Three potatoes.

*Quick note: this post will go more into ED thoughts and behaviors than I typically have. Please do not read on if that sort of talk would trigger you.*

I have been eating with my therapist every single Monday this entire semester (and twice a week for the last month). The point of these meals is for me to challenge myself in an environment where I’ll have support and, hopefully, be able to handle it better. That definitely has not been the case every week. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that the meals have including pleading, justifying, a few flat-out refusals, lots of bargaining, and supplementation when I just couldn’t handle the challenge.

I look back and wonder why I would spend so much time fighting my therapist rather than just doing what I’m supposed to, but it really isn’t so simple. The eating disorder is manipulative and it will find any opportunity to take over, even if it’s a seemingly minuscule way. That brings us to yesterday.

Like every other Monday, I had my dietitian check my meal before our session ended, then spent the next 30 minutes trying to focus on anything but the food I had to eat. This meal was still a challenge to me, not in content so much as amount. I felt semi-okay about it at first. I managed to eat a pretty good portion before something in my brain flipped. Suddenly I needed to stop, throw the rest away, and run out of therapy. While that didn’t happen, I did do something I’m not the most proud of: when R wasn’t looking (or who knows, maybe she could have been?), I quickly covered up the three pieces of potatoes I had left and continued on to a less scary portion of my meal. I still had more to complete after that, but it was like a calm came over my thoughts for a little while. I had gotten away with restriction right in front of my therapist, a huge win for ED.

It wasn’t those three tiny potatoes. It had zero to do with the negligible difference they would make in my life had I consumed them. It was solely about control. I am certainly not able to flat-out refuse meals when I’m in treatment, but this felt almost the same high as if I had. Another recent example was choosing not to try a new yogurt that sounded good because it was a whopping 10 calories more than my “safe” choice. Is that honestly going to do a damn thing?

While the glaring, logical answer may be “heck no!”, I’m not convinced. Part of me still believes these lies that the ED shouts at me each day. Life seems easier/”better” when I follow ED rules.

Some behaviors such as these ones trend towards being a bit ridiculous. They in no way will end with me magically staying thinner or losing weight or whatever other promise ED makes up. I can often notice my eating disorder manipulate other people, but truly isn’t it just doing the same to me?

I’m not sure if I want to change things, even knowing that I am the one being manipulated, too. For now I will keep fighting, and try to eat those potatoes next time.

Birthday post pt 1: 22

Last week, I turned 23. I truly can say that 22 was the fastest year of my life thus far. The days were long and full of struggle, but I sit here today (one whole week into my 23rd year) wondering how the hell it passed on by so quickly.

I’ve been in a reflecty/nostalgic sort of mood lately, so I wanted to look back on all this year brought.

The good:

  • Made it through the first year of nursing school! And did better than I ever thought!! This one deserves all the exclamation points. If I had to name one thing that made 22 pass by so dang fast, this would be it. I started out still very uncertain in my ability to truly be a nurse. I knew I could probably handle it academically and I love learning anyways, but working with patients was the real unknown. I’m grateful for the progress I’ve been able to make. I feel a thousand times more comfortable with patients now. I can see the ways I’ve grown and I’m proud of that.
  • Kept on going, no matter what. I’ve faced many obstacles this year. There were infinite moments I could have given up or given in. I did at times, of course, but overall I chose to fight instead. My stubbornness and resiliency helped me stay afloat in a pretty wide range of areas.
  • FINALLY got on good medications. I have zero shame about being on psychiatric meds. I felt pretty ambivalent about them before, but I finally ended up changing some things around with a new psychiatrist and the difference is CRAZY! I am so so glad I listened and decided to make steps towards healthy.
  • Giving up perfectionism in tiny ways. My nursing classes have naturally brought greater challenge and less likelihood of just acing a test without studying. This means I’m not the straight A student I once was. I’m learning to be okay with it, though. Test scores this year have had a large range, but I now can at least fight the negative thoughts that come with a B. It doesn’t have to ruin my day or week anymore.

The bad:

  • Lost my Challenge Queen title. My nickname at residential was always the “Challenge Queen” because I went above and beyond to fight back against the ED. This meant daily fear foods and completing difficult assignments, opening up more, etc. Ever since then I’ve tried to implement that same mentality. It has been seriously lacking this year. I have done pretty much the bare minimum (or less) and that’s it. I have no desire to try harder and make progress. This is frustrating and I feel stuck, but I also don’t want to make a change.
  • Relapse and treatment. Well I couldn’t exactly talk about the bad parts of this year if I skipped this whole part. I spent nearly all of 22 in varying stages of relapse. It was miserable and probably a large part of why the days were so very long as weeks and months whizzed by. This relapse was bad enough that I ended up in PHP for a month, something I swore I would NEVER do again. I still carry around a great deal of shame for everything that happened ED wise when I *should* have been better by now.
  • Isolation. This past year has brought way too many days with little to no human interaction minus what was absolutely necessary (think going to class and the dining hall). I sat in my room more often than not. If I did happen to do something socially, it was always support group or bible study or hanging out with treatment buddies. Most of the time i just felt too broken for anyone else.
  • Less time enjoying. I didn’t allow myself to sit back and relax with a book or go out on a photo shoot. My days were filled with monotony and not much to look forward to. I also got very stuck in the “work, work, work” mindset.
  • Giving up my passions. I’m pretty sure that my photo count for the year is in the hundreds (instead of thousands). I’ve also written way less than I had hoped/wanted to. Somewhere along the way, I just stopped caring about doing things I love.

22 wasn’t a bad year by any means. It certainly didn’t turn out as I’d hoped, but I have faith knowing that even the hard points are shaping me. I’ve learned and grown through it all, and that matters. I’m (mostly) ready to take on 23 and make it better than the last.

Part 2 is coming soon where I’ll explore my goals for the next year

Hello again

It’s been a while.

I don’t honestly know what’s all been getting in the way of blogging. I’m busy and tired and there’s school, etc, but it’s not like I have never experienced any of this before. I think I can come up with one main barrier: perfectionism.

This isn’t new for me at all, yet it feels different now for whatever reason. I feel like I have a million and one things to catch up on and that I am a “bad” blogger if I don’t write about xyz first (in a timely fashion.) I’ve made promises before to talk about my treatment last summer, for example, and I continue to push it aside. I have plenty of negative/self-defeating thoughts swirling around about this. My perceived failure as a blogger is certainly feeding into that.

I love blogging and it hurts not being able to do so. I wish there was a way to take away the anxiety and obsession with writing. I think if I actually allowed myself to write in the moment without the perfectionist critic I might not just create posts but enjoy doing it.

I am ready to face my road blocks. I’m not going to promise anything at all in regards to a timeline or types of posts. That just opens up the door for more self-criticism. Instead, I will limit my editing to a minimum and only write about what I need. Here’s to being here more often!

Small update – one week out!

I can come up with a million and two reasons why I haven’t written, miss writing, “should” have written 22 posts by now, etc, BUT for now I want to talk about this.

As the title says, today marks one week post-discharge from PHP. Yes, that is just 7 days, not the 14/21+ I had assumed I would have by now. I’m not really okay with that, but I am going to be. It truly wasn’t the worst possible way to end my summer.

Here is a snippet from my post last Wednesday: “4 weeks, 19 days, 130 hours of programming, 93 meals and snacks, 3600 miles and 38+hrs driven. 
Countless tears shed. Feeling lost, overwhelmed, anxious, challenged, excited, shameful. Difficult conversations, meal plan increases, wanting to give up. Packets, lectures, assignments, and groups. 
All of the above? Totally worth it because I am now on my way to recovery. This semester isn’t going to start the same way last spring ended. PHP wasn’t at all how I envisioned my last month of summer, but I’m grateful for how things turned out and the lovely people I’ve gotten to know along the way.”

I mean those words, deeply and truly. What I needed was a program that would push me hard and make sure to fight ED even when I didn’t want to. I needed to be watched as I ate four times a day (and even the damn tray checks because I am not always that trustworthy..) I needed people who wouldn’t give up as I sat there stubborn and willful. Despite all the hardness, I also needed compassionate people surrounding me (staff and fellow patients!). IOP was too little, residential or inpatient would have been too much, and PHP was just right.

I’ve been back in the dorms since Friday and today was our second day of class. I am back here, but in so many ways I’m not where I left off last spring. My dietitian messaged me yesterday about the growth she sees in just the week I’ve been using Recovery Record again. I completely discount my positives all day long, but I want to end this post with some changes I do believe in.

  • I have eaten in the dining hall basically every meal I’ve agreed to (vs maybe twice a week prior!?!?)
  • I try to reach for a snack when I feel hunger cues
  • I’m trying to find small ways to make recovery a priority
  • I survived some seriously limited options in the dining halls – think 1-2 proteins/sides plus a salad bar
  • I’ve eaten some scary things (mostly out of necessity due to the above issue)
  • I am being honest on RR even when it sucks
  • I think I may have more energy?

This is most definitely a work in progress, and I won’t get into the hard part now because what matters is that I am trying. I am doing the recovery things and that matters.

Whirlwind

Holy cow, it has been crazy. I mean to update last Tuesday, and then Wednesday, Thursday, and so on until we get to tonight. I’ve been busy and exhausted, because I started PHP a week ago. I remember the beginning of this year. One of my top goals/intentions was to avoid treatment at all costs. Ironically, this quest to avoid has actually harmed my recovery. I have been so, so adamant against treatment that it took me a month (and the IOP team forcing it) for my to agree. I know hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but I actually wish I had listened, dangit.

I guess I may as well start off where I left off. Rather than make a separate post, I’m going to insert what I wrote and didn’t publish last Tuesday.


 

July 31st is a significant day in my life. It is my person’s day of birth (love you Livvy!) and also when I first went into eating disorder treatment.

4 years ago today, I was pushed into this huge world of what eating disorder treatment looked like. It was terrifying, confusing, frustrating, with some understanding mixed in.

If you had asked me 4 years ago where I would be now, I’m not sure that recovered would be the answer. Later on it definitely became the ideal future, but at that moment I was just so stuck into the ED. Treatment wasn’t optional and I was angry that I had to change.

Today I was back at the same hospital I started at 4 years ago. I’m not in clinicals anymore and there wasn’t support group. I had an intake assessment and tomorrow I will head back for my first day of PHP.

I cried the entire way there. It’s really hard to see that I’m in this spot again. I do feel a little hopeless and discouraged. How could I not, given how much I’ve wanted to stay strong/avoid treatment?

My disordered thoughts are very present right now, and one of the most pressing is “I am just in the same place as 4 years ago and that makes me a failure.” Yes, I am struggling enough to go to PHP. I am not in the same place, though. I can never go backwards in that way. I’ve grown, a TON. No amount of relapse can change that fact.


 

The past 6 days of PHP haven’t really gone quite as expected. I had plenty of expectations going in: irrational (I’m going to weigh 50 pounds more than everyone, I’ll have to eat a full meal plan right away, they’ll put me inpatient) and more realistic (it will be hard, I’ll have the same annoying nutrition groups, the adult PHP is terrible/dramatic). I also had an incredible amount of worries that didn’t stop at one full sheet of paper. I realized that probably wasn’t helping any and attempted to distract instead. Some things I didn’t count on happening:

  • Having a treatment center reunion since there are 3 of us from IOP there currently
  • A huge group, between 10-13! I know this is tiny compared to some treatment programs, but we barely fit in the one room and need to eat lunch in the huge room.
  • Being semi-terrified walking through certain units. The first day I recognized 5ish staff members from when I was in clinicals. For some reason, that freaked me right out and I’ve been ducking my head each time we go in the unit where I spent the most time.
  • The whole adult PHP room full. We actually didn’t have enough chairs today, so my friend and I sat on the floor. It’s pretty intimidating/annoying to have that many people staring at us as we come in and leave approximately 75 times every day. Luckily, we’re only there for 2-2.5 hours per day, which is more than enough.
  • Eating every 2 hours (sometimes less!!!). So I completely forgot about this part, or maybe blocked it out. We have breakfast at 8, morning snack at 10, lunch at noon, and snack at 2. Typically lunch and breakfast will both run late and that means even less time between meals. I knew volume would be hard, but I think eating this close together is harder even. I just get full by morning snack, then have to down even more. I haven’t been eating dinner until at least 6 because I’m still full/uncomfortable. I wish I could have started on an even smaller meal plan to try to reduce this, but I know that wasn’t going to happen. I really hope I/my body eventually gets used to it.
  • Not knowing a discharge date (or even a vague idea). My main psychiatrist did leave for vacation Friday, which was just day 3, so it is understandable. What bothers me is that there is no time frame whatsoever. My case manager yesterday said she had set up appts with my dietitian, therapist, and psychiatrist when she can’t tell me when I could be done. I’ve learned now that I have to avoid thinking about it for now, and just hear from my psychiatrist next Monday.
  • My defiant side coming out. Okay maybe I shouldn’t be all that surprised, but the ED is not taking any of this treatment BS. I have had urges to throw out food when no one was looking, nearly cried when the AT remembered to give us snack, secretly rejoiced as I saw my breakfast tray was lacking one exchange. I don’t do all I need for dinner. I’m not always doing “the work” part either. I don’t know, I guess I just thought it would magically be fine if I just took the leap to PHP. In reality, I am feeling quite a lot like 2014 PHP Emily.
  • The other patients are not too triggering!!!!!! That deserves all the excitement since it was one of my many excuses not to do partial. I was prepared for the worse and just haven’t seen it. Yes, there are others way thinner than I am, but I’ve found that I don’t necessarily want to be more like them. Behaviors are used unbeknownst to the staff, but I’ve kinda come to the conclusion that I cannot base my recovery off that. We are supportive of each other. Some don’t finish meals/finish Ensures and that doesn’t bother me too much either. Overall, it’s a pretty fun environment. We have some hilarious conversations and plenty of inappropriate ones too (also, all the swear words aha). That is so very needed in a setting like this.
  • I get to work with a psych resident one on one!! I saved the best for last. She and I have a 10-15 minute meeting each morning. I don’t get to see my case manager pretty much ever, so this has been a great time to process and really be open about progress and struggles. She’s been challenging me everyday and actually holds me accountable for those goals. I just feel very grateful I am one of the patients who get to work with her because I totally expected to maybe have 2 individual meetings a week.

PHP isn’t as bad as I expected it to be. I spend plenty of time wanting to run away and never come back. I think that’s pretty normal, though. I have come back each day to do the hard things anyways.

After all of the fighting and whining and complaining and driving my treatment team bonkers (I’m sure), I can semi/kinda/mostly admit it: I needed a higher level of care. I haven’t eaten this amount of food in a day for at minimum 6 months. That alone was never going to happen with IOP. 5x a week 8-3 means my world is invaded by treatment, but I can see this as a good thing. It means spending more time on recovery. I can’t ignore that need forever. So, while I can think of a million and one other activities I would enjoy more than PHP, I am here. I am going to be in a healthier place for school. Quoting one of my favorite dietitians: “I can guarantee you’ll find more happiness without the eating disorder, BUT THERE’S WORK.”


To finish this off, a few treatment goals that go beyond the very generic “improve healthy eating” or “learn coping skills” that we check off on our sheets.

  • Be able to tolerate the meal plan when I’m not in treatment
  • Get into the recovery mindset where I can put that first.
  • Push through the hard days because eventually they do get better.
  • Journal and make goals each day.
  • Do the little things, too – gratitude, worksheets, assignments, etc.
  • Come to a point where I am working for my recovery and not kicking and screaming every step of the way
  • Feel confident going into this next year
  • Don’t limit my exercise to compensatory only

Those are some pretty lofty, open-ended goals, but for a reason (of course I do have all the SMART goals on a small scale, though). Recovery is not black and white. I’m trying to be flexible here because I know how much feeling like a failure can harm me. I aiming for growth and not just perfection

Sorry for how long this has become, oops. It feels nice to have this all out here now. I hope to document this journey as I go. Processing it here is always helpful and something to look back on later.

Unwelcome guest

Yesterday was a whirlwind at work, as are all Saturday’s. It’s our turn (when we clean all of the rooms/cottages/other units to prepare them for the new guests) which means lots of work. I set up the two new people I was training at one condo, then went to the next to check it. I saw all the normal things.. beds made, empty fridge, no dust, well swept, etc. I then looked at the closet since I didn’t have an extra sheet set and found plenty there. Among the five extra towels, 3 random sheet sets, and probably a dozen games, I saw this on the floor:

20180728_153619.jpg

That, my friends, is a lovely scale. Not only does the scale exist, but it also is apparently a gift to the condo. My heart really sank just thinking about this situation.

To back up a bit, the place I work at (in housekeeping) has 9 weeks of family camp in the summer, and then various retreats throughout the year. The condos are almost always rented by people with kids. As a whole, the conference tries to promote togetherness and a getaway from the normal burdens of life.

Unfortunately, everyday living includes a heavy dose of diet culture influence for far too many people in this world.

I can imagine so many different situations where one could be hurt from this object. A little boy or girl decides that they should see how much they weigh, which turns into an innocent “who weighs the least/most” game. Someone going through a dieting fad checks their weight only to find that they’ve gained, and spend the rest of the week miserable and ashamed. A teenager finds themselves stepping on every single day to make sure they didn’t let too loose on their vacation.

There is no way having a scale there is going to help anyone. For one, dieting/weight isn’t something that’s a priority when you’ve come here just to build faith and enjoy your family. Diet culture is absolutely everywhere else and it’s good to have a break. It has potential to truly cause harm to those who already have vulnerability with their self-worth or weight in general. Even with the best intentions, weighing yourself on a different scale once doesn’t truly correlate to one that’s consistent (eg at your doctor’s office).

When I saw that scale I had a few major urges. The first was to weigh myself. Ed was convinced that I needed to see the number and there were no other options, despite how inaccurate it would be based on various factors. Directly after that came the desire to take the scale with me and keep it. It would have been so easy to just find a home for it in my car or secretly in my room. That would give me easy access at any time. I am not proud of those first two options, but that’s also just where I am right now. Third, and probably the best option, was to take the scale out and get rid of it (which is technically what we’re supposed to do with “extra” things in units, but that’s a whole different story). I ended up with none of the above, and I’m a little disappointed in myself for that now.

I could have been brave and fought against diet culture today by removing the scale. Honestly, though, I don’t think I could have just gotten rid of it. The reason I debated about bringing the scale out or not for so long is because I wanted to take it home. I can pretty much guarantee I would have brought it home, probably even weighed myself 15 times by now. I definitely was not strong enough to do the right thing, so I did the neutral one instead.

I’m not sure if I’ll be back to the condo next week, or at all this summer. I want to have the strength to put the best interest of our guests first and confiscate the scale. Not being able to now doesn’t mean I never will.

I know this probably doesn’t seem like some huge deal. To me, it is. This is just an example of how our obsession with diet culture and weight loss is so ingrained that we feel you don’t deserve a break on vacation. How ridiculous is that? If we can take a week of work off why don’t we take a week to fully engage and not focus on things that don’t matter? One small scale can truly have an impact on someone, and I think it has to be our job to think critically about them and the damage that often comes.

Last day of IOP?

I’m really scared going into today. As I sit here typing, the IOP team is deciding my fate. I learned yesterday that this would be the case. It’s been a long time of (in their eyes) me needing a higher level of care but avoiding it. I am 95% sure they’re going to recommend PHP and I have little fight against that. I could technically refuse, but I also just can’t. What choice do I really have when they’re not going to let me continue IOP?

I’m guessing that either today or Monday will be my last day, and then I’ll be forced to start partial. I’m so scared for a million reasons. It may be the least disruptive option for treatment right now, but this is going to be terrible all around. My parents are going to freak and yell and scream and try to refuse. I truly can’t afford it at all. Not only is it expensive (though at least covered by insurance), but I would have to quit working or cut back by a lot.  I don’t know how Im going to continue paying for treatmdent in general but that’s an added stress.

I’ve been trying my hardest to avoid answering the main question on everyone’s mind: can I make this on my own or do I need a higher level of care? I think the answer may be no, but only because of time constraints. I have 5.5 weeks until school and I guess it might not be possible to get to a good enough place by then. I haven’t told anyone this and can’t even accept it myself.

I want to shut down or skip treatment or not ever show up again. Part of me still hangs on to the hope that things will get better, so I am going to try. I am at least making myself stay for lunch. If I can’t handle everything after that I won’t push myself. There’s a lot of stress and hard decisions coming and maybe a break for the rest of the day would be okay.

My only hope is that somehow things work out and that it won’t be as bad as I think.