Treading water – recovery update

*Note: this does not mention specific ED behaviors, numbers, etc etc etc. I know how not-helpful that would be to anyone, including myself. It is, however, pretty negative. I think you can tell where my mindset is and that is more in the eating disorder. Proceed with caution if you think this is something that may be triggering, although I’ve tried my best to not make that an issue here

Honesty time: things haven’t been the greatest. I’ve had some slips and am more stuck in eating disorder ways than I was a few months ago.

Right now it feels like I’ve been thrown in the deep end of the pool and can’t swim. I’m able to tread water and stay stable, but I can’t remember how to swim and get myself to safety. It isn’t that I’m sinking or don’t know how to swim at all; it’s a lack of immediate knowledge of how to get from point A to point B. I’m also not really motivated to get to point B anyways, because point A seems like a good place to be. Another important thing to note is that I’m not drowning. I am not in immediate danger, but treading water for too long isn’t good either. I’ll get tired and eventually not be able to keep myself afloat. I may need someone to rescue me and throw in a life preserver.

This metaphor is about as close as you can get to how I’m feeling. I’m not in relapse. I am in the warning stage. On the scale from green to red, I am sitting at around an orange, so about a step above true relapse. The ED is trying to convince me that I can lose a few pounds. I can live off this amount of food. I can continue to use exercise in a negative way. Deep down I don’t believe that as much. K and R always remind me that it’s a slippery slope. What starts as some ED coming into the picture can snowball. It’s not really possible to believe the lie that you can get a little thinner, a little more into Ed’s rules.

My appointments with K and R have gotten.. interesting? Not as tolerable? More serious? Honestly just a mixture of many things. Today I met with both of them and as time goes on they seem more concerned.

K (dietitian)

  • I have a minimum that if I don’t reach I’m *supposed* to drink an Ensure (hahaha yeah not happening), but naturally I haven’t met that and am not forcing myself to drink a nasty bottle of chemicals. Now my maximum has been going down little by little. I stayed relatively stable this week, but it is lower to a point that my new goal doesn’t even include the minimum I’m supposed to follow. Basically it’s not realistic anymore because there’s no way I’ll do that when I haven’t hit it in maybe a month?
  • My other goal is to have more afternoon snacks. As always, my ED means cutting down on eating and morning and afternoon snacks are typically the hardest.
  • As per usual, I’m having a hard time with negativity. I tend to get in a place where I just feel like a complete failure. She had me try to list 2 positives from this week and it was honestly one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in the past week. (Is that sad? Perhaps.)
  • I’ll admit, I have been using yoga in an unhealthy way more and more. This isn’t new to me and I’ve been here before. Actually, the last few times I’ve relapsed with exercising it has consisted at least half the time of yoga. Anything can become maladaptive with an eating disorder, apparently. Given this, K wants me to spend one day doing completely “normal” and gentle yoga. I may or may not be too happy about this.
  • For the first time in a long while, she told me that weight is not even the most important factor at this point. It’s something I’m pretty heavily focused on, but she has other markers. For example: physical symptoms like dizziness, amount of restriction, amount of exercise, type of exercise, level of Ed thoughts, etc. For some reason this surprised me a bit because I tend to judge myself by weight or size.

R (therapist)

  • I am convinced that a certain weight I want to get to is healthy, because BMI-wise it definitely is. I feel like that is reasonable and would make body image better than it is currently. R went back through my weight history since I began coming there a year ago and told me that when I get into x range, I have ended up in treatment. I don’t want to accept that my body would be more comfortable at this higher weight. Note: I don’t actually know my weight (minus when I saw it a couple of weeks ago at the Dr) so all I really am aware of is if I’m losing.
  • I have a ton of distrust in my body and it’s somewhat carried over into not trusting my team. I feel like they could be lying to me and how would I ever know that?
  • She has seen quite a bit of downslide in the last month or so. It hasn’t been super severe and is generally slow, but it’s there. If it continues… (fill in the blank with options I am not too fond of)
  • I may not be able to continue EMDR much longer if… I continue restricting and/or lose weight, since it would lead to a state where I cannot concentrate enough or have the mental energy to work through things. As much as I have a love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with EMDR, I know that it needs to happen. I can’t be held back by this any longer. It’s frustrating already to feel pretty stuck on this target, but knowing I could be forced to put it all on hold is scary. It feels like I would be giving up entirely.
  • We talked about my goal once school ends (in 10 days!?!?!), which is to maintain how I’m eating and exercising. I don’t really want to challenge everything too much, even if I will be away from much of my stressors. Stability is safer. She is concerned about this, given how my body is reacting, but I think it’s better than alternatives like just giving up the recovery piece.
  • I may be closer to relapse than I really think. Last week she mentioned I may be in the orange, so this past week I wanted to prove that wrong. I checked off every symptom I have currently from each grouping (green, yellow-green, yellow, orange, red, rusty-red aka needs treatment). I have way less in the green and much more in yellow, orange, and even red. I am a little shocked. I get into the mentality of I’m not that bad and just ignore the signs.
  • Every single time I see her (and K somewhat), I end up convincing her and myself (one of us doesn’t quite buy it) that this isn’t anything to worry about. How do I master this? Comparison! I can look back at 2014, 2015 x2, 2016, and 2017 to compare now and when I’ve previously entered treatment. I am not doing as poorly with my mealplan/eating in general, still managing school, at a healthy weight, and not currently slipping at a fast rate (actually I’m relatively stable for the last week or so). No matter how many times I hear differently from them I just can’t buy it for whatever reason. I think the Ed voice is just so strong and convincing that I have a hard time considering the other side of this.

Although I haven’t done so in this long, jumbled mess, I have been making it a point to separate out the Ed voice vs my voice. I figured it may be a tad confusing for it to happen here. I can recognize the unhealthy side, although that’s getting harder. Once of my assignments I find helpful is putting Ed thoughts or rules and reframing them. That starts to give me a new perspective.

Reading this back now, I can tell that things aren’t all great and unicorny and whatnot. I am struggling; I’ll admit it. Treading water has not been a fun thing. When it goes on for over a month, nearing 2, exhaustion sets it. I have slipped some, with the most change coming in the past month (according to R and K). I’m finding it harder to stay afloat at this point. I think I know what happens if I actually begin to sink. I don’t want that at all. I can’t do that again. My goal, then, is to stay enough afloat and manage everything. I’m not truly aiming to get better, but if I at least maintain we won’t have so much to worry about.


That’s a wrap for now (and a long one, holy cow 1500 words). I wanted to get this all off my chest and continue to practice authenticity here. I can’t just sugar coat things. This is a true experience of my struggles. It would be a disservice to myself and anyone who reads my blog if I pretended recovery is always wonderful and the easy decision. It’s messy and that’s okay. Today my version of recovery isn’t where I or my team may hope, but that can all change. I want to document that no matter which way it goes.

Where have I been?

This isn’t an easy question to answer, so I’ll give a brief description of some things that have kept me from blogging lately:

  •  stuck in the ever-expanding workload of nursing school – projects, papers, care plans, clinicals, exams, classes, etc
  • treading water when it comes to recovery (will write more on this soon!)
  • increased depression = low motivation to do much of anything
  • perfectionism – I have a ton of half-written posts but I feel like none of them are good enough/I need to change the entire thing to make it decent enough to post
  • busy schedule with treatment and college stuff (on my one day off from class I am at group and therapy for around 4 hours)

I love blogging more than anything, and it’s sad to know that all of this is keeping me from it. I so badly need to start again. I don’t want to have sporadic posts and then nothing for weeks on end. I have just 3 weeks left of school which means I cannot promise producing a ton of posts during that time, but I definitely want to do more on break.

This is a promise that I’ll be back here more often. I want to continue with my goals of this blog – my personal journal, helping others hopefully, spreading awareness, etc.

See you again soon! 🙂

I wear my seatbelt.

I don’t always drive the speed limit, because the chance of a ticket for going 5 over doesn’t scare me much.

I drive the safest possible. I use my turn signal, drive slower when it’s raining or snowing, look both ways before going, watch vigilantly for what other drivers may do. It isn’t just my car that I’m protecting when I choose to drive this way.

I wear my seatbelt. I’m not concerned about the hefty ticket associated with not wearing one any more than I am about getting a speeding ticket. It isn’t done to ensure anyone else’s safety. It’s uncomfortable and annoying. I don’t particularly like to have a strap across my chest.

Why then, do I?

I wear my seatbelt because I choose to protect my own life every time I get into a car.

I may have lost you by now. Wearing (or not wearing) a seatbelt is a choice that we all make. For me, this is different than being a moody teenager who wanted to spite her parents by saying no.

I make the conscious choice to wear mine because I give myself value. It shows that I feel I am worth saving. I don’t deserve to be seriously injured in a car accident when I could have walked away fine.

Wearing my seatbelt means telling all of the nasty voices in my head to shut up. It is showing my younger self that she deserved to be protected too. It is an act of self-love and compassion.

This is a simple act I’ve been choosing to complete for the majority of my life. It feels different now compared to back then. I can now use this as a constant reminder and evidence that I care for myself and I am beyond worthy of my life.

 

 

Perfectionism and blogging

I haven’t posted in a little over the week, but this isn’t due to a lack of ideas, time, or motivation. I have actually started 6 posts. Some of them I’ve gotten pretty much complete while others are mostly a list of points/some sentences I want to cover. I’ve spent more time editing and thinking over these than it would have taken to write at least 2 posts. If it isn’t something like writer’s block or time or anything else, why can’t I do this? The answer is perfectionism.

I am obsessive (or at least try to be) and check over each and every paragraph, sentence, and word I write. If it doesn’t flow the right way or seems to repeat too many words or sentence style, I give up. I scrap that version of the draft and attempt to do something different.

The worst thing (I believe) is when I write out basically an entire blog post (typically at work, in class, etc. and whenever I have downtime and paper) and then feel the need o restructure and reword the entire darn thing. This is exactly why I have at least 45 drafts at all times.

This isn’t really an update and it doesn’t have a ton of substance or length. I just want to remind myself (and any of you who might struggle with this too) that blogging isn’t perfect. There will be some jumbled thoughts, grammar errors, times you didn’t really get to all you wanted to say. Chances are, no one is reading a blog for how everything flows and using correct sentence structure.

I love blogging and that’s not the problem. I would write and write all day long if I could. If I want to continue writing, though, I need to make a change. I cannot keep blocking myself from talking about what interests me. Here’s to less overthinking and more genuine imperfect posts!

What does a hard week look like in post-(lots of)treatment recovery?

This has been an extremely difficult two weeks or so for me. It has brought back old thought patterns, urges, and behaviors. I think a huge part of the “why” is stress. My first two nursing exams were this past week. I also have worked more than normal, so studying kind of took a backseat. Adding to this, I’ve had some pretty terrible body image, little to no hunger, and general frustration with food. These things are not an excuse to return to Ed, but it certainly is a factor.

While it can be disheartening that I am back in this space, I am (attempting to) treat myself the way I would treat my best friend. Recovery isn’t perfect and I need to accept that. I deserve grace. If I sit here and go “woe is me,” I will be stuck and feel more hopeless/helpless than ever.

Before, I had zero tools for effective coping. I turned to the eating disorder again and again and again. It was never “I can do this and it will take care of these urges in a healthy way.” Now, I do have a variety of coping skills to use when I need them, everything from mindfulness to journaling to using my kinetic sand. The problem currently resides in the fact that I’m not using them. While I am past the learning phase, application can be difficult too. It comes down to motivation at this point, which has obviously been lacking some.

One thing that I didn’t necessarily expect is how scary this all is. I am on the cusp of choosing recovery and getting back on track or continuing this downward spiral. It’s only a slip right now, leading towards a lapse. While neither of those are great, I’m not in a huge danger zone. I am leaps and bounds above where I was last fall or before residential. This doesn’t need to become a relapse, but it does remind me of the beginning of each one I’ve had.

For me, the main and most important thing now vs. pre-treatment is that I have a strong desire to turn it around. I don’t want to sit here and continue fading away. I have reasons to recover that truly matter (and aren’t all extrinsic). I have hope. I know my strengths. I may not have constant support like in treatment, but I can do this. I am not alone. I don’t need to recovery alone. That’s a beautiful thing.

To come out of this, I must apply what’s worked before. I haven’t had to really use these things in a long while, but now is time to bring them back out. Some pro-recovery things I will do from here on out:

  • Utilize my DBT corner when I’m having urges or very strong emotions
  • Phone a friend – the support I receive is invaluable
  • Journal, journal, and more journaling. It is something I need to do every day, whether I’m in a rough patch or not
  • Eat.the.food. Mechanical eating may be the only way I can go about this and that’s okay short-term. I can’t expect to continue recovery if I’m slowly starving myself. Also, that just fuels the eating disorder even more
  • Listen to and be honest with my treatment team and myself. This is huge. My team are not mind readers. It’s impossible for them to help me if I’m not telling the truth. I won’t get anywhere this way. What starts out as little lies quickly become complete denial. I start to convince myself of the “truth” as well.
  • Practice self-care. This is the last thing I want to do when I am in the ED/anxiety/depression, but it also has helped to bring me out of negative periods as well. Just 5-10 minutes of treating myself like I am worthy it will make a difference.

It isn’t easy just because I’ve been here before, but being here before means that I know how to break free. I am ready to do so.

World Mental Health Day 2017

I am so incredibly thankful for awareness days like today. They are an opportunity to change minds on what mental illness and mental health entail. It can erase stigma and prevent biases. People who are undiagnosed can recognize their symptoms and reach out for help. It is everyone around the world coming together for a cause that affects 1 in 4 people globally.

I have a ton I could say today, but I want to go with this: talking about my mental health has saved my life. Without therapy, psych meds, outpatient programming, partial hospitalization, inpatient, and residential treatment, I don’t think I would be alive right now. It took bravery to speak out and say that something was wrong. Even more strength was necessary to head into my first day of therapy. No matter how scary, treatment has been the best thing for me. The support I have received from family and friends is also invaluable.

If you are struggling, please reach out.

If your friend, family member, or loved one seems to be or is struggling, reach out.

Silence is not the answer.

No matter who you are, please take some time to learn more about mental health and mental illness. You DO know someone with a mental illness. Maybe that could be your significant other, classmate, child, sibling, coworker, relative, or friend. They need your support and they need you to be knowledgeable about what they’re going through. If you think that you don’t need any information on it, look at all the people you care for. Would you be willing to ignore them if they have a cry for help? Would you do the same if they had a physical diagnosis? Even for those without any mental illness, caring for our mental health is important. Everyone gets stressed, sad, angry, etc. Learning a few self-care techniques and coping skills can really go a long way.

Today may not mean a whole ton to you, but I promise it means the world to anyone who does struggle or will struggle with mental illness in their lifetime.

For more information:

TFHR – 10/03/17

It’s been forever and a half, so here’s a current TFHR!

Thoughts

  • I love blogging. I missed blogging. It has been beyond amazing to be back here again. This is a huge coping skill for mirror. Not much beats opening up a blank post and watching it come to life, especially when I can either tell my story or spread awareness.
  • I can acknowledge my progress, finally. It has been difficult in the past to do so, but my self-talk and perception of events is so much better give
  • I am so dang lucky to live in West Michigan. I cannot get enough of the beach, state park, sunsets, etc. It seriously is one of the most beautiful places.
  • I need to get back on track ASAP before it ends up like last fall or spring. I can’t afford that and I really don’t want it for myself regardless.
  • I am noticing some of the same old distorted thinking come back again. I’m glad I can recognize it, but now the hafrd part will be challenging the thoughts as they come.

Feelings

  • Everything.  I just feel like this overwhelmed, confused ball of emotions. I have found it hard to even connect this to anything or recognize where it’s all coming from,.
  • Nostalgic. I just miss treatment so damn much. I keep thinking of all the memories I have. A lot of me wants to go back there, or at least bring back the girls and support.
  • Down (Depressed?). I should be used to this by now, but every time I go from normalish to not is still a shock. I’m hoping it can be temporary.
  • Connection. I am not that surprised with the amount of empathy and compassion I feel towards the patients. I know plenty of what they’re feeling. I had one tell me how crazy they felt up until they were in treatment. I feared that as well. I had another talking about how hard it is going outside only once a day. I completely get that. It feels claustrophobic to be stuck inside a cold hospital all day. Even if it is difficult being back at the hospital, I know my experience there has helped shape me into a better nurse for my patients.
  • Proud (of myself). I already am seeing a huge difference each day I work with patients. Today, I was cool and collected. I shook off the nerves and communicated really well. I feared the therapeutic communication portion of nursing at first. It hasn’t come easily, but I am so proud of myself that I’m growing in that area.

Happenings

  • Work is weird. I don’t know what exactly I expected when coming back to work, but I didn’t think things would have changed the way they have. I am not a crew leader, there are a ton of new people, and I just feel weird. I guess it’s hard to pinpoint? Being back to retreat season is definitely different than before. We have full crew turns that mirror summer and even more new people. I feel like I barely even know what work will bring anymore.
  • Rewatching Grey’s Anatomy. I feel super accomplished because I finished the entirety of Grey’s last week. I only started at the end of July and was at work/IOP plenty of that time period.
  • EDS pain. Unfortunately, work means working my joints in ways they haven’t been for months. I feel exhausted each time. I can always count on pain, namely from my right shoulder and elbow, and more recently left knee. I have to find a balance and take care of myself. Ehlers-Danlos is not a joke.
  • Tons of groups/appointments. I feel like I am constantly talking about my emotions, triggers, mealplan, etc. I kind of am, truthfully. Mondays and Thursdays both include multiple forms of treatment. It almost feels like I am living between these appointments, at least when I’m not doing well. I am trying not to let that happen this time around.
  • Shared MY story for an assignment in my nursing class. I still can’t believe this happened. I didn’t even use pseudonyms like I planned. Granted, literally anyone who has me on Facebook or Insta could easily find out about my eating disorder. I don’t try to hide it really. I want for it to be something others connect to, learn from, and understand eating disorder more because of it.
  • Seeing all the people at FV. Today I counted at least 5 people I knew. Some were from ED, like the amazing dietitian, and others just randomly from my inpatient stay. I wanted nothing more than to say hi and thank them, especially my old dietitian. I didn’t do these things but I hope to find an opportunity to say hello soon.
  • First test(s). Yesterday I had my first exam in our theory class and Friday will be one in the strategies class. I’m not feeling the most confident about them and my stress level is pretty high. I know it’s only the first test, but I’m so worried about the future. What if I actually cannot do this?
  • Validation. I know someone who is a charge nurse at the other psych hospital my professor works at. She messaged me on Saturday night asking about who my instructor is. It turns out she was sitting right next to her at work! She told my prof that she knew me, and she had some good feedback. My prof was impressed by how I handled last week, since I had little time to catch my patient before discharge. She also said my nursing process was great. I wasn’t feeling the most confident about these things, so hearing about it was uplifting. My hard work is paying off.

Ramblings

  • The conversations at IOP/treatment peeps in general are amazing, stimulating, and have nothing to do with ED. It’s wonderful. I especially love how feminism/some politics come up in the weirdest way. Those things are important given the state of our country and all.
  • honestly part of me cannot believe that Dr. VanDouchebag is still around and in charge of kids/ED at FV. A story I heard of his actions today angered me a little bit. It sounds very similar to things he would say about or to ED patients in the past. I know he’s the doctor and everything, but condescending isn’t the answer to helping patients.
  • Gah I want to speak up about my time at FV. I talked a bit about this, but I can’t wrap my head around it. I almost feel like it would be proving how sick I was before. This isn’t healthy. What would be a reasonable and healthy way to share this with my prof? Probably not at all.
  • I don’t have many words about Las Vegas, just prayers. One thing I want to mention is how sick I am of political things coming out when we should be supporting during a tragedy. I don’t feel like now is the right time to debate topics. I do share some of the same views as those who are (in a way) turning it into a debate. There is a time and place for that, but it isn’t in the wake of one of the worst loss of human life I’ve experienced in my lifetime.

And that’s all for now! I haven’t decided how often I would like do these. Maybe it’ll be sporadic instead of scheduled, but I’m not sure yet. I do like how it gives a nice overview of life currently.