Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Full recovery from the eating disorder led to me enjoying food and the social occasions around food.  I liked trying new (and previously terrifying) foods.  I looked forward to a Friday movie night on the couch with a pint of ice cream, some wine, and some great company.  I honored my body’s signals and was doing what I had thought was impossible–eating intuitively.  And it was awesome.

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These previous few months have been . . . trying.  Ten years of recovery is a long time, right?  I felt secure in that recovery–and I still do.  But I’ve discovered that dieting-by any name-is a definite NO for me.  My cholesterol climbed up a bit in 2017, enough for it to be a valid concern.  This is likely a symptom of my heart disease and may be unavoidable.  It could be a result of hormonal middle age.  It could be that as my body has been changing, my food choices haven’t.  So I was told to “make better food choices” and “avoid cholesterol” and “limit fat” and we’ll see where I stand in six more months.

I have been obsessing about food again.  Not if I should eat, or even how much I should eat, but what to eat.  During the years of the anorexia, pretty much all food was “bad” except for black coffee and water.  Now I’m asking if the food I’m eating is “right,” which quickly leads to wondering if I’m eating “good” food.  Once I put labels on food, those same labels shift over to how I see myself as a person.  Did I make the right (good) choice?  Then I’m a good person.

My trips to the grocery store have been agonizing lately.  I find myself comparing food labels and making sure what I choose is the one with the least amount of X,Y, or Z–even if it’s only by 1 little milligram.

I don’t like living like this.

And it’s hard to go anyplace without hearing about people’s diets.  Why they are on a diet, or why this particular diet, or why the previous diet didn’t work.  I read an article today about how restrictive diets are dangerous for those who are vulnerable to eating disorder behavior or thoughts.  It’s nice reading that other people who have recovered still turn obsessive when making a “simple” lifestyle adjustment.  It’s not ever going to be “simple” for me.  I obsess too easily and food equaled worth for too long.

I obviously have to make some small changes here and there for medical reasons.  I obviously can’t “go on a diet.”  Somehow, this person who tends to exist in extremes, is going to have to find the grey zone of compromise.  But I have also decided that my cholesterol level is not a good enough reason to torment myself and risk sanity, especially when I probably have little control over the actual numbers.  (Did I mention I like having control?!)

I will try “tweaking things” (as my therapist puts it), but if I can’t do so without my overall health staying as it is, then these numbers are just going to be my numbers.  If I have to manage the side effects of one more medication, I have confidence that I can do that.  But I refuse to be miserable, and no one will ever touch my chocolate!

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February 22, 2018 Posted by | addictions, bipolar disorder, Body Image, cholesterol, depression, Eating Disorders, exercise, guilt, health, heart, progress, recovery, responses, shame, therapy, treatment | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Missing Chaos

sometimes, I have to admit that I feel a little . . . unsettled . . . in this new world I live in.

25564_633436301485_7179378_nThis world is so much calmer than the one of my twenties and the first six years of my thirties.  After 3+ years, I’m still not used to it.  I still walk out of my apartment some days, amazed that I have a bag on my shoulder filled with work stuff–that I have this thing called a job.  Sure I’ve had jobs before.  In fact, I’ve almost always had some type of job, even if it was a very-part-time job while I was on disability.

This, though, this is different.  I enjoy this job and I want to keep this job and I keep waiting for the calm to stop.  For chaos to fall down from the heavens and cause this current world to break into tiny pieces.  It’s happened before.  I know I’m now working with an awesome treatment team and that I will hopefully catch any relapse before melting into a puddle on the pavement, but it still terrifies me.

Yet sometimes, I long for that to happen.  Only I wish I could control the severity and length of the chaos.

Why?  Why would I miss the voices in my head telling me to give up on everything and to hurt myself?  Why would I want to constantly obsess about my suicide plans?  Why would I want to go back to a run of stays at various inpatient units?

Maybe I don’t miss the chaos as much as I miss the community that knows the chaos.  The community that just gets it–all of it–without me having to explain anything.  The community that’s mainly made up of people who have failed-multiple times-at being an adult. Others who can barely keep a job, let alone contemplate a career.  Others who never seem to have many stable relationships–romantic or otherwise.  Others who have periods of time on their resumes or CVs not filled with a job or education or anything other than psychiatric emergencies.  Others who know the daily routine on a psychiatric unit can be as comforting as it is mind-numbingly boring.

It’s easier on a psychiatric unit.  To admit to exhaustion and sadness and hopelessness. To admit I need help.  To admit I want help.  To admit that I have no real clue about ‘normal emotional reactions and behaviors.’  I know the extremes.  I’m finding my way around this middle grey zone, but I often feel lost here.

I don’t have the Sorority Days stories, or the Spring Fling stories, or the Marriage and Family stories, or the New House stories, and sometimes I don’t know how to engage with people when I’m in a group that seems to be focused on reminiscing about The Good Old Days.

Some days I fear needing to go back in the hospital.  Some days I wish I could, just to take a break for a week.  I still feel “new” to all of this, and I have no idea what’s coming next.  At least the chaos was predictable in that I knew it would be there tomorrow.

February 17, 2018 Posted by | addictions, bipolar disorder, Body Image, Communication, coping, depression, guilt, health, identity, progress, publicity, recovery, relationships, responses, self harm, shame, suicide, teaching, therapy, treatment | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Never My Friends

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Every so often, when I’m scrolling through my facebook feed and see random blogs sponsored by an advocacy organization, I want to punch the screen of my laptop.  Don’t worry, I don’t do that.

Recently, I saw a blog detailing one writer’s recovery from Ana.  Not “anorexia.”  Not “eating disorder.” Not “life threatening illness.”  Ana.  I have friends named Ana.  They have faces and bodies and fashion styles and colored hair and hand gestures and quirks and a way of speaking that are different from my other friends.  None of them are trying to kill me.

But by using this cute nickname, this writer is referring to the years spent suffering from an illness and the strength and energy it took to recover.  For that, I admire her, just as I admire anyone who has recovered or has just made the decision to try recovery or is caught up in the hell of figuring out if recovery is possible.  (It is.)

I have seen too many friends die because of various eating disorders.  When I was still sick and had no real intentions of recovery, I brushed these deaths aside, as much as one can brush death aside.  “I only knew them for a couple of weeks in treatment,” or “She never really wanted recovery anyway,” or even, “I’m jealous.”  Then, some of the friends I made in treatment because “out of treatment” friends who I’d meet for coffee and hang out with and go to movies with.  A lot of these individuals are still my friends; we fought the eating disorders together.  Social media, of course, widened my network of friends with mental illnesses.  Some of these friends became close friends.  And a good percentage of them died. One of these friends, I think if we hadn’t met in treatment, became the closest thing to a soul sister I have encountered.  And she died.

I could no longer “brush death aside” with a casual wave of my hand.  These friends weren’t dying after a chance encounter with a stranger named “ana,” “mia,” or “ed.”  They died from an illness.  Over an extended period of time.  In a lot of physical and emotional pain.  I just can’t give those illnesses cute little names.

We give names to inanimate objects as a way of personalizing them.  They mean something to us, and we want to hold these things close to our heart.  Sometimes we name these objects or situations in an effort to make sense of them, and eating disorders rarely make sense.  But when you personalize something, it becomes harder to let go of.  And when you don’t use the true vocabulary of these illnesses (death, pain, feeding tube, throwing up, purging, isolation, obsession, compulsion, loneliness, depression, fear), it’s easier to forget the harsh consequences of knowing this “friend.”

Even ten years after recovery, I cannot look back and casually refer to my twenties with “Ana” anywhere in the description.  I was sick, and just like the cardiac illness I have is not cute and fun, neither was the eating disorder.  Would you nickname depression or bipolar disorder or suicide with cute names?  How about cancer?  How about stroke?  Then why do we consider eating disorders worthy of cute and fun?

February 12, 2018 Posted by | addictions, bipolar disorder, Body Image, coping, death, depression, Eating Disorders, exercise, guilt, health, heart, identity, progress, publicity, recovery, suicide, thinspo, treatment, triggers | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment