Friday, November 28, 2008

recovery without knitting? how dare you.

When I was 7, my gramma taught me how to knit. I had little half-completed projects hanging off needles all over the house. I didn't have the attention span for the length of a scarf, let alone anything much more involved. Little did I know that this skill would play a huge role in my treatment from a life I wouldn't even see coming for another 11 years.

I always joke that recovery isn't possible without knowing how to knit. If you don't know how, don't worry, you can still recover from an eating disorder. That doesn't mean I don't highly recommend learning, though! Every treatment program I went through, most everyone was knitting or crocheting. There was even a boy when I was on Alcott who really wanted to learn because everyone else was doing it, so a few girls taught him. He spent the rest of his stay on the EDU knitting with extra yarn and two pencils. How no one had a spare set of needles for the poor boy is beyond me.

There's something amazing about knitting to me; it is the one and only activity in my entire life that I can do and not pay attention to it. I can keep my hands busy and pay full attention to other things going on around me and, above all else, not be anal about it. Mistakes and slipped stitches make it "all the more special" and counting rows takes the fun out. For really intricate patterns, I'll write them down so I don't have to keep thinking about it, but for the most part, I just go with it. That's sort of a huge deal for me considering how I beat myself up for everything else I do, from my artwork to washing the dishes correctly.
It also calms my anxiety which, in turn, calms one of my worst OCD habits. By keeping my hands busy, I can't use one of my worst behaviors. That was also a great excuse to be allowed to knit during groups.

Today, I stumbled over a really cute blog run by a group of recovered / recovering knitters. They have chosen to take their skill and use it to encourage recovery in a really adorable way. I love what they're doing and I would love to get involved with a project like this. Check out their blog here.

So, here's a little audience participation for ya:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

it's that time of year.

It is dark, dreary, and the daylight hours seem to taunt us with their very limited presence. And with the freezing temperatures sweeping in, the holidays are upon us. Family, food, and - for many of us - poking and prodding in very emotional ways.

It is no coincidence that treatment admissions are crazy right now, nor that my inpatient and residential admissions both fell in this season. So, is bottoming out avoidable? Well, yeah, of course. If you know that this time of year is difficult and possibly triggering for you, you have to face it prepared. DBT skills are huge if these months are as rough for you as they have been for me. Make sure you have some prepared if you know what works best when you're getting overwhelmed or anxious.

Also, there are some great tips from NEDA to keep you grounded and well-prepared for the holidays.
Just click on "How to Negotiate the Holidays" under Holiday Tips.

There's a lot to be thankful for.
Hope everyone has a fantastic holiday :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

the great facebook outting.

In about a one hour time span, I receive an e-mail from my brother with the link to the following Newsweek article, and my Google Reader informs me of two new posts by Rachel and Jezebel about the same article.

In short - as you can read the article for full detail - what used to be a very secretive and underground community is now becoming very public in an almost "flaunting" nature on one of the largest, most popular social-networking sites: Facebook. Groups are being produced where people can join and share tips and "thinspiration" in what is commonly known as a Pro-Ana community.

The controversy seems to be in whether or not it's better to have it out in the open rather than so secretive. I, myself, am a member of one of the more popular Facebook groups to ban this kind of behavior, as it is, in fact, against their terms and conditions; the groups promote self-harming behaviors to themselves and others.

To the common, logical thinker, the immediate reaction is most likely that this is a disgusting and disturbing situation that needs to be closely monitored and banned wherever possible. It is, don't get me wrong. However, I find myself torn.
I did it. I know a lot of girls I was in treatment with did. We knew the sites, we had the notebooks, printouts of tips and pictures of hauntingly emaciated celebrities and models. It's terrible, especially to people who have never felt so lost in their own mind and so uncomfortable in their own skin that you felt physically imprisoned in your own body. People who have never experienced an eating disorder, first hand, don't know that feeling. The people on these Pro-Ana/Mia webites.. they got it. Please note, I am NOT in any way shape or form condoning these behaviors or promoting these websites. I am just saying I understand why they're out there. It's a support system, when some people have nothing, no matter what they promote.

Is it better to have a harmful support system than to feel completely alone? I know just as well as anyone who has fought an addiction that you cannot get help until you are willing to receive it. What can you do until that point? The world of an eating disorder is tricky.. fragile.. pressuring.. and fucking lonely, support or none.

Do I think that community should be public? No. I have a problem with it being so easily accessible, especially in a predominately high school and college setting where self-esteem and body image are constantly gnawing at these age groups in every day life as it is. Talk about vulnerability. More often than not, Pro-Ana/Mia supporters stand by the fact that eating disorders are a lifestyle, not a disease. It has a very strong, cult-ish vibe. If you ban them, yes, they will still exist. But if they are public, you're just pouring gas on the fire. It's enabling.

This is not a lifestyle. It is one mindfuck of a disease. And I am torn because.. what can you do when people feel like they have no where else to go and don't understand what their own brain is doing to them?

Monday, November 24, 2008

treating from experience.

Over at GreyThinking, an interesting topic has been raised. Here's a little summarizing excerpt from her entry:

How do you feel about being treated by someone with an eating disorder history?

I’ve always felt very strongly AGAINST seeing a therapist who had an eating disorder herself. I think part of that is related to the competitiveness of the eating disorder (not that I think SHE will be competitive, but that I will be), but I also think part of it is about objectivity. I don’t know if you can be completely objective having suffered from the same thing yourself. I’ve never really wanted empathy. Maybe this is weird of me? I just have a thing about people with eating disorders guiding others with eating disorders. It’s the blind leading the blind. I want to work with someone completely removed from the eating disorder world.

Before this, she raises the obvious point that a large part of our community is hugely interested in pursuing degrees in psychology and nutrition (guilty). This, of course, is based on the fact that we are drawn to what we are exposed to.

Now, my therapist is absolutely incredible. I don't know what it is about him; he has never personally struggled through an eating disorder, nor did he ever imagine that he would even be in the field. He was just lucky he had a psych degree to fall back on after his first career choice [in sales] did not pan out.

However, there were two women that really played a huge part in my recovery. One was my best friend from college, who had recovered herself. Her role was very important because I was unable to fully accept recovery until I could see that it was possible, which she showed me while sitting on my hospital bed one night last fall.
The other was a counselor at one of my treatment programs. I knew, long before she was able to tell me, that she had recovered. Many of the counselors were very good, but she knew how to communicate with us on a different level than most of the other doctors. She knew how to talk and how it felt and how to word the things she said, as she had experienced it all. Nothing was more comforting than being able to talk to someone who really knew what it was like.

I am hoping that's how people will feel when I am able to get more involved, personally, with others' recovery. I want to be in treatment, but from the other side because I feel like I could make such a huge difference having gotten through it. Patients have such a difficult time trusting doctors as it is; I think it would be easier if they knew where they were coming from. No matter how good of a therapist you may be, you can never get into someone's head. Someone who's already experienced it is already there. That is as trustworthy as it can get.

Now, GT raises the point that treating patients may be risky to both the patient and the provider based on how recovered s/he may or may not be. I do not believe that anyone who is not absolutely fully recovered should be treating anyone, as I would think it would be detrimental to both parties' recovery and treatment. I assume that goes without saying. You cannot help anyone until you receive the help you need, first. I would hope employers would double check information like this before hiring treatment staff? I don't know how that works, but wouldn't any treatment center - eating disorder, drug, alcohol, etc - check for a background history of behaviors before allowing someone to treat others for it?

What are your thoughts on it? Would you prefer to be treated by someone who has never personally had ED in their life, or someone that totally gets what is going on with you and the way your brain works from the inside?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

my favorite week is in the making.

I know, I know.. it's about 4 months away, but the planning has begun and I'm trying to get a head start. I didn't do anything for NEDAW last year because I tried to get something together too last minute. I don't have a clue what to do this year, I just know that I definitely want to get involved.

The cool this is that by the time the week (the final in February) rolls around, I will be volunteering for MEDA. So, more or less, I will have to be directly involved, which is awesome. I can't wait to see how I can help.

What have you done in past years to get involved?
Any thoughts on what you would like to do for NEDAW 'o9?

Friday, November 21, 2008

unite ED bloggers, part ii.

I'm being asked these two questions a lot and I figured I should probably just put the answers out where everyone can see them. So, here ya go!

  1. The group is secret. It does not appear in search results, nor will it be seen on your profiles. For those of you who aren't ready to "out" yourselves as an ED blogger (or an ED connection, in general), I can absolutely respect that and you will be safely anonymous (besides, of course, to the other group members).

  2. Friend me to join. As the group is secret, I don't believe the link on the previous post works. Therefore, you will have to find and friend me on Facebook (as well as send me a message with your blog address) and then I'll invite you. I can be found on Facebook by searching Emily Sam. I don't think there are many others, but I'm CDIABU '1o.
Any other questions, please e-mail me so I can easily get back to you. I'm really glad there's so much enthusiasm about this group! There is currently rather low activity, but I'm hoping we can all use this group in the way that I'm intending it. I suppose we will see.

Thanks, guys :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

the goal: unite ED bloggers.

I have created a group in the one place that is almost guaranteed to house the majority of the computer-owning human race for us to group up: Facebook. I thought it would be nice to associate a face with the writer and content, and to be able to communicate with each other about what we write, what projects we're working on, and what we're doing for the community outside of our blogs.

The group currently consists of myself (obviously), Carrie, Laura Collins, Harriet Brown, and my love, Kiersten. It is a closed group, so please request an invite and either leave me a comment on here or shoot me a message on Facebook with your name & blog. I will, obviously, not accept anything but blogs written in a pro-recovery nature.

[Blogging for [ED] Awareness & Recovery]

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

dr. roy g. biv.

In my Text/Type/Layout class, we spent a night being lectured on color. I am not ashamed to admit that I was absolutely loving every second of it. However, my nerdiness is beside the point.

All the colors were broken down into emotions and "reasons" that we seem to relate to different hues in different ways. For example, purple (or violet) is associated with royalty and nobility because wayyy back when, the only way to achieve purple dye was extremely expensive and only royalty could afford it. They would wear purple robes, as it was a sign of wealth. I believe, more specifically, it came from some sort of sea creature and they could only collect the dye in tiny amounts at a time.. but I may be mixing up my stories.

A lot of thoughts kept popping into my head throughout the class, relating - of course - to the treatment world. We discussed how orange is a color that tends to evoke hunger in a person. (Ah, and suddenly, my blog takes on all new meaning, doesn't it.) It is also an "approachable" and optimistic color. Red is also associated with food as many of the most appealing foods are some shade of red. I'm the kid that picks through the Skittles and the Starburst for all the red and pink ones, I'll admit it. And we all know the best fruits are red. Come on, now.

Blue, on the contrary, tends to turn the mind off to food. This is mainly due to the fact that there is no natural food that is colored blue. (And no, blueberries are actually purple.) There is bleu cheese, but that only further backs up my point. The only natural foods that show any hint of blue.. are rotting. If blue makes you hunger, you've got a different problem on your hands.

I find yellow to be one of the most interesting hues. It is strongly associated with anxiety, which I can understand. You almot get anxious just looking at it, especially if it's used to color a font on a white background. Damn, I hate when people do that.. (heh). It also symbolizes caution and awareness, as well as intellect and concentration. Probably a good classroom color, besides that whole anxiety thing.

You have really got to wonder if someone takes all of these things into consideration when they put together a treatment center. Maybe the dining room should be painted orange. Maybe there shouldn't be blue or yellow anywhere. Purple tends to have a spiritual and contemplative feeling; that might be a good one. Maybe that's why treatment centers often go with one-flew-over-the-cukoo's-nest white (new Crayola color), because then they don't have to think about all the effects colors might have. Who knows.

Just something to think about.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

strange side-effects.

Does anyone else ever get the strange (and most likely irrational) fear that your poor eating habits may have rubbed off on your pet..

Just me? Oh well..

Thursday, November 13, 2008

a spoon full of sugar.

I know how the world thinks of prescription drugs, believe me. There are far too many who believe meds are a sign of some sort of weakness. "I shouldn't need pills to be happy." Well, unfortunately, many of us do. They're looked at in a very negative manor, but here's the breakdown: not all brains are optimized for pleasant means of living. If you have an eating disorder, there is a very good chance that yours is one that is not. They've showed proof of anorexia on brain scans. Mental disorder or not, there is a physical side to every disease.

I, myself, have a chemical imbalance. It runs in my family, it is not my fault, and I do what I need to in order to enjoy my life the way I deserve to. The imbalance leads to anxiety, panic, depression.. That means that twice a day, I need to take a stabilizer so that my brain can make the right amount of serotonin, just like anyone who needs a pill to keep their blood pressure down. It's all body chemistry.

I know they suck to take. My T & NP will be the first to tell you that I really blow at taking my meds, but I can tell you that my life has become much more livable since I've learned that going off of them or being erratic about it is the worst idea possible. I have very minimal anxiety and haven't shown symptoms of depression in almost a year, now. It's a tool, and it only works if you use it properly.

Now, I am no doctor. I do believe medication is a very necessary tool for recovery from any mental disease/disorder*, but I also know that not all people respond the same to prescription drugs. This is something you need to discuss with your doctor. They are also not a miracle fix. I remember, a year ago, telling my NP that I was still in a lot of pain, to which he responded, "Well, of course.. you're still human." If a pill numbs you out of pain, it's going to numb you out of every other emotion, as well. If that's the case, you should probably get off it immediately. It's all about trial and error.
A resource you may want to start with might be - a list of some of the more common scripts, what they do, common side effects. Of course, you should be careful about the urge to self-diagnose yourself, as I've had problems with in the past. This should, again, be discussed with your doctor above all else.

*there are currently no prescriptions to treat eating disorders.
medication can be used to treat the symptoms that usually accompany EDs,
such as anxiety/panic disorders, depression, ocd, bpd, and so on.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

another hungry american.

I've been bitching and moaning for a while about how I can't afford groceries. I have even recently been denied food stamps because I "make too much," which I find amusing seeing as how I still couldn't afford groceries. And now, here I am, laid-off as of thirty-four hours ago with hardly enough money to my name to pay my first cold-months heating bill.
Yes, I have a lot of opportunities to bring in a little income. I have retail (god, help me) which are all hiring for the upcoming holiday season, I have my temp agency which could have me work by mid-week, I'm not worried about that. My roommate works a job with an authoritative position that I don't have the qualifications for and makes in a week what I used to make in a night.

Let's revisit the part where I'm recovering from an eating disorder. Am I the only one in recovery who doesn't have ample income? I'm pretty sure I'm not, especially with the economy being as it is. It ain't right. My insurance covers my medication, my doctor can even write me a prescription for boost, but I'm on my own for food? Just think about how ridiculous this is for a second. It doesn't even make sense. One of my friends [from treatment] has resorted to dumpster-diving. His therapist is just happy that he's eating. This is what we've come to.
We have to go through treatment (hospitalization, in some cases) because we're not feeding ourselves, but once we're out, we're left on our own whether we can afford it or not. There has to be a way around this. If a doctor tells you that you have to take your medication every single day and it is absolutely necessary to your health, they will find a way to help you afford it if it isn't covered by insurance.

I wonder if I could start something: a non-profit that helps people recovering from eating disorders to get nutrition when they can't make ends meet. I don't know how it would work; I know there are a lot of technicalities that go along with that. I could figure it out. If anyone has any ideas, I'm open to them.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

there's gotta be more to life..

Jenni Schaefer wants to know, "Are you truly alive?" I will admit that my initial reaction to this entry was that it seemed a bit cheesy to place a tie between the power of an election and how well a person is doing in their eating disorder recovery. However, as I read to the end of her post it hit me that, in lives like ours, it's all tied in.

She writes:
Sadly, I can’t remember much about other historical events that I have lived through. I was so sick with my eating disorder that I was not truly present in this world.

I sat for a minute and thought this through. There are not only bits and pieces from the last couple years that I can't recall or remember in varying inaccurate accounts, but there are events I remember quite vividly, right down to the detail of not having much feeling based on what was going on. Even if I remember something that was going on, I didn't necessarily have an emotional reaction tied to it; the affair was kind of just happening around me.

This was the most powerful election year for me in twenty-two years. I have only been able to relate my emotional experience of hearing that Obama had officially crossed the 270 cut-off to those that come with that Game 7 walk-off homerun; that absolute split second when you realize, "We just took the World Series." It's that feeling, and then we'll say we topped with winning the WS a second time.. in the same season.. and then Obama is announced as our 44th president.

And let me just say, I watched the Red Sox win their 2oo7 World Series from the cold-tile floor of the EDU's common room. There was an awkward kind of "woo" moment and we were all promptly sent to our beds. I didn't feel much for events happening outside of the hospital; not many of us did. I was so much happier watching the counts come in from my friend's couch, school work on the table in front of me, and a bowl of ice cream in my lap. That is how history should be shared.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

from patient to doctor.

Things I find amusing: last year, I was a [legit] hospital patient on Halloween. This year, I was a doctor. It was an easy costume, complete with Fisher Price equipment. I was cute, not gonna lie. Let's see if I can pull up a picture here..

See? Cute. Of course - and, I'm not sure why - I looked like I was 12 that night for some reason.. I think it's the poor bang-cut that I gave myself (they were way too long) and the lack of eyebrow waxing. They seem to bring me right back to the awkward years pretty quick. The sword, by the way, is my friend's. She was a pirate. I cut her out for her own privacy.
I handed out Pop Rocks to my (very few) tables. That seemed to get a pretty good response, especially from the early college range where it feels like a "throw-back" to them, even though Pop Rocks were before their time. Whatever, as long as they were happy.

Now, to return the costume and get that much-needed money back. I'm keeping the scrub pants though. Way too comfortable.

How was everyone else's Halloween?