Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Crocodile Scuba Leggings

I now own a pair of crocodile embossed scuba leggings.  Why they are “scuba” leggings I don’t know, because I’m pretty sure I can’t scuba dive with these pants.  In fact, I don’t really want to go scuba diving at all.

But.  There is an actual point to crocodile pants.

I remember growing up and purposefully not wearing clothes that would draw any attention to my body.  I loved competing growing up, but I dreaded the moment when I had to step up on the starting block in my bathing suit.  Or take off my warm-ups and warmup for the long and triple jump.  This only got worse when I went to college and the uniforms were made of even less material.  Once I actually stepped on the runway for an actual jump, all fears and thoughts drained from my head as I focused on the take-off line.  At that point, nothing else in the world mattered.

So, I was not one to go out to clubs in skirts that barely covered my underwear or shirts that showed off  my midsection whenever I raised my hands. I even felt uncomfortable wearing boot cut jeans, since they were too tight.  I wore baggy jeans, and I felt most comfortable with a long-sleeved shirt that I could pull down around my hands.  This new trend of clothes that have thumb holes is like a dream come true.

It’s been a relatively recent development for me to wear clothes that actually attract attention to my body.  When I taught yoga, I wore boot cut leggings and a tanktop because people did look at me to demonstrate certain poses.  But I figured people didn’t really come to yoga class to stare at me in lust.  (I really hope that’s true!)  In the early stages of recovery, I still wore clothes that either hid my shape entirely or only suggested there were curves underneath the clothes.  Maybe.

When I began teaching, I was nervous as hell.  Professional clothes, while not purposefully sexy, were not all that baggy and loose.  But as I began to teach more, I realized the students probably didn’t give a damn about my outfits, especially at 8 am.  I bet some of them didn’t give a damn about writing, either.

And now?  I’ll wear bootcut slimming jeans and a slightly form fitting top.  And then all of these leggings and jeggings and skinny jeans lit up the fashion scene.  I have to admit, leggings are quite comfortable, especially on those days I curl up and read and write all day.  I began wearing them to the grocery store to pick up milk–but I put a big baggy sweatshirt over them.  Gradually, I have tapered that big sweatshirt to nice slightly form fitting shirts.  (Still long enough to cover my midsection, however.  And no shirts with sexual innuendos splayed across my chest.)

For Christmas, my sister-in-law got me these scuba leggings, a tanktop and a sweater to match–an outfit that does not scream “Come have sex with me” but  does invite people to look at me.  My initial reaction was that I could never wear the entire outfit at once.  Then, I tried everything on.  And looked in the mirror.  And liked what I saw.  I looked good. I turned and looked at myself from various angles.  And thought, “people might look at me.”  And then thought, “I’m okay with this.”

My form being seen by other people.  Because of my own choices.

I may not go to some hot club with loud music and bodies bumping into each other while wearing this outfit (because I can’t stand crowded places or loud noises or lots of strangers around me).  But, I can wear this out when I meet friends for coffee or lunch or dinner.

And if people look in my direction?  I probably won’t notice, because I never notice.  But I can still go up to the counter and get a refill and go back to my table without attempting to pull my top down to my knees.

It has taken 37 years, but I can now honestly say that I am okay with my body, and I’m okay with people seeing said body. All those Body Image Art Therapy sessions at SP that I used to dread and try to skip–they’ve finally paid off.  Yes.  I’m admitting the benefits of doing a body tracing.  I am larger, softer, and healthier than I have ever been, and I’m proud of this, and if someone doesn’t approve of my shape?  Well, I’m not hear to get their approval.  I’m here to get my own approval.  I’ve worked hard and long to get my approval, and it doesn’t matter what I wear, I will still have that approval.

December 29, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dude, You’ve Got to Stop Taking Crazy People Meds

I read an article about how effective Bipolar medications are, and that less that half of these patients take their meds.  The question being: How to get more patients to take their medication.

I have some ideas, although I bet a lot of them won’t be supported.

1.  Use treatment facilities.  Not for a mandatory 72-96 hour hold.  Whatever treatment that is pursued in that time would not have a chance in hell of actually taking effect.  Unless we count the sedatives they are happy to dole out to get the patient to a ‘better place.’  That ‘better place’ is usually a bit calmer than upon arrival and the number of suicidal ideations has dropped significantly.  But they haven’t gone away completely.  Nor have the self-harm urges or the disturbing thoughts or compulsions–they’ve been numbed away temporarily.  I have had many weekend stays on psychiatric units.  Yes, they kept me safe from harm.  But then I got out, and most often went right back into the not-so-great behaviors that landed me inpatient in the first place.

The times I have been hospitalized that have been most effective for me are the times that I stayed awhile.  As in a month.  Or more.  No one wants to be kept on one hallway for a month, but during that time, I was first able to grieve/mourn/cry/flip out about why I was there.  Then the doctors began adjusting medication.  Psychiatric medications do not work like antibiotics: they take over a month to take effect.  So a 72 hour hold only gives the doctors a chance to see if you have serious side effects, and then you are given over to your outpatient treatment team.

You’re a lucky person if you can see your outpatient psychiatrist soon after discharge.  They’re overworked and have cramped schedules.  So what motivation is there to take a medication if you can’t tell if it’s doing anything?  While inpatient, I was able to take medications and then go to therapy groups to help me with coping skills while the medication began it’s work.  At the end of my stay, I was able to see the medication working, giving me much more motivation to continue taking them at home.

And a lot of times it comes to insurance companies kicking patients out before either the doctor or patient feel that they are ready.  There are the employers who don’t believe depression is a good enough reason to make us of time off procedures.  There is pressure from peers that “dude, how long you gonna stay in the looney bin?”

2. Insurance companies are not my favorite corporations.  I’m on medicare, and medicare doesn’t pay for a lot of things.  We found one medication that actually did help significantly in a short period of time.  Medicare would not fill the prescription, and the cost was over $550 dollars a month.  We challenged medicare, and they compromised by saying they would pay $50 dollars per month.  If I’m on medicare in the first place because of being on disability, where am I supposed to get that $500 dollars every month?

3.  Communication, on both the part of the doctor and the patient.  My first psychiatrists just handed me pills, with no real explanation attached.  I was young; I trusted doctors; I took the medications.  Now? I make my doctor explain what each medication does and why it is supposed to help and how it will help and how it is different from the other medications we’ve tried.  I ask about positive effects and side effects.  I ask how it will affect my daily lifestyle.  I ask how long before it will take effect.  It’s like 20 Questions, except the answers require more than a yes or no answer.  Doctors are busy busy people.  But if you speak up and ask them questions, they will answer them.  If they don’t answer them, then you can ask to speak to another doctor.  As a 37-year-old, I have a say in every single decision that affects my care.

I found myself writing more, but I will wrap it up since I will get off point very quickly.  Mental illness is treated differently from physical illness.  None of my friends have ever asked me, “you’re done with that cardiac medication, right?  you don’t want to stay on that too long.”  But I have been asked, “Why do you take these psych meds?  You’ve already been on them for two months–get rid of them!”  Mental illnesses are often life-long struggles, much like diabetes.  But people still blame the mental patient for their illnesses.  “You aren’t praying enough.”  “Have you read the Bible lately for guidance?”  (Actually, I have prayed and read my Bible.  For guidance on coping with an illness.  Much like I converse with God about how to endure with a terminal heart condition.)  “Have you tried yoga?”  “Have you tried taking more Vitamin D?”  (Yes, I’ve tried yoga; I was a yoga instructor.  It helps, but it is not a cure.  And I consult with each of my doctors before adding in anything other than prescribed meds.  Vitamins are good–but some of them are rather dangerous as well.)

So my Fourth and Final suggestion is to decrease mental health stigma and to support those who struggle with mental illness and encourage them with their treatments.  Stop blaming them, shaming them, making them feel guilty for needing medication.  This medication does not interfere with my faith.  If anything, it strengthens my faith because now I’m able to develop my relationship with God, whereas before I could barely understand the term “faith.”

December 10, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Everyday choices

Everyday by Toby Lightman

A friend posted on FB that recovery is harder than the eating disorder.

I completely agree.

While I was sick, I avoided life by starving myself into a shell of a human being.  Emotions?  Starved them away, too.  Stress, anxiety–gone.  My eating disorder was an automatic barrier between me and almost any other being since it can be awkward to know what to say to someone with an eating disorder; it’s easier to not say anything at all.  I avoided people; people avoided me.  I didn’t really have to make choices while I was sick.  All choices revolved around whether or not I should eat something.  Not eating allowed me to numb out, and life scared the shit out of me.  So my choice seemed rather obvious at the time.

Then there was that day that someone entered my life and made me realize I could not die.  So I had to find a way to live, if not for me, then for him.  Then came the day that I decided if I was going to stay alive, I was going to live and not just survive or ‘get by.’  So I chose recovery.  And I thought that would be it.  Recovery would appear, or happen.  I don’t know.  Something magical would transform me if I followed the right meal plan and really stuck with it.

The initial step of choosing recovery was only the beginning step.  A necessary step, a scary step, and a small step–but it was the step that changed my life.  Except it threw me into life in a way I hadn’t expected.  All of a sudden, I didn’t have the eating disorder to fall back on, to keep me safe.  I had to deal with emotions as they flooded into my system.  I had to communicate with people I had tried to avoid for so long.  Daily choices completely overwhelmed me.  Obvious decisions were the “do I eat this?” or “do I weigh myself today?” or “do I go on a two-hour run today?” questions.  Then there were these smaller, more subtle questions that came along.  “How does this person make me feel about myself?”  “Is it worth it–going to this party?”  “I like this outfit, but should I wear it?”  “Do I need a two-hour run or do I just want the endorphin rush that makes me numb?”  “Do I really feel like feeling?”  “Wouldn’t it be easier just to not eat?

Yes.  It would have been easier to just not eat or to over-exercise to the point of pain.

Yes, eight years later I still have days when I think, “It would be easier if I didn’t have to go through this.”

Life is harder than the eating disorder.  Life is not black and white (do I eat or don’t I eat?) but is filled with greys.  Issues that must be faced like body image, childhood trauma, self-worth, the purpose of life, faith, relationships.  These are things that every single person must deal with on a daily basis, even if they never had an eating disorder.  These are things that will come up multiple times in a person’s life.  And emotions?  Those annoying things we tried to avoid with the eating disorder?  They come up a zillion times every single day.  Day after day after day.  They get overwhelming, and need to be handled in safe ways that help us heal.

Hurting ourselves as a way to deal is simply not an option anymore.  With recovery comes the journey of finding new coping skills, which is a trial and error process and can be frustrating.

But even on the days when I am crying on my bed (which happens to normal people), nothing could ever convince me to go back to the eating disorder.  Life has pain.  But life also has joy.  Great big joys and small joys and everything in between.  To go back to the eating disorder would mean giving up all of those joys, and I refuse to do that.  This living fully thing that used to terrify me?  I actually like it.

In a previous entry  I challenged myself to write out 100 things that I have to live for.  Reasons to pull me through my next depressive episode.  Do you want another challenge?  How about 100 Things I’d Have To Give Up If I Chose The Eating Disorder?

It is a choice.  A choice that you can control.  A choice that only you can make.  I made my choice eight years ago, and it has been worth every step along the way.  I have pain, yes.  But I also have joy.

December 6, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment