Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Intentional Acting

14358754_10101428559527125_201134823500979566_nThis time of year is always difficult for me.  I have come to accept that life in general will be  . . . interesting during the winter months.  This year, however, I made some changes to my routine to make sure this would be a successful winter.

DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) and I agree on most things, but not so much on a few things.  I have learned a significant amount about taking care of myself, however.  A relatively new concept if you look at my life as a whole.  This year, I decided that, above all else, I would make sure I went to bed and woke up on a regular schedule.  This meant saying “the world won’t end if I don’t finish grading these papers tonight” and asking “you already know how to stay in bed for 24 consecutive hours, so how about we try something new?”  I’m not saying it was easy to maintain a regular sleep schedule; it took a hell of a lot of self-talk/self-lectures on a daily basis, and I certainly didn’t have a 100% success rate.  But I tried another new concept out this year by not shaming myself with negative self-talk when my day was less than perfect.

Not feeling guilty is actually more difficult for me than maintaining a good sleep schedule.

Healthy sleep habits definitely helped, but so did healthy exercise habits.  I said at the beginning of the winter that I wasn’t even going to go into the season with the intention of walking every day.  I hate the cold.  I hate the cold wind.  And I hate snow.  Going out for a slow walk was just not going to happen in upstate New York.  It was easier when I was able to run.  Then, just knowing the endorphin high was coming was enough to get me outside and exercising.

This year, I told myself I would try to maintain a regular yoga practice, along with my regular meditation practice.  My daily sitting practice went by unscathed.  However, there were many many many days when I just couldn’t make myself do yoga, or even do some simple stretches while watching television.  But–this winter I didn’t lecture myself about how bad it is not to exercise.  Turns out, guilt isn’t such a great motivator.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I found myself thinking, “It’s winter.  Just chill out and watch more Bones reruns.”  It was the end of winter and I didn’t feel like showing up at work, let alone exercising by myself at home.  And I’d just continue to sit there and read or knit.  And even without any self-lectures, I’d feel worse.  Mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Then I remembered another DBT skill: Acting Opposite.  I wanted to curl up in bed after going to work, not because I was enjoying a good nap that would be refreshing, but because I didn’t feel like dealing with the world.  Or my mind.  So I intentionally (a big mindfulness concept) decided to start (restart? revisit?  continue?) a daily yoga practice–with gentleness.  I started off with a few slow sun salutations–they only took a few minutes.  But I was okay with “just” doing a few minutes of yoga.  Each day, I added one more pose to my sequence.  I didn’t automatically just add on the next pose in the ashtanga series; I thought about what would feel good for my body and went with it.

So for part of the winter, I let myself sit and do nothing, exercise-wise.  For the rest of the season, I chose to challenge my depressive habits.  But in each case, I had to do so in a balanced fashion.  I had to listen to what was right for me in that given moment.  And I had to learn how to forgive myself.  These concepts of acceptance and forgiveness and gentleness are still new habits for me, and don’t come naturally.  But–I am discovering that, overall, I feel better when I choose to practice them.  My body and my mind thank me.

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March 16, 2017 Posted by | bipolar disorder, Body Image, Communication, coping, depression, Eating Disorders, faith, feelings, guilt, health, heart, mindfulness, progress, recovery, shame, therapy, treatment | , , , , , , | 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

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

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

my spirituality and my recovery

One of the questions I received is how my faith has impacted or influenced my recovery.  What I’d like to preface this entry with is as brief as possible explanation of what “faith” is in my life.  Faith isn’t a term I use very often, because I find it to be limiting.  Spirituality is the term I prefer to use, for I find it encompasses more.  As far as my faith is concerned, I belong to the Moravian Church, a Protestant denomination.  I consider myself to be a Christian, with a lot more thrown in.  And here is where I know I might rub people the wrong way or offend some people.  My spirituality encompasses much more than my Christian beliefs.  I find a lot of wisdom and comfort in Buddhist philosophy, and practice meditation and mindfulness.  Prayer is an important part of my spiritual life, although I do not limit myself to praying to what a lot of people consider the traditional concept of God.

Now, spirituality and my recovery.  I think in the beginning, I was rather angry.  I was trapped in the thinking that if you believed and were faithful, God would protect you from harm.  And I was praying to get better.  But, due to what I later acknowledged as choices I was making, I was not getting better, and at the time blamed it on my lack of faith.  Which really didn’t help my spirituality at all.  Guilt and blame can be very harmful emotions when it comes to belief (or just in general, actually).

Neither my faith nor my spirituality made me well.  I’m not sure when exactly I realized this, but praying to get better is not enough.  In fact, praying to get better really didn’t help me at all.  Recovery really was a series of choices that I had to make and then remain committed to.  God wasn’t going to reach down and make them for me, nor was he just going to touch me and *poof* make the eating disorder disappear.  (But wouldn’t that be nice?)

This is not to say that my spirituality did not play a crucial part in my recovery  or that it doesn’t continue to play a crucial role.  Prayer didn’t make me better.  Reading my Bible and other sacred texts did not heal me.  My devotional practice did not make symptoms disappear.  But all of these things did help my recovery.  I discovered that the more I allowed spirituality to play an active role in my life, the stronger I became and the better able I was to remain committed to my recovery.  I was able to draw strength from sources outside of myself, which was rather helpful on days when I felt anything but strong.  I was also able to feel a peace that I could never feel while engaging in eating disorder behaviors.  I don’t know how to describe it other than this peace allowed a type of rest I had never experienced and also a certain feeling of home and belonging that the eating disorder stole from me.  My spirituality has also been a great source of comfort on the hard days, and is one of my many healthy coping skills I have learned to develop in my journey of recovery.

I do not believe that you have to belong to any one religion or follow any one spiritual movement in order to recover.  But I do think that nurturing your spirit can help you with finding a source of strength and healing.  Perhaps walking in a beautiful park provides rest for your spirit.  Perhaps having a cup of tea with a friend.  Perhaps reading a spiritual or sacred text.  Perhaps meditation or prayer.  Each of us is a unique individual and we each have unique spiritual needs.  As with a lot of things in life, it may take some trial and error to find what works best for you, but I wish you the best on your spiritual journey and hope you find peace, a peace that will show you there is a reason to let go of the eating disorder.

May 26, 2011 Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, faith, mindfulness, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

cicadas and recovery

 

the shell

I was outside drinking my morning cup of coffee and noticed about thirty cicada shells and newly molted adult cicadas, stretching their wings and crawling on the ground, not yet strong enough to fly.  This may sound weird, but I thought of recovery from an eating disorder when I saw all of these insects (which are not related to locusts, by the way and a harmless to humans, although their noise can be annoying, and they do look kind of creepy).

Cicadas actually amaze me–how do they crawl out of their shell and leave the shell completely intact, as you can see in the first picture?  (Cicada shells are used in traditional medicines in China.) One cicada was in the process of crawling out of its shell, and I wanted to watch the process, but I quickly lost patience.  Apparently, it takes some time.  And this is when the eating disorder recovery metaphor hit me.  I know, it’s a strange metaphor.  Blame on the early morning hours.

How many of us have, at various points, decided to get better and went to treatment, had the support offered there, and came home expecting to continue on our merry ways of recovery only to find it wasn’t that easy?  And with a whole of “Is this possible?” questions?

And maybe in the process of recovery, you have asked, “I’ve had my eating disorder for so long, there’s nothing left but the eating disorder?”

And here is where we can learn something from these creepy looking but fascinating insects.  They spend most of their lives in hibernation of sorts  (The eating disorder), waiting to crawl out of their shells (recovery).  When they emerge from their shells, they need a little time to adjust to their new selves, stretching their wings, crawling before flying.  But there they are, adult cicadas, ready to face the world.

Recovering from an eating disorder is much like this.  We spend so much time with the eating disorder, that we lose sight of who we really are inside.  A great many of us doubt that there is something inside at all.  We crawl out of our shells, only to discover the world is a scary place, and we think maybe we aren’t ready for the world, or maybe the world is just too much for us.

We need time to stretch our wings, and we need to walk before we fly.  A lot of us get frustrated at this point; we lose patience–like I did while watching the cicada crawl from its shell this morning.  We lose faith that flying is possible.  But even after 17 years in it’s shell, the cicada keeps stretching its wings and walking and remembers it was born to fly and sing that annoying song of theirs.

Recovery takes time.  It doesn’t happen in the one or two months we spend in a treatment center.  Those months are the preparation.  They help get us stronger so we can emerge from our shells.  And then we rejoin the real world.  Yes, it is scary.  Yes, it is tempting to retreat back into our shells.  But if you retreat back into the shell, you will never stretch your wings and fly.  You will never feel the breeze on your skin, the pure joy of soaring through the sky.
If you don’t emerge from your shell, you will never know who you were meant to be.  And I promise you that there is someone waiting to emerge from that shell.  It may take time, and as you grow, you will continue to learn more and more about yourself and who you were meant to be.  You will find your place in this world.

Don’t give up.  Give yourself the same patience you would give others.  And leave that shell behind you and fly.

The adult cicada

May 25, 2011 Posted by | Eating Disorders, faith, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Trance of Unworthiness

my meditation beads

I thought I had escaped from the trance of unworthiness when I recovered from my eating disorder, but a certain event on Thursday reawakened all those issues of “not good enough” that I’ve been plagued with my entire remembered life.

A good friend recommended that I read the book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach (Copyright 2004), from which the following guided reflection comes:

Do I accept my body as it is? / Do I blame myself when I get sick? / Do I feel I am not attractive enough? / Am I dissatisfied with how my hair looks? / Am I embarrassed about how my face and body are aging?  / Do I judge myself for being too heavy? Underweight? Not physically fit?

Do I accept my mind as it is? / Do I judge myself for not being intelligent enough? Humorous? Interesting? / Am I critical of myself for having obsessive thoughts? For having a repetitive, boring mind? / Am I ashamed of myself for having bad thoughts–mean, judgmental or lusty thoughts? / Do I consider myself a bad meditator because my mind is so busy?

Do I accept my emotions and moods as they are? / Is it okay for me to cry? To feel insecure and vulnerable? / Do I condemn myself for getting depressed? / Am I ashamed of feeling jealous? / Am I critical of myself for being impatient? Irritable? Intolerant? / Do I feel that my anger or anxiety is a sign that I am not progressing on the spiritual path?

Do I feel I’m a bad person because of ways I behave? / Do I hate myself when I act in a self-centered or hurtful way? / Am I ashamed of my outbursts of anger? / Do I feel disgusted with  myself when I eat compulsively? When I smoke cigarettes or drink too much alcohol? / Do I feel that because I am selfish and often do not put others first, I am not spiritually evolved? / Do I feel as if I am always falling short in how I relate to my family and friends? / Do I feel something is wrong with me because I am not capable of intimacy? / Am I down on myself for not accomplishing enough–for not standing out or being special in my work?”

When I read this this morning, all I had to say was, “Wow.” I admit I am embarrassed to claim how many “yeses” I answered to these questions.  And I thought, “well, some of these things I should feel bad about.” But Tara had an answer to that as well: The point is not to work on changing ourselves, but to accept ourselves in the present moment. We are doing the best we can right now.  Tomorrow, that’s another story.  But right now–we can’t change the present moment.  So why drag ourselves down with blame and guilt and shame?  Try to do better tomorrow, or the next moment, but remember that we are who we are right now.  And we can’t change what happened one second ago.  So accept it, learn from it and take what self-knowledge we can from it, and, ultimately, accept ourselves.  As is.  Right now.  Not how we could be.  But how we are.

I know I get caught up in how I could be.  What I should have done.  What I will do next time.  I need to learn how to be content with where I am in the present moment and not judge myself for the right now.  I need to learn from the right now, but not get so caught up in it that I can’t appreciate the present moment as it is.

The picture above is of my meditation beads.  I have a very eclectic spirituality.  I am Christian, but I also find value in other spiritual disciplines because they lead me closer to God.  And myself, a lot of times.  My meditation beads are made of Rose Quartz, a gemstone that is said to open the heart’s center and aid in healing emotions as well as the physical heart itself.  Rose Quartz represent unconditional self-love and self-forgiveness.

My therapist taught me a meditation that I have found to be extremely useful, and after reading the section of Radical Acceptance this morning, I find it all the more relevant.  It’s a meditation that exists out there in variations.  But this is the one I learned:

“Breathing in, I calm my body (breathe in) / Breathing out, I smile. (breathe out) / Dwelling in the present moment (breathe in) / I know it is the only moment. (breathe out)”

I had already decided my Easter Sunday would contain no work, but be a time of knitting, artwork, relaxation, maybe a nap.  Now, after reading this section of the book, I’ve decided today is the perfect day to use the meditation my teacher taught me.

The present moment is what we have.  The past is in the past.  The future has yet to happen.  We dwell in the present moment, a perfect time for acceptance.

April 24, 2011 Posted by | Body Image, coping, depression, Eating Disorders, faith, feelings, mindfulness | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments