in 2005.

My growth–as a person, as a daughter, as a friend, as a spiritual person–is still continuing.  And I plan on continuing to grow in all of these areas as I continue to live.  This could not have happened if I had not begun the process of recovery.

Find something about yourself that you love–be it singing, playing an instrument, writing, working with children, knitting (of course!).  Anything that you can claim with pride.  And then continually remind yourself that it is your body that makes that activity possible.  Own your body.  Just as it is.  Give yourself the chance to grow as a person.

***********Please do not undertake any exercise regimen without the consent of your treatment team. *********

November 17, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Full Recovery. Yes. It really is possible.

According to Facebook, I have 300 friends.  Most of the time, my newsfeed keeps me up to date on the Friends who are near me physically and the ones who interact with me the most.  Which means the vast majority of my 300 Friends don’t just pop up on my screen.  And honestly, I cannot keep up to date with 300 different people, especially the ones I’ve never met or talked to aside from a couple messages on Facebook.

But a conversation on my wall yesterday made me randomly think of Someone, and so I went to her page to see how she was.  Well, Someone died from her eating disorder, and there is now a “Remembering Someone” group in addition to all the other ‘in memory’ groups out there.  I had had several private message conversations with her, but I can’t say that I knew her.  It still makes me sad.

And then my dear friend Kathleen MacDonald re-shared her story for a support group.  I have heard her speak this story and I have read it multiple times over the years, and it still makes me cry.  Kathleen had someone who knew what it’s like to lose a daughter to an eating disorder step in and help her see her worth as a human being and helped her understand her life had meaning and purpose and beauty and that there really was a way to heal.  A way out.

In 2004, my life intersected with that of Allan Benn.  His daughter had died from an eating disorder in 2003.  At the time, I didn’t believe the people who told me that I could get better–because very few people ever told me that.  Most everyone told me that people didn’t really recover from an eating disorder, that they learned to “manage it” for the rest of their life, but it would always be present somehow.

So if I was only ever going to be anorexic to some degree, why even try to recover?  What was the point?  I didn’t have anything to offer the world; I didn’t even feel I had anything to offer myself.  But Allan saw my suffering, and how it was holding me back from the person I was meant to be.  One day, he sat me down and asked, “What are you going to do now? Because you can’t keep doing this.”  I can’t remember if I had any type of answer for him or not.  But he told me that I needed to take steps to get better.  I didn’t believe him, because ‘obviously’ recovery was impossible.

But over the next year-and-a-half, I began seeing myself through his eyes.  I wasn’t sold on recovery yet, but I was willing to admit the way I was living was causing me great pain.  And as he continued to stress health and wellness, I saw that the way I was living was causing him pain.  I had no idea that my actions could affect other people to that degree.  A sobering realization, but one that led me to the conclusion that even if I didn’t want to get better, I could not let myself be another loss in his life.  It didn’t seem fair.

And so, over a period of months, I began seeking out treatment options but always fell back on the “it’s never helped before” belief until I really didn’t have a choice due to my physical health and I went back into treatment.  I still didn’t believe in me, or even really want recovery–but I cared about Allan and his wife.  “They told me recovery is possible,” I kept repeating to myself.  I had to at least try.

And then I began fighting for the sake of my nephew.  And a part of me was fighting to prove all the doubters wrong.  And then I began fighting for me.  I began to believe that recovery really was possible.  And like everything else I do, I refused to settle for anything but full recovery.

I wish there had been that one person in Someone’s life that connected with her on some deep level words can’t really describe.  I wish she had been able to see her inherent worth as a person and everything that life had to offer her and that she had to offer life.  I wish she believed that she could recover.

All too often, we are labeled revolving door patients, or ‘lifers’ who don’t stand a chance.  These messages come from family, friends, and medical professionals.  ALL of us need to be told that recovery is possible and that we deserve that recovery and that we can succeed.  We need more stories of recovery.  We need to convince people that 100% Full Recovery is possible.  And we need to keep saying that–to sufferers, to parents, to friends, to healthcare providers, and anyone else who will listen.

You. Can. Recover.  Recovery does not mean the absence of pain, but it does mean the presence of life.

November 8, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments