Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Regarding Relapses

885e88637cb1b2389902f7c29db65ddbThis may sound surprising–but this quote is actually one of my least favorites.  Even though I believe it and know it to be true.  Now.  But then? Back when I was still convinced I could live with anorexia with no repercussions?  When people threw this quote in my face, I wanted to scream and call them names.  And a little after that?  Back when I had decided to recover and was really, really trying but it seemed like there were more bad days than good days?  When people used this to motivate me, I only felt guilty and ashamed because obviously it meant I was choosing to have a bad day.  Which made it my fault.

Now?  Now I look back and can see that recovery was a series of choices.  Millions of them.  Every single day.  Overall I decided that in order to live, I needed to recover.  But some of those millions of daily choices?  They weren’t exactly made with my best interest in mind.  And each time I slipped and made the wrong choice, I felt as if my chance at recovery was thrown out the window.

In the beginning of my recovery?  Yeah, I made some shitty choices.  Frequently.  And then less frequently.  And then rarely.  And then once in a blue moon.  Now?  I don’t need to make daily choices about eating and exercise to stay on my path.

There are debates about the different definitions of “recovered” and “fully recovered” and “recovering.”  But I think we’d all agree that recovery is not one choice.  It’s many choices.  This means that when you slip or relapse, you still have that choice open to you.  No matter how big or small the slip.  Neither does a slip or relapse automatically throw you back to the very beginning of your journey.  “You start from where you are” is true for each of us, no matter where we are in our individual journeys.  All of those skills you learned to get this far?  You still have them. You can still use them.  In fact, you might have even picked up a new skill or two in the process.

A relapse, even a significant relapse, is not the end.

Not if you choose to stand back up and walk forward toward recovery.

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July 11, 2015 Posted by | Body Image, coping, Eating Disorders, progress, recovery, self harm | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

yet another post about taking care of you

Take-care-of-youI haven’t been around much (again).  I’ve hardly been online and my email and facebook were neglected.  I didn’t socialize.  I didn’t even write letters.  (I communicate my deepest thoughts through snail mail because I’m old.) These previous three weeks have been rough on my family.  My grandfather on my father’s side passed away, and I spent the majority of my time at the hospital and nursing home, and then we had calling hours and the service.  He lived a long life (he was 93) and I am at peace with the conclusion, although I will miss him.

I was kind of worried at the beginning of this period.  Even before the eating disorder had hints of starting, my tendency is to take care of others before considering my own needs and desires.  I spent a lot of time with my grandfather’s wife, making sure she was getting up to walk around and getting sleep and eating.  In the back of my mind, I do admit that I wondered if I would need someone to remind me to do those same things.

My journey of recovery has been full of ups and downs, but after this past month, I must say I am proud of how much I have changed.  Taking care of me–it came naturally.  I knew my limits and, even after thinking “But I should do this,” I would speak up and take care of myself–be it through a trip to the cafeteria or going home to sleep.

Yoga probably contributed to this more than any other therapy.  After I decided to fully recover, I took one full year off of all exercise–including yoga–to break my cycle of exercise addiction.  After that year, I began a new relationship with yoga.  No longer did I step on my mat with the intention of gaining muscle and flexibility.  My intention instead was to listen to my body.  What did each pose feel like?  How did my body respond?  What exact muscle was affected?  Did I like this pose?  Did this pose feel good on the inside?  How was I affected emotionally?

Through yoga, I learned my body.  Not just its lines and curves and thickness, but I learned how to feel–and how to respond appropriately.  I learned how to respect my body for what it could do for me.  I learned that my body has limits, and I need to respect those limits.

I found out that I don’t need someone to take care of me (although having my mom make me dinner is always a beautiful thing!).  My body will tell me to take care of me.  By paying attention to my body, I felt hunger and sleepiness and sadness and stress and joy and love.  And I reacted with love for myself.

I have absolutely no doubt that if I had not taken care of myself, I wouldn’t have been able to help my father and uncles and my grandfather’s wife through all of this.  I would not have been a help, but a hindrance.  It was not selfish to say, “I need to go home for the night.”  It was necessary in order to help again the next day.

Other people need you in their lives.  But in order to be there in their lives, you need to take care of yourself.

June 12, 2015 Posted by | bipolar disorder, Communication, coping, death, depression, family, feelings, mindfulness, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Full Recovery

from deviantart.com again by Queen666

from deviantart.com again by Queen666

My previous entry was about trigger warnings, and our need to be able to cope with the world around us.  A day or two later I received a “question” on my Questions page.  It’s not really worded as a question.  After a thinly disguised non-description (where we are told of her physical symptoms, size, and severity of illness) of the individual’s own disorder, s/he lets  me know:

 I’m tired of hearing of people being cured of eating disorders. There’s not such thing. You may go in remission but you’ll battle your weight for the rest of your life. Eating disorders have been called the most fatal mental illness, and they are. I discovered that bipolar disorder type II is often associated with bulimia nervosa, while bipolar type I is often associated with anorexia nervosa. Schizophrenia is often a co-morbidity.

Yes.  Eating Disorders do have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.  However, that does not automatically mean that you can’t recover.  I was not cured of my eating disorder.  There was no “magic fix” or “magic pill.”  I took a couple years and worked my ass off to first enter “remission” and then I decided that I didn’t want anorexia to be part of my life–at all.

I do not “battle my weight.”  I haven’t in eight years.  My weight naturally fluctuates because of a variety of reasons: time of year, condition of my heart (physical, not emotional), condition of my heart (the emotional one this time), medication changes, illness, and my level of depression.  However, these natural fluctuations keep me in my healthy weight range: a range where I’ve found my body physically functions best.  I keep track of my weight because of the different doctors I see and because I do not see the point in stepping on the scale backwards when the doctor and I have to be able to openly discuss my weight because the dose of one of my medications is determined by my weight.

I don’t think about my “meal plan.”  I eat when I’m hungry.  I stop when I am full.  If I am physically ill and don’t feel like eating, I try to eat small things and drink a lot throughout the day–not to manage my weight, but to give my body energy to beat whatever is currently ailing me.

I don’t have a list of foods I’m not “allowed” to eat.  (Except gluten and dairy, but that’s determined by my intestines, not my mind.)  I don’t have a list of “good foods” or “bad foods.”  Food is food.  I eat it if it tastes good.  It’s a pretty simple decision.

I do worry about exercise.  I have for six years now, ever since my genetic heart condition was diagnosed and I had my ICD put in.  I want to exercise because it helps my depression and mood stability and it helps the rest of my body.  I have to be very careful about what I choose to do and when because exercise actually harms my heart.  When I look at my old exercise habits, I laugh at what the Old Me would have thought about my current activity level.  “Yoga?  Slow walks?  They don’t count as exercise.”  But now they do, and I’m more familiar with my body now than ever before.

My clothes fit me.  I don’t care what size they are.  I don’t compare myself to the models in ads.  I don’t stare into the mirror for hours, trying to decide how to make my body “better.”

I am not “managing symptoms.”  I live in this body and I care for it, and my mind is finally free to take in all that life has to offer.

So why do I keep this blog?  Because of the fact that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.  Because I’ve had to stop counting the number of friends I’ve lost to eating disorders–the number was getting too high.  Because I have friends who are still struggling.  Because I meet people who confide that they are struggling and don’t know what to do.

Because when I was sick, I was given the lie that you could never truly recover from an eating disorder and I didn’t know of anyone who was fully recovered.

Because a partial recovery was just not good enough for me.  If I was going to work my ass off to heal, I wanted to heal.

Because I wanted to live, and I am.

Because other people need to know this healing is possible.

May 14, 2015 Posted by | bipolar disorder, Body Image, coping, death, depression, Eating Disorders, health, heart, progress, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Trigger Warning

Trigger-warningIf you’ve been reading this blog, and you’ll know I try to limit any obviously potential triggers, such as the use of numbers, sizes, weights, etc., and I usually avoid pictures focusing on weight and size.  When I posted the link to the documentary clip a few entries ago, I made people aware that the video would include sensitive topics.  In general, I don’t want people to take what I write and find justification for an eating disorder in it.  I am not in support of the Pro-Ana “movement” or websites.

Here, and on my facebook page, I don’t generally use trigger warnings that often.  Hopefully, because of the above, people don’t find my blog too triggering.  After all, it is an eating disorder blog, so if you are venturing inside, you should be expecting some mentions of eating disorders.  And like I said, hopefully I do so in a sensitive manner.

I think our overuse of various trigger warnings and ways of avoiding the obvious on social media may actually be a problem.  I don’t tell people personal information that could upset others, such as my weights, specifics of the childhood abuse, or pictures that seem to glorify when I was sick.  I try to avoid using the word “fat” in descriptions because of the inaccuracy of the word and the negative stigma it promotes.

And I do encourage people to limit their exposure to known triggers, especially in the beginning stages of recovery.  It’s been over a year since I’ve self-harmed, but I still do not feel ready to read Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects.  I’ve read Gone Girl and Dark Places. I thought they were excellent books, and I hope to read Sharp Objects one day for its literary value.  But for now, I do not know if I could read descriptions of self-harm and be okay with it.  But other people seem to like the book, and if they want to read about it and post about it and talk in general about it, that’s their choice.  It is my responsibility to determine what I can read and what I can’t.

Here’s the thing:  you will not find trigger warnings in life outside of a treatment setting, a Safe Environment, or a website, blog or chatroom specifically designed for those in recovery.  You will open the daily newspaper and sexual abuse will be mentioned in an article.  It will not come with a warning.  Hopefully, specific details will not be mentioned, but you will see the word rape.  They will not write these words without vowels:  s*x, ab!se, or r%pe.  I am not sure what good comes of this.  If, given the context of the article, you already know what the word is, then your mind will associate that word with the actual word, and your mind will still jump to the same thoughts as before.  Seeing “s*x” instead of “sex” does not protect the reader from the word’s meaning.

My intention is not to criticize where you are at in your recovery if you rely on trigger warnings.  At some point, however, you will find yourself in a situation where things are not censored for you.  If an article title includes the words “terrible abuse” and you know you are struggling with coming to terms with your own situation, then you should assume the article will mention things such as abuse and make the choice not to read further.  If you start reading an article and discover the topic to be too upsetting, then stop reading.

If you are with friends and they start talking about diets, if they are good friends they won’t mind you saying, “Hey, do you mind if we talk about something else for a bit?”  But if you are standing in line at the local coffee shop and two other customers are talking about their diets and mention their weights, it would be impolite to turn around and ask them to change the topic of their conversation.  You will need to find a way to distract yourself from their discussion.  While in a waiting room, if a news channel issues a special report alerting people to a suspected child predator and other people are watching this, you might not want to get up and turn the television off.  You might want to pick up a magazine and try focusing on those words instead.

I guess my warning is this:  the general population will not respect your individual needs relating to your recovery.  This does not mean they are intentionally trying to sabotage your recovery, but it does mean that you will need to know how to cope in those moments.  If you find that you are easily triggered, or triggered by specific things, then I suggest talking with someone about ways you can safely deal with these situations.  I wish we all had a mute button to use when the world gets overwhelming, but we don’t.  (It would make writing in public spaces a lot easier!)

I am very very grateful for the treatment I received in hospitals for self-harm and anorexia.  I felt safe on those units.  But neither was I prepared for discharge and re-entering society.  I’m not sure what the solution is to this, if there even is a solution, other than giving people the knowledge that world outside their doorstep is not always a safe place to be, but it is a place we must go.

May 12, 2015 Posted by | addictions, bipolar disorder, Body Image, Communication, coping, Eating Disorders, mindfulness, recovery, self harm, trauma | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Slow Progress is still Progress

Om Namah Shivayah

Om Namah Shivayah

I’ve posted this picture before.  Om Namah Shivayah.  I respect the divinity within me.  I got this tattoo when I knew I would never ever go back to the eating disorder.

The previous 16 months have been 16 of the most difficult months I’ve lived.   Sorry for any repeated info:  the depressive cycle I was in was the most severe and the longest I have ever had, and I had actually scheduled out all the details of my suicide attempt in my weekly planner.  I moved from Missouri to New York to live with my parents–at 37 years of age.  Although the depression began improving, my physical body was being hit from wrecking balls on all sides, and no one could figure out what the hell was going on.  I am not able to work a “real” job with regular hours.  I certainly could not handle a full teaching load right now.

I had thought things would be different.  I’d move to NY, get better, apply for jobs, and be looking forward to a new teaching position for the fall semester.

I get frustrated with “where I am at” quite often.  I’m almost 38; I hadn’t planned on needing to live with my parents at this age.  I am not working, aka contributing to society.  I am a track and field official, which is a “real job” but it’s so far from where I wanted to be at this stage of life.

But I was reminded by a friend yesterday that, compared to ten years ago, none of this would have been possible.  I was sick with the eating disorder and the bipolar disorder was not controlled.  I wasn’t ready to start the PhD program I had dreamed about attending, but I went anyway–and then had to withdraw two years after I started.  One year ago, I pulled out of teaching–and I only had one class.  In May of 2014, I lived in a psych hospital.  Last summer, I slept more than I was awake.  This past fall found me fatigued and sore and in pain and going through medical tests almost every week.  In January, I wouldn’t have been able to officiate, but now I can do four meets in four days (with a lot of sleeping in the following mornings–but I can still officiate).  I am looking to see if any area colleges need a professor to teach one section of Freshmen Comp.

So no.  This is not my dream.  In fact, I am no longer sure if I will be able to ever meet that dream.  But right now, in this moment, I have much to be thankful for in terms of how far I have come compared to 16 months ago.  I am healing.  Maybe not as fast as I would have wanted, but I am healing.  And as another friend told me, “Slow progress is still progress.”

April 27, 2015 Posted by | 1, addictions, bipolar disorder, Body Image, Communication, coping, depression, Eating Disorders, faith, feelings, guilt, health, mindfulness, progress, recovery, relationships, self harm, suicide | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How Far You Jump

I miss the feeling of sand in my mouth!

I miss the feeling of sand in my mouth!

A lot of you will know that I really do miss the feeling of sand in my mouth.  Along with the thrill of competition and the endorphin rush of exercise and the camaraderie of my teammates.  I miss the training, the weights, the intervals, the stretching, the ice packs, the athletic trainers.  All of it.  It used to be my life.  I haven’t competed since college.  I haven’t been an over-exercise-obsessive-compulsive-must-run-for-hours-a-day person since I was earning my MFA in Washington, DC.  And I haven’t been able to do any aerobic exercise since July, 2009, due to a cardiac illness.

One thing I do not miss:  the perfectionist drive that made me feel guilty if I didn’t set a new PR at every single meet, regardless of the weather conditions or an injury or the time of the season.  I always had to do my best.

A few days ago, while officiating a junior high track  meet, I worked the Long and Triple Jump.  I had my first athlete start crying on me.  (I really hope this doesn’t happen often!)  She was a 7th grader.  This was her very first meet ever. Because of the snow up here, pits have only been open for about a week, so this was her first week of even learning how to long and triple jump.  She fouled her first jump.  Shook it off, but looked worried.  She fouled her second jump.  Then her shoulders dropped and she hung her head and tried to hide the tears streaming down her face.

I wanted to take her aside and really talk with her and reassure her and look her in the eyes and tell her that everything would be okay, regardless of her performance in the meet.  But with 30 junior high girls in the event, it was a little chaotic, so I didn’t have much time with her at all.

These were the gist of my words of wisdom:  “You still have another jump.  Even if you foul, it’s okay.  We’ve all fouled out at meets before.  Your coach was not expecting you to break any world records today. It’s your first meet, and he wanted you to run down the runway three times and land in the pit and have fun while doing it. Take a breather before you jump again.  Maybe move your mark back a good two feet to be on the safe side, and then run down the runway and pretend I’m not here and have fun.” 

I remember being disappointed in my performance as a seventh grader.  That feeling of not being good enough.  The pressure of that last attempt, feeling that if I fouled out, the world would end and everyone would think less of me.  At that point, I had yet to break records and win invitationals and regionals and compete at the state level.  I was in 7th grade.  Putting more pressure on myself than most professional athletes.  I wish someone had spoken those words to me when I was in seventh grade.  I finally heard them when I was a collegiate athlete, and my all-too-awesome coach began teaching me that yes, my goal was to place at Nationals, but if I didn’t, that would be great, too.  What was more important was having fun while competing and trying to do the best I could do on that particular day.

I wanted to tell this 7th grader that all of the pressure she felt?  It’s not worth it.  Competition and Track and Field are not worth it if you always end up feeling like you could have done better.  How far you long jump does not determine your worth.  How far you jump defines nothing other than muscle strength and speed and technique and, sometimes, luck.  How far you jump will not determine who you are.  The passion behind jumping might be part of who you are, but that doesn’t depend on how far you jump.  How you hold yourself after competition reflects more about who you are than the competition itself.

We as a society have come to stress performance, especially athletic performance, and the importance of placing well (winning).  In my case, I cared about performance so much that I lost track of everything else that made me me.  And when an injury ended my ‘national career,’ I had no idea who I was or how to find out.  I figured that without Track and Field Star attached to my name, I wasn’t worth anything.

I now know what makes up this body and soul the world calls Alexis.  But I wish it hadn’t taken thirty years to do so.  I wish I had left for college knowing I could do something other than long and triple jump.  And I wish I had known then that “Who I Am” is not a static self made from concrete, that I am constantly changing and growing and learning.

I now know there is far more to me than my track and field records.  I only wish I knew how to tell all of that to a 7th grader in the span of thirty seconds.

obsessive

April 19, 2015 Posted by | bipolar disorder, depression, Eating Disorders, heart, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Respect and Self-Care in a World of Haunting Triggers

I have a sensitive “guilt trigger”–kind of like my sensitive startle response.  If someone wants (consciously or unconsciously) to lay a load of guilt on me, it’s really not all that difficult.  Hell, even if they don’t want to make me feel guilty, chances are I can still muster up my own guilt.

At least I know this about myself now.  So although I will often feel initial twinges of guilt for no significant reason, I am able to reign them in and realize no one meant anything by it and my head likes to twist things around.

I also now know that while sick with the anorexia and self-harm, I was once a very skilled guilt-tripper myself, and I could lay it on thick, both intentionally and just out of habit.  It is not a part of my past that I am proud of, but I have accepted it and, hopefully, keep things in check.

There seems to be this idea that because I was once an avid guilt-tripper, I can empathize and sympathize and understand where the other person is coming from–and let it slide, thereby accepting the guilt and giving the other person a free play.

Recovery has taught me many things.  One is that I do not have the right to blame everyone around me.  The second item is that I no longer have to leave myself open to guilt trips or sensitive situations that make me uncomfortable or that trigger difficult thoughts or emotions.

I am now recovering from a depressive episode that spanned over two years and was more severe than any other depressive cycle I’ve had.  Compared to a year ago, I’m doing phenomenally well, but I am not 100% yet.  Compounded with some physical issues, certain topics of conversation can be upsetting, causing my head to spin off into places I wish didn’t exist.

Yes, I am handling those situations better.  I rarely follow through on troubling thoughts.  But that does not mean I have to intentionally place myself in those situations.  In fact, learning to not put myself in those situations has been one of the hardest lessons I’m learning.  I know a significant number of people do not understand this, and I do my best to offer an explanations, but sometimes words just don’t transport meaning all that well.

And I am trying very hard not to allow people to make me feel guilty when my needs conflict with their needs.  It has meant seeming distant to some people.  It has meant turning down certain invitations.  It has meant saying, “No; I do not feel comfortable talking about that right now.”  This from the girl who never used to have needs and would listen to and be there for everyone around her, regardless of the emotional consequences.

I cannot be everyone’s hero, no matter how hard I try or how many times I’ve been there in the past.

Right now in this very moment, my job is to make sure I continue my journey to health and well-being.

We all have limits, and we need to respect them.

April 14, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2014

Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile is my 2nd Favorite Singer of All Time.  I love her.  I have fallen in love with her.  (In a non-creepy, non-stalkerish manner!)  And today I had the chance to listen to her music all the way from Albany to home.  Her lyrics often get me thinking of certain people and situations, and being the last day of the year and all, I was in a reflective mood to begin with.

The previous 365 days can be split into Before and After.  Before accounts for January through the end of May.  After is anything after June 1.

“Turn to light or fade to black; you don’t look back no you don’t look back; at what you might not want to see.” ~”Save Part of Yourself”

I could ignore the Before; it’s not filled with pleasant memories, so it would be nice to ignore those months.  But I hesitate to do that.  Whether or not I like what I see, those five months did happen, and I am still here, and I feel like I have learned a lot because of that.

I began 2014 in the hospital.  I start the semester teaching and tutoring.  Ugly Depression Number Infinity requires that I stop teaching due to the fact that I can’t find the motivation to go to the kitchen and cook (thank you pre-made food companies) let alone go to the school to teach. Ugly Depression only grows so that I experience what is the worst of all my depressive episodes.  One night late in April I do a lot of research and planning and wake up in the morning to find I had scheduled out every single detail of my suicide attempt and written it into my calendar.  That scared me–I KNOW that suicide is NOT an option.  But the depression was twisting my mind.  So I spent all of May in the hospital, which may seem like a bad thing, but I discovered that giving up all control and being 100% honest and allowing my doctors to help me without questioning or fighting them really is a good thing.

May 31 I am discharged.  June 1-3, we pack up all my belongings, hop in a UHaul truck and begin driving from Missouri to New York, thus beginning the After part of my year.

Moving back in with my parents took some adjustment on all of our parts.  And the cats had to adjust as well.  I connected with friends from my high school years when the anxiety let me.  I only had a psychiatrist–no therapist, no general physician, no cardiac team–meaning I would have to rebuild my support system from square one.  And as the depression and anxiety continued to improve, I did just that.

Moving back east has forced some reflection time.  When I last lived here, I was the Perfect Outstanding Athlete and Scholar Who Was Supposed To Go Far and Go Big.  I’ve had to come to terms that I am not the same person that I was in 1995–and that I didn’t have go back to being that person.  I have been fairly open and honest with all these people that remember me from back then, and I have been supported and encouraged in amazing ways.

I also thought that when I moved back east, I’d just pick up where I left off concerning old friendships.

“It wasn’t too long before/ I showed up at your door/ I’d been gone a thousand miles
I didn’t know how much more I could stand/ If I could stand at all
You said I looked like I’d been through World War II/ And my soul was worn right through
I thought you would read my mind/ I thought you’d ask me to stay
You’d never turn me away like before/ But you closed your door anyway” ~”What Did I Ever Come Here For?”

While some of my old friendships have survived, a large number of them did not.  I went through anger and bitterness and sadness and guilt.  I kept asking myself “What could I have done differently to make this friendship blossom? What did I do wrong?”  It has taken me several months to realize that “what I did wrong” was part of who I was back in my twenties, and that most of my old friends do not know who I am now.  Let’s face it: my twenties were ugly years, and I can’t blame anyone for not welcoming me with open arms and shouts of joy.  I don’t think things I have done are evil and unforgivable, and maybe people have forgiven me, even if they do not want me in their lives now.  I’m a big risk to take, and people now have families to take care of and jobs and committees and life.  I’m not sure I would take a risk with me at this point.  Their current lives.  My past.

And the end of the year always makes me remember a couple significant people from my past who are no longer with us:

“I wish I could lay down beside you When the day is done
And wake up to your face against the morning sun
But like everything I’ve ever known You’ll disappear one day
So I’ll spend my whole life hiding my heart away” ~”Hiding My Heart”

But I’m learning that maybe hiding my heart away is not my best option and that I need to be open to new experiences and new relationships.  Even if people disappear.  Even if there’s pain.

Who’s gonna break my fall When the spinning starts
The colors bleed together and fade?
Was it ever there at all? Or have I lost my way?
The path of least resistance Is catching up with me again today” ~”Again Today”

The other night a friend from my twenties were talking.  This is someone who went through her own version of hell and is learning to thrive.  I wanted to know if she ever missed all that stuff from back then.  Because although I don’t miss my behaviors from back then, I do miss the ability to escape from reality–to run away.  It is comforting to know I’m not the only one that wants to just run away sometimes.  But it’s also a comfort to know someone else is choosing not to run away.  It would be easier.  But life is worth every slammed door in my face, every question of faith in my head, every time the depression feels overwhelming, every time my heart skips a beat and fills me with fear.

Screw the whole “If you changed your past, you wouldn’t be the same person you are today” belief.  I’d change a whole lot if I could.  But I no longer live as if I can.

So while I hope this year is better for me and for others who are struggling, I want you to look at the person you have become now and live for today.

January 1, 2015 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