Thursday, January 31, 2008

3 months, 1 week.

on october 19, 2007, my mom picked me up from work not even half an hour after i arrived to take me to the ER (thanks to bri). i had a severe panic attack that began the night before when i realized that what i was doing could kill me and i didn't know how to stop.
later that day, at newton-wellesley, my EKG, blood work and vitals all came back fine. obviously, i was relieved, as was my mother, who i'm sure must have still been a little shaken up from her daughter's frantic phone call to drive her to the hospital. but now, i would have to tell bob, who already knew i was struggling to keep my head above water. he had already been discussing the possibility of a higher level of care and i knew i was on the line of losing my right to handle my own life.
at my appointment the following monday, he told me exactly what i didn't want to hear. "fine," i said, evasively, "i'll do IOP." i was holding 2 desperately needed jobs and was only 3 months away from graduating CDIA. my health was certainly not my top priority. (sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?) i was sure that if i was in IOP, i was considered to be "in treatment" and could keep my head above water, at least until i graduated and my work was over and done with. then my OPT could put me wherever the hell they want. just 3 months of eating just enough to survive...
2 days later - wednesday, october 24 - i sat in craig's office, curled up in a chair with my knees hugged to my chest, puffing my inhaler. he was on the phone trying to track down an emergency room with the shortest wait for a psych evaluation. my mom was already on her way up to my apartment to start packing some things, just in case. and just like that, in this demented and sick starvation for control, i was stripped of whatever control i might have (thought i) had. now, i thought, i'll never be as skinny as i wanted to be.
that night by 8:30/9ish, i was admitted to the EDU at 92 lbs (78% of my ideal body weight) and my bags were searched for contraband. i didn't feel much and i remember very little from that point on for the next couple days. i do remember that in all my experiences in treatment, i had never felt as welcomed by other patients as i did that night. there was no hesitation with introductions and i could tell that everyone knew just what it felt like to be up there for the first time.
the next 3 days were a blur. i was petrified, i was angry, and i was utterly and chronically confused. by saturday, i could have sworn to you that it was still wednesday. the red sox won the world series sometime that week and i remember nothing about the game. i was hardly excited. i was rather apathetic towards the entirety of the outside world for that first week, but all of a sudden...things started to turn around.
i started to really evaluate what i was doing with my life. i think i can partially thank the 14 and 15-year-olds that were filling up beds in Alcott. they were so young and they didn't want to be there; they weren't ready for treatment. they were under 18 and had no choice. i couldn't believe what i was watching. and then, seeing the patients that are older than me... is this where my life is going? do i want to be on an NG tube on the EDU when i should be home with my kids and my family? this has got to stop. i can't do this anymore. i deserve so much more than the life my ED is setting me up for.
i promised my treatment team that, from that point on, whatever they say goes. no leaving AMA again, no refusing boost, no nothing. i gave up my right to make my own decisions when i left work for the ER that day. i had no right to make choices about my life at this point and i was ready to accept that.
i left Alcott on nov 3 and went to partial the next day. i spent over a month in partial, and now close to a month and a half in IOP. after years of behaviors and program after program and years of therapy... i've been discharged. i am officially done at walden. and what a fantastic feeling that is.

i have some things to say to the girls that i've "left behind" (for lack of better phrasing). first of all, the words that were said to me during my ceremony tonight meant more to me than i can ever describe. i could not have chosen a more amazing group of girls to end my treatment with and i was so blessed to get to know you all. there were 2 comments in particular that really completed the experience. one was betty's, saying that i really had dbt down to an art and that sometimes, it felt like i was just another counselor in the group. the other came from a certain beautiful girl who i've watched grow through my own experiences. i don't even have to watch her through treatment to know that she's going to be just fine - i've already seen it happen.

and, for my final parting note, a thank you from the absolute bottom of my heart: i wouldn't have made it this far and been able to grow in the way that i have without the help of 2 of the most astonishing people i have ever known.

bs: you've been with me since the very beginning. even when our time together included immoral and destructive rituals, you always had my back. we've both been back and forth many times, but you were the first person i ever had to really connect with on this level. i will never forget the night you braved the horrendous connecticut rains to come visit me while i was inpatient and showed me the true beauty of full recovery. you are so strong and you've been such an inspiration to me. i will always believe that you were the reason for my attendance at dean.

bd: sometimes, i wonder if i thank you too much. and if you think i do, stop reading now, because i'm gonna do it again. you were the first person i was ever able to open up to about...anything. i've never felt so comfortable around anyone before and i could never put into words how that's really affected me. however, the thank you is really for the morning i left for inpatient. the very, very early morning. it was a painful conversation, but i needed to hear everything you had to say. it was the final push i needed to finally turn my life around. you've saved me several times, in several different ways, and i hope to God that's the last time you'll ever need to.

now, to find me 20 lbs and kiss this demon goodbye for good.

Friday, January 25, 2008

please die, ana.

i'm learning that there are different phases of recovery just like there are phases of mourning. and that's exactly what i'm doing: mourning the loss of my eating disorder. the stages are slightly different, but i've felt all of them. the order, in this case, goes something like: denial & isolation, depression, bargaining, (radical) acceptance, then anger.
this is not how i expected to feel when i was finally ready to walk away from my disease. i was pretty sure acceptance would be last and then i would just be forever happy. and i am happy, but i find that it's very difficult to not be angry about the time that i've lost to this fight. i know this wasn't my fault, but i can't help but feel like there might have been something i could have done to prevent it.
i feel like i've lost so much valuable time. i wonder what my life would have been like without being sick. maybe i would have my AA, maybe i would be graduating from CDIA tomorrow and starting the next portion of my education next month instead of finishing this semester. maybe i wouldn't have run half my relationships into the ground. maybe my body wouldn't be struggling to keep weight on and to keep my blood pressure and pulse regulated.

i keep reminding myself of the wisdom i've earned through all of this that i would never have, but i can't help but wonder if it was worth it. do the gains from my eating disorder really out-way the loses? when i word it like that, it seems horrible; no one should ever prefer to have an ED. i don't think it would bother me so much if it weren't for that one huge loss; the one thing that kept me going even when i was truly at rock bottom.
i guess this is just life and even in this anger, there are lessons still to be learned. so i'll take what i'm supposed to from it and move on the best that i know how. i wish there was a way i could show these disturbingly young victims i see what they're doing to their future. what they're really doing to their bodies.

in other news, i finally feel validated by my team at walden. they've come to realize that my stunted weight restoration is not connected to my eating disorder, but to my ocd. they've decided that mentally, i'm really ready to go and my discharge date has been set for next thursday! after 3 long months (and almost 3 long years of recovery), my intensive treatment has come to an end. it's now up to my outpatient team and i. i can't believe i'm done at walden.

my social worker and i discussed making an intake appointment at mclean's for their ocd program, which is supposed to be the best in the country. she told me she'd like to me spend some time outside of treatment with just my outpatient team for a while and see how things go and to think about it. mclean's program is only day and residential. i've been doing a lot of thinking and i've been doing a lot of work on my ocd on my own and i think i will be able to do this on my own. i've made a surprising amount of progress, actually, and i really think i'll be okay without another program. i do want to look into a therapist that specializes though, because i've never actually had a taste of really confronting my ocd. insurance doesn't know i already have another therapist, so what's wrong with having two, huh?

i got this :)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

i make you believe.

having an eating disorder comes with some incredible talents. part of being sick is being proud of these talents that are really nothing to brag about. it's an amazing thing to watch your blood pressure drop, to have a successful 48 hour water fast, and (of course) to get away with it all.
the lies are what keep the disorder alive. if we're caught, it's least until we get back on track. there's practically a handbook of answers for any question that gets thrown our way, and we're required to memorize them if we want to hang on. we lie to our parents about having plans to eat out with friends; we lie to our friends about already having eaten at home. we avoid eye-contact while we convince our doctors we've eaten 100% of our meal plans and stayed consistent with meds. we've mastered water-loading so the number they see on the scale is higher than our true nose-diving weight. and each time you're fooled, we come a little closer to winning.

it's a sick and twisted routine that we can't help. the eating disorder has a voice screaming at us 24/7 and we have no choice but to obey. it's loud and it owns us. you don't hear ED patients often talk about this voice because people don't understand. we don't want to be confused with schizophrenics. it's different, but it's hard to have "outsiders" understand what it sounds like, and it's hard for us to know we shouldn't acknowledge it because the voice sounds immensely like our own.
then, one day in treatment, after days of fighting and crying during meals, there's another voice. "shut the hell up. i have to eat this meal." and you do. and that ED voice hisses louder, but every time you tell it to fuck off, it's forced to loosen it's grip a tiny bit more. over time, that healthy voice becomes the dominant voice and eventually, there's that light at the end of the tunnel. the voice from hell is dying and that, my disordered friends, is the real win.
now, for those of you that have been blessed with "normal" eating habits, this is an extremely brief and rapid version of this process. the biggest part i have left out of the process was learning that that voice isn't ours and that it's lying to us. just because cream in our 10am coffee adds another 55 calories does not mean we'll suddenly put on another 10 lbs and we probably shouldn't eat again until our morning coffee tomorrow. that not only takes a long time to learn, but it takes a long time to want to learn. we control this. that's what it's all about.

the tie in here is that i no longer hear that voice. that voice officially died about a month and a half ago - maybe a little further back. but it was in my head and it made me lie for my life to everyone that meant anything to me. so how do people know it's gone, especially when they didn't know it was there to begin with? how do people know they can trust me again? how does a pathological liar prove that they're done lying? especially when my body's giving me such a hassle with weight-gain.
the intelligent doctors know that maintenance weight doesn't mean the eating disorder's gone, but it's also said that "body image is the last to go." clearly, it's not the same for everyone, just like eating disorders effect everyone in different ways. i have no body image problems, i am doing just fine dealing with my mentality without restriction, but my body's so used to being emaciated that it wants to get down there. and i keep fighting and stuffing...and my doctors keep wondering what's wrong. i feel like they're not completely understanding how detached from AN i really am, despite the fact that i am, by dictionary definition, still anorectic. i just need to push past that 85% mark.

all i can tell them (and everyone) is that i'm done lying. it creates toxicity that i've padded my life with for far too long. it's not saving me from anything. it's not worth losing trust over and i'm tired of being babysat because my staff can't trust anyone with an eating disorder.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"you didn't have it all...but you will."

he said, while i sat, crying, on my hospital bed.

i've spent the last week or so wallowing in self-pity (excuse the cliché), which is far from the person i've been growing into. i just keep reminding myself of how far i've come and i can't let anything get in my way, now. i am on my way to having it all and there's no use in stunting that when i feel stuck. it just means i need to get off my ass and make a change, which is what i plan on doing this week.

i've been doing a lot of comparisons lately and i know it's all irrelevant. however, with my friends all graduating in 5 months after working their asses off for 4 straight years, i can't help but feel slightly inadequate. i've done very little since my high school graduation in terms of developing my career. what i have done in the past 3 1/2 years is really find myself and figure out who i am. i have learned more about life and gained an endless number of tools that i never would have gained in a college classroom.
sometimes, i hate every second that i have spent in this abusive relationship with my eating disorder. it has controlled my life for so long and could have easily ripped it from me, but i have no regrets. if someone told me they could erase my entire disordered past, i wouldn't do it.
this fight has been the hardest thing i have ever done and i've lost a lot through it all. but now, i feel like i can handle anything thrown at me. (mentally. don't throw shit at me.) it has brought me to a new level of intelligence and given me a significant appreciation for myself and everyone around me. those are two things you couldn't pay me all the money in the world to give up.
so now, after talking through this, i realize that as painful (and sometimes horrifying and mortifying) my last 3 1/2 years have been, i've done just as much time as anyone else. i'll finish school at my own pace. many people don't grab a BA 4 years after high school graduation and frolic off to a permanent career placement. hell, my therapist was in real estate until he was 30 before deciding to study psychology and eating disorders. everyone takes their own paths and, to be perfectly honest, i have been ashamed of mine for a long time. now, after 9 days of trying to pull an entry together that wasn't encrusted in self-pity, i realize that i am pretty fucking proud of my path and what i have accomplished in my life, so far.
on a slightly (but not completely) unrelated note: the other night in group, one of the girls and i got into a conversation about how differently we see people, now. we've found that, through our recovery, we have such a greater appreciation for the physical beauty in people, no matter what they look like. now that i finally feel comfortable in my own skin, i see other people with much less judgement than ever before. i see so many beautiful girls every day who don't even realize it and it makes me sad to know that, too often, no one's telling them. everyone deserves to hear it once in a while. i dare you to go out of your way to let someone know, today. i promise, it will make their day. and it can't be me - that's a total cop out :P

Friday, January 11, 2008

tribute to a fellow fighting soul.

every now and then, a person will walk into your life that is meant to serve a specific purpose to whatever you may be experiencing at the time. often, we don't realize this person was introduced to us in order to help us learn a lesson, but in this particular circumstance, i knew it the moment i first saw him.
there was something different about J that i couldn't quite put my finger on - i just knew that i had to get to know him and there was a connection to be made. i was slightly thrown at first, because we were only in the same place for 3 days and i was sure that was the end of it. it was just enough time to be introduced to his slightly hidden - yet obvious - confidence and a muffled sense of humor.

when i was discharged from the EDU, i was a little more than disappointed that i didn't have the opportunity to get to know him better. there was something very intriguing about this particular man and i felt like there was so much i wanted to know about him that i didn't think i'd have the chance to learn. i never would have guessed that he would turn out to be the one patient that would travel through my recovery with me longer than any other i had met in my 2 1/2 years in recovery.
inpatient to partial hospitalization to iop. we ended up sticking together with small intervals of time between us as we stepped down in levels of care at our own paces. the way he talked, as i watched him adapt to life without his disease, blew my mind. he's a smart guy, but it's very rare to find someone with so much insight into his life. he's what my mom would call an "old soul", without a doubt. this isn't his first time experiencing life, and it shows. i loved listening to him speak during groups. even when he would slip (as we all do) and use his t/b, he understood what was going on and what he needed to do from there. he was always very honest about his "slips", but i could tell he never felt it was a step backwards and i watched him grow each time it happened.

he knew me in a way that no other fellow patient ever had seen me. for example, i don't always show the way i'm feeling in a conventional way. often, i show i'm rather content and comfortable by staying quiet in what can come across as an isolating manor. one night, during P/Group, i said nothing was really going on and i was in a rather good mood. a girl called me out and said i seemed rather depressed and was probably not saying something. before i could respond, J chimed in. "actually, you look fine to me. i've seen you depressed and this is far from it. and you know yourself pretty well, so if you say you're happy, then you are." i was rather impressed, and appreciative that he probably prevented me from becoming very defensive against this girl (who i had felt very put off by to begin with). but i was honestly a little taken aback that he jumped in to back me so quickly. even friends who know me inside and out don't always read me that well.

but the most amazing thing, and what i believe is the reason this man was introduced into my life, was what he brought back out of me. yes, i had felt my creativity begin to come back to me while i was refeeding on the EDU, but i was scared to use it. my mom always tells me i'm too hard on myself, and i know that's true. it's a large part of eating disorders; it's that constant and painful strive for non-existent perfection. i stopped drawing. i stopped singing. i stopped writing. i would become too angry with myself. nothing was good enough. in fact, it was profoundly horrifying. i was embarrassed by what was coming out of me, whether it be vocally or on paper.
we were often made to draw in "expressive therapy". i liked getting to draw, but everything i drew was terrible which was, of course, far from the point of the assignment. until, one day, we had to get up and walk around the room and look at what everyone else had come up with. when we sat down to talk about it, J was the first to speak up. "i would just like to say that you are so. incredibly. creative...i'm really amazed by the way you see things."
something about him saying that really turned me around. it was such a simple comment, but i couldn't stop thinking about it. i mean, for one, i'm not used to people commenting on me being creative...aside from my immediate family, but when you hear it for 21 years, it becomes rather mundane after about 14 or so. simply put, it meant the world to me.
since that night, i've worked hard on easing up on myself. i'm letting the stupid things go. a curve isn't round enough...a color isn't blended smoothly enough...these things that drive me to rip the shit out of a picture (that no one else is judging) and refuse to pick up a pencil for close to 2 years. i now look at those things and force myself to continue working. it doesn't have to be perfect. no one sees it like i do, and no one is expecting it to look like a museum piece. and i'm really enjoying drawing again. it's become more therapeutic than it is something that makes me need therapy. i've enjoyed singing again and have stopped judging myself for not being my vocal heroes. and, as you all know, i've been writing...obsessively, to say the least.
i'm done judging myself because i've realized that i'm the only person doing it. and if anyone else is, i don't care. that's not why i do what i do. i do it because i used to enjoy it...and i'm doing it for the same reason again. and i'm happy doing it. and i can't thank J enough for helping bring that back out of me just for showing me that things don't have to be perfect in order to make me happy. that's not what it's about.
[[...and after reading over this...i'd like to give an extra and final "fuck you" to another J :) you can only be so good of an artist if you stop being so condescending to another.]]

so, J, i hope you realize how much you've meant to me and how much you've effected my recovery over the last 2 1/2 months. i am so incredibly proud of you and i'll never forget the time i have had working through my recovery with you. you have such an unbelievable life and a beautifully supportive family and you deserve everything that you've worked towards.
[ and i hope you don't mind me sharing this with the rest of my audience ;) ]

Friday, January 4, 2008

we're only liars, but we're the best.

if the truth comes out, and no one's around to hear it...does it make a sound?

our parents teach us to lie at a very early age. we do something we're not supposed to do (i.e. breaking the lamp). there you are, standing in the midst of the shattered ceramic antique, and mom flips a shit. now, these are all of a child's favorite situations, aren't they? being screamed at, knowing you've disappointed your parent(s), being grounded and/or having favorite things of yours temporarily taken away. so what do we do? everything we can to avoid those confrontations in the future.
we usually get caught in the lie, so we learn to get better at it and the lies grow as we do. our lives become more complicated and, you guessed it, so do our lies. we hide behind them to evade vulnerability. lies are our most common "flight" technique. we even lie to ourselves in a pathetic attempt to steer clear of getting hurt and everyone knows that will backfire 99.9% of the time. fuck it - 100%.

there are so many different categories of fabrication, too. there's the lie told to save our own asses from a verbal spanking, the lie told to save a loved one from pain, the infamously debatable "what s/he doesn't know" lie, and the lie people of my experiences are most well-known for... the "it's fun to have my own secret" lie. then, there's this new category i've recently discovered. the "i was originally telling the truth, but the truth changed shortly after and i haven't corrected myself...yet" lie. that one is as complicated as it is drawn out. it also often overlaps with "what s/he doesn't know," which can cause more confusion.

i left my music dormant on my ride back to westborough this evening, but the ride was anything but silent. my secret, not one of the fun and devious ones to keep, felt like it was reverberating off my skull walls, as if to make sure that i can't forget it's there. i won't fucking forget, i promise. is it a lie? am i being dishonest to not share it? am i keeping myself from something amazing by swallowing this down? will it tire itself out and slowly fade, or am i going to have to listen to it scream at me until it makes it to the ears of the right person? when did this truth replace the one that i was telling before, and how much did the original effect everything that's happened since that day.
i've shared the must current of the two facts with my group...and myself. and while it thrills me to declare that the hardest thing i must fight through right now has nothing to do with the ghost of an eating disorder in my life, it's something i find i'm actually ashamed of. i can even say more of my eating disorder than that.
shame is not a thing i often associate myself with. there are only two other facts of my own life that i can truly call myself ashamed of: my greatest fear, and something i did when i was 15. i don't want to tell anyone else... i'm barely able to admit it in my own mind and it still sounds awkward out loud.

i wish i could get a sign...or God could come to me in a dream or something and tell me whether or not i should just be honest. and if ever, when. and most importantly, how much time do i even have?? life's not that cool, though. and God doesn't like to communicate with us so closely like he did in the Torah. so i'm left here, with my own tools, to decide which hurts worse: sitting with my lies, or having answers no matter how good or bad.

is this the point where i start turning back to my teenage practices of wishing on stars...
c'mon, now. i must be too old for that now.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

it was the best of was the worst of times.

so...this is the new year. and i suppose, in a few ways, i don't feel any different. but, in a million and one ways, i do. very, very different. 2oo7 was the ultimate roller coaster. i think i have experienced every possible emotion in the past 365 days. love, spite, accomplished, inadequacy... it was in incredibly painful year with so many transformations. it can be hard for a person to keep up. and the site that all these occasions has brought me to was worth all the struggle. and i'm taking all that i have learned into 2oo8 and leaving the rest behind. it's clutter. baggage claim can lose it, but this is their only free pass.
i always say i have no regrets. and while some memories are painful - and even a bit (if not massively) mortifying - i needed to experience those and i will no longer consider them "fuck-ups". they were lessons, and important ones at that. it's in the past and i'm moving on.

that said, i have a confession to make. with all the growth and evolving i've been doing lately, i have one bad habit - a behavior, if you will - that i'm finding difficult to break: perfectionism. next to control, i hear that's kind of a huge issue with eating disorders... and i'm working on that. but i find that i'm slightly ashamed of still acting irrational about painful situations, letting events be painful to begin with, and even crying. like fighting through all of my weaknesses will suddenly make me strong enough to no longer feel hurt by anything. writing it out and seeing it in front of me, of course, makes it look even more ridiculous. alright, i get it.
my mom and a few friends have all voiced their concern with how hard i can be on myself. i know i am. and sometimes, i force myself to let it go and allow myself to be imperfect. other times, it's difficult and i become very frustrated. like, with my left-hand experiment. i have discovered i am actually starting to overcome that, though. this just occured to me, actually. i've started drawing again; i'm obsessed with it, actually. i stopped for a long time because i would become so incredibly angry with myself if a stroke didn't look just right. how i've never launched a sketchbook out a window blows my mind. but now, i find it more of a therapeutic activity than a competition with every other artist in the world. quite the opposite, i'd say.

on a completely different topic, do you ever find that when you're in a difficult situation, it seems to replicate itself everywhere it can? suddenly, every television show and movie you watch just happens to write your life into their script. like, when my mac's hd crashed, and then carrie's mac's hd crashed on that night's episode of 'sex and the city'. except...this is a little i do, however, like how it was written into the episode of 'friends' i just watched. they made it seem so much funnier. much more than carrie bradshaw - she can be really dramatic. she's a lot of things i don't like about women. but now i'm off topic. bottom line - i am perpetually confused. and just when i think i have things perfectly sorted, i doesn't allow for perfection. people don't learn from perfection. and twice, now, this theme plays into my entry.

on a lighter topic, new years was amazing. carissa and i decided to set dec 31 apart from every other night we hang out by throwing in required semi-formal dress and no less-than-usual bud lite ;) there's no group of people i would have rather rang in the new year with. it was a beautiful thing. pictures to come.

and to start the new year: for the first time in at least 14 years...i've avoided my disgusting habit for over 24 hours. and, as much as i can't believe i'm saying this, the urges are slowly but surely beginning to fade. i never would have thought it possible, but it's quite rewarding to is.

in closing, i wish you all a happy, healthy new year, and good luck with all your resolutions :)
here's to new beginning's. l'chaim.