Tornado warning.

God has this funny way of testing and stretching me at camp. Back in January, I had to deal with puke which is one of my biggest fears. I currently sit in the basement of our dorm waiting out the second tornado warning of the night. I’ve had panic attacks over these in the past.

God knew this was going to happen. He wanted it to. I think it’s to show me and everyone here that God is in control even when it storms. No matter what we fave God will get us through it.

I have handled this all really well. I’m putting on a brave face and I am keeping calm with this. I haven’t let my fear show because if I panic as a leader my girls will too. Even if the tornado hit and sister strikes we are all going to be okay. I don’t need to worry.

“God sends storms to show that he is the only shelter.”

Update before camp

Here we are, on our way to NTS Camp in Chicago! I’m nervous and excited and amazed that I’m even headed there. I nearly backed out of this opportunity more than once. Way back, it was Kim telling me I couldn’t go if I didn’t start eating and taking care of myself. Then I struggled with going again due to my own fear of change and attachment. And just this past week I was completely discouraged following some mean comments by another leader. Everything was against me going but here I am, headed out anyways. I truly believe God must have some awesome things planned this week for Satan to fight so hard against it. That’s my prayers and hopes, at least.

The past weeks has been nothing short of insane. I’ve been packing and dealing with a lot of things emotionally as well as working. I’ve had so many thoughts on things that it was hard to even put it down. This will be a quick update on life and then I probably won’t post again until after camp!

ED wise I am pretty powerless. I’ve eaten enough to not raise questions at meals. I’ve thrown away food. My behavior at work alerted a coworker and I know it won’t be long until she sits me down to talk about it. As far as camp goes, I have a food plan and I’m sticking to it best I can. I won’t allow myself to show any ED behaviors or restriction while I’m there. I’m not talking about it and I’m not drawing attention to my eating. This week is about me serving them, and if I’m having a hard time I will contact support. It’ll be good. At the very least I will be as healthy an example as I can be.

As far as recovery goes I really feel hopeful. This book I bought for Kim and myself is so good. I believe that I can change. I know it will be the hardest thing I ever do but I don’t think I’m a lost cause. Kim isn’t either and together we will grow stronger.

I’ve reconnected with God more each day. I feel full. I am going in the right direction and have spent lots of time in prayer and the word for camp already. I have this need that only He can fill and I know that by focusing on faith this next week it will give me less time for the ED. I want a spiritual renewal and I hope each of the girls will get that too.

Everything feels out of control right now and the only thing I want to turn to is the ED. I’m going to do my best not to though. I will get through camp and I will make an impact. It may be challenging but it’ll be worth it.

2 year endiversary

Yesterday was June 12th. Two years ago, in 2013, that day held a very freeing decision for me. It will always be an important day in my life, albeit a sad one because I broke up with my boyfriend of three and a half years. At the time I felt extreme guilt and pain because of his blaming and anger. Now, I celebrate.

Before I explain the breakup it would probably help to give a run down of our relationship. I met him Labor Day weekend 2009. He came up with a family that rents a cottage the same place we do each summer. We talked a little during the weekend and exchanged contact info. We talked constantly for the next few months and planned to meet up again. I was already infatuated by him at that point and naively ignored the fact that he did some things I morally couldn’t support (drugs, partying, sex, God know’s what else). I was barely 14, and he almost 17. I thought I had to give him absolutely everything because I wanted to be loved so badly. We began dating January 10, 2010.

Looking back, I can’t see any part of our relationship that was truly healthy. I admit, I was controlling at times (mainly due to fear of abandonment) and not always the best girlfriend in general. He was abusive… I haven’t told the details to anyone but he was definitely emotional and in some other ways. He liked to take advantage of my fears of him leaving and the fact that I would do anything to keep him near. I did things I will always regret. He hurt me more times than I can count, in more than one way. I was sick and didn’t realize it, I had major anxiety and depression as well as self harm. He was emotionally void and was annoyed with my “attention-seeking” behaviors. He didn’t care at all how bad my thoughts were getting. I felt if the one person who really loved me didn’t care than no one would and kept quiet. On top of all these problems, he had some legal troubles, anger issues/violence, nasty friends he would go behind my back to see, and lied a ton.. On top of everything else, our faith was on two different levels. I was closer to God and tried my best to follow Him but he wasn’t really raised in church and believed without following. I thought it was my job to save him when it ended up dragging me away from God for those years. Overall, we were a terrible match from the start.

Things got serious so fast. Even with all of our troubles, he gave me a promise ring the next September exactly one year after we met. I believed wholeheartedly that I was going to marry him. I didn’t think I deserved better, even with my mom and others close to me warning me about what they saw in him. Almost everyone in my life would tell me how he didn’t deserve me and I didn’t deserve someone who treated me as he did. I was so blinded by the first love thing and felt so attached to him that I didn’t care. I continued to plan my life around him and slowly lost hope that I could have a healthy future with or without him.

There were countless times I felt like I might want to break up with him, but I never got that far. It always ended in me hating myself more for “ruining what we had” even if some was his fault. I don’t want to go into detail as to what happened, but around our 2 year mark was a day when I truly wanted to die because I wanted to end things so badly but couldn’t. It was a silent suicide attempt and one of the worst weeks I can remember. No matter how hard things were, I still spent another year and a half with him. Everyday I woke up wishing I could get away from him but fearing more the loneliness that was sure to come if I did. He moved in to our basement (for college tuition reasons) and things went even more downhill. We fought constantly. He hated all of the supervision and having five people in the house. I hated having him there constantly. He began to sneak out. I was stressed with school and college and him. That May I still had him come to prom with me, just so I wouldn’t be alone. We spent the night arguing, and it ended in a screaming match. Part of his reasoning behind prom was “sex is okay since its a special night” which I absolutely didn’t agree with, so that’s what caused most of our fighting (he always attempted to push for it despite the fact that I was and am saving myself for marriage).

After the whole prom scenario I was done. I stopped wearing my ring and I spent weeks deciding how I was supposed to get out. My friend helped me through the worst of it and told me that I needed to end things for myself. I finally told my mom then who agreed. It was the scariest thing but I said the words. The hardest part was that he lived with us still, so every swear word, moment of rage, and even crying that came out of him was well heard by me. The next few weeks brought manipulation and ploys to win me back. I was vulnerable and almost did it multiple times. Luckily my mom stuck by me and I reached a point where I didn’t feel so terrible for choosing to break it off in the first place.

I have no words to explain how much better these last two years have been without him in my life. I try to remember the relationship as a learning experience, even though it was a painful one. Instead of worrying about someone else’s needs first, I’ve begun to look out for myself. There’s no way I would be here today, in recovery, if it wasn’t for that break up. I don’t want to imagine the alternative that could have been. No matter how this sounds, I will enjoy every June 12th after this because it adds another year to my freedom from an abusive, self-destructive relationship. Breaking it off was one of the bravest moments of my life.

Disclaimer: I don’t want it to sound like he’s the worst person in the world. He isn’t. A ton of issues in our relationship were mutually created. Some things he did were 10o% wrong, though. My problems plus his problems really just didn’t work out.

“Safer”

I am surrounded by resources to recover. Within a five foot radius, there is one memoir on survivng anorexia, my bible, three books on eating disorder recovery (one workbook, one by Jenni Schaefer, and a Chrisitan recovery), my phone which has access to all of my support, and this laptop with access to endless resources on the web. Down the hall in my room is every handout, note, and therapy activity I’ve received to date. Yet, here I sit, stuck.

I’ve done well today, and the past few days. If you’re measuring wellness by amount of food eaten I’m doing amazing even. I’ve had s’mores, ice cream, peanut butter, fried food from a restaurant. I’ve gone well over needed calories. I’ve stayed away from most safe foods, given in to insatiable hunger, not turned down pizza at work. But beneath this healthier eating is a girl who feels completely out of control and confused.

I sit here at a crossroad. I have been here before, way too many times to count now. I can continue to try and recover. I can use all of my resources. I can fake it till I make it and continue eating as well as I have been. That scares the hell out of me.

Choosing my eating disorder is so much easier. Its safer. It may require more effort in certain areas, like hiding my restriction from others, but that disordered part of my brain is trying to prove how worth it that is.

Tomorrow, if I follow the ED, I will eat very little, spend the day with no energy or focus, maybe pass out at work again. It will send me backwards more. If I continue until NTS camp there’s no way at all I will be the leader the girls need. I may not be able to stop after that. It could jeopardize my college in the fall and send me back into the hospital. Statistically each relapse has a higher chance of that happening.

All I can think about is the weight, fat, inches I will lose. I’m freaked out about my hair and nails and some other things ED brings, but I’m much more open to the bad side effects because the promise of shrinking away is so strong in my mind.

Its scary being in my head right now. I really don’t know where I’ll be at NTS or college or next week. I pray I can fight this and continue to heal physically but most of all mentally. I don’t want the ED to be safe anymore.

Stuff and Things

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Huge inside joke, but this is my store because of how often I use thingy, stuff, things, thingamabob, etc to describe things aha

Basically I don’t feel like making a post on anything specific and there’s way too many little things to talk about so here we are!

  • Olivia is the best. What other way could I start off a post?
  • I am finally excited for NTS thanks to a few of my lovely girls. We spoke about it Sunday and I can’t wait. I’m going to be a good leader and no matter what the food situation is and how terrible my ED wants to be I will make it through. Only two more weeks away which is complete crazy talk!!
  • I love my job. It’s the best place I could possibly work and all my coworkers rock. I am really thankful for everyone there.
  • My grandpa is moving into his own apartment this weekend. It’s been stressful and hard having him here. I love him but it’s time for him to go be on his own.
  • Graduation Sunday was this week which means that I actually graduated??? Still in disbelief that I’m moving to Calvin next fall.
  • Speaking of Calvin, less than 3 months to move-in day!!!
  • I am going to write a book. I’ve wanted to for year and I’m going to do it! Not sure whaat about or if it will be fiction or a memoir or what but it’s ging to happen so woohoo.
  • I am addicted to Law&Order: SVU. My grandpa watches it and I started Netflix last week. Binge watching as much as possible and its fabulous.
  • My eating has been all over the place. I have a day where I can’t manage anything and then others where I’ll have mini binge type episodes. Its not as bad as before so I guess that’s a positive.
  • 4/6 of my books I ordered have come in. I’ve started reading a few and they’re great. In particular, there’s an ED recovery book that’s in a christian perspective so naturally I ordered Kim one too. So excited to start it together.
  • I’ve fainted three times this week and nearly did countless more times. I’m not sure what’s going on really. Jenny wants me to go to the doctor but I’m kind of ignoring that. I know in my gut that its probably ED-related.
  • My abandonment issues are making their way into dreams. It’s both creepy and terrifying. No thank you brain!
  • Now that its nearly summer Michigan is warming up and I get to spend more time outside, yay!
  • I’ve felt terribly sick lately. Its IBS flaring yet again. I really don’t plan on seeing the doctor for it because all other medicine options react badly with my antidepressants.. so I really have no option other to deal with it. I’m praying that I can find relief at camp at least. I’ll be stocking up on pepto which helps the tiniest bit.
  • And ending on a positive note, I feel more hopeful now than I have in a long time. I think I have more resources available and hopefully some good support in the future. I have to work hard but I have just about everything I need to get there now.

9 months out: what Forest View has taught and continues to teach me

Going into treatment, I naively assumed I would get everything I needed to recover right away, then go home and apply it. Treatment is supposed to heal you, right? I can laugh at my false expectations now. A huge chunk of all I’ve taken away from my experience never came to me for days, weeks, and even months. I am continually learning more than I could have ever imagined. Although it feels like it sometimes, treatment doesn’t exist in a vacuum. 9 months out, here are some new takeaways from my experience at Forest View:

The goddess game. I was the only one who didn’t absolutely hate this activity. Maybe it was because I alone got my wishes granted, or that I knew/thought it had nothing to do with real life. The game went like this: Hannah, Liz, and Karen were the goddesses. We each got 5 wishes and had to rank them in order of importance. Next we took turns reading them off and the goddesses would determine if our wish would be granted. If yes, we kept the wish and otherwise would have to crumple it up.The first few girls had theirs denied, and then it was my turn. I still don’t know exactly why I chose it, but “recover from my eating disorder” was my first choice. They quickly accepted and granted my wish. As we continued through rounds, every single one of my wishes were granted while others were rejected. They seemed hurt because so many of theirs were beautiful dreams: start a large foster home, find a love like my sister’s, finally be content with life, move to the Florida Keys. Afterwards, Hannah explained the point of the activity. You have to choose to recover first or nothing else you dream of will ever happen. Just in this past week I’ve thought about what the game truly meant in regards to recovery and life. I found the meaning cheesy and not helpful at first. I can see now that isn’t the case. I’ve tried to go on living without putting my all into recovery. Sure, I finished this year of college and had some good accomplishments, but was I happy, healthy, at peace, faithful? Not at all. God isn’t exactly like the goddesses were. He doesn’t choose not to bless me because I am in Satan’s grasp with this eating disorder. However, every day I stay here being sick I am consequently choosing to miss out on whatever other blessings God has for me. I can still do my best to honor God and be his servant, but I can’t give Him my all. Until I put recovery first and push Satan away I’ll never be able to live the full life God has for me. I will instead be stuck, surviving but not at all thriving. I don’t want that fate. Instead I will choose recovery and reap the blessings.

Recover now, not later. Nearly every woman I met spent longer times being sick with their EDs, 5, 15, even 30 years. They all gave me the same advice: work towards recovery NOW so that I can be free in the future, not in and out of treatment for the rest of my would-be miserable life. I didn’t believe them. I felt I could gain some weight, enough to get out of treatment, then go and continue to be in quasi-recovery indefinitely. The past 9 months I have spent a majority of my time in this “recovered” state, a few months in relapse, and very little time in true recovery. I’ve found that every time I go back to disordered thoughts and behaviors it becomes easier to fall back into the ED ways and harder to bring myself out. Its like having a sort of disordered muscle memory. I constantly find new ways to sneak and prove to others I’m doing great when the opposite is true. In my moments of clarity, this is what scares me the most. I could very easily end up a repeat offender, spending my whole life in and out of treatment. I could be like the other women and put school, love, dreams, happiness, faith, and hope in order to pursue my eating disorder. I could lose everything. I could even die. I no longer see these warnings as misplaced or unnecessary. I need to remember that every day I don’t put my all into recovery I am digging myself a deeper hole that I may not get out of.

 Looking sick. I remember the first day T switched to PHP. As she came that morning, the first words she heard were “You look so much better now.” A man who had been inpatient with her but switched out a week earlier said them, meaning it as a compliment.That comment was extremely triggering for her and I couldn’t exactly grasp why. Having now had those same words spoken to me I completely get it. People think they’re helping, and I get where they could assume that but it does the opposite. We arent healthy the second our bodies begin to look “normal.” You cannot tell if someone’s doing better/worse mentally because of weight lost or gained in recovery. The first time i heard the “you look healthy now” spiel I wanted to scream.  I remained cool and collected on the outside but internally I was a mess. It ended up leading to my first lapse in recovery. I couldn’t  comprehend the word healthy. Certainly what they really meant was fat. That’s what the ED took it as so it let to obsessive and self-depreciating thoughts of how huge I’d gotten and how terrible I looked. Luckily, I haven’t had to deal with these comments as often anymore, since I haven’t been “sick” looking in a long time. I still do get it sometimes though, and it tends to send me backwards and ignite the ED thoughts. I could go on and on about how important it is to NOT mention body size, shape, how sick someone looks, etc to someone who’s recovering from an eating disorder. Whether you mean it in the nicest way possible or not, it is most-likely going to hurt them in some way. Also, a reminder: just because someone with cancer grows back their hair doesn’t mean the disease isn’t wreaking havoc on their body anymore. Same goes for ED sufferers.

Resilience. My second day at Forest View Jared gave us a lesson on resilience. I was still in complete shock of even being there. It was afternoon group and I was mostly just happy I wouldn’t be asked to eat anything or talk about my feelings. I had so many thoughts racing through my head that I didn’t really listen to him. He handed out a thick packet of papers. I don’t know that I opened it while there, but the quote I wrote down, “Resilience doesn’t always mean you get back up and back to normal, it can mean keep being here during hard times,” and picture on the packet of a small plant growing through a crack in cement both made an impact on me. The image has become a symbol of resilience for me. Against all odds, even with a huge block of cement in its way the plant still managed to grow. I’ve learned so much more about resilience since FV, including much from the packet Jared made. Above all, I constantly remind myself to get back up and grow out of whatever situation I’m in, just as the plant did. (Fun fact: a few weeks after this I ended up photographing a very similar scene which remains my personal symbol of resiliency to this day)

I can get through hard things. I remember the wonderful sense of triumph after finishing the hardest meal I had at Forest View. I finally believed that maybe, just maybe, I could do this. I didn’t think anything could get much worse than that lunch. I was so very wrong. I have faced incredibly worse situations than that meal. I’ve fallen into relapse more than once, cried my eyes out over meals or how huge I’d gotten, dealt with refeeding symptoms (as if side effects of recovery wasn’t already enough), had suicidal thoughts and plans, felt like my whole world was being turned upside down, battled anxiety that kept me up for over 24 hours, felt emotional pain far worse than any physical. It hasn’t been an easy road at all. Doing these last 9 months with only outpatient therapy and the love of my support and savior and without dropping out of school or putting my life on hold has made me STRONG. I am strong. I wouldnt be here right now if I wasn’t. Going to FV in the first place was scary, hard, bold, but continuing to fight every single day is so much more than that. I may not have the greatest attitude or drive for recovery all the time but I am giving it one hell of a fight regardless.

Sometimes being close to someone who’s struggling is more harmful than good. The staff at Forest View always discouraged patients making contact out of treatment. I thought they were just being mean back then, but now I see why. Being close to someone who’s in a bad place with their eating disorder is draining, triggering, and detrimental. Its so hard to recover when the other person keeps you in that disordered place. The disorders tend to feed off each other, making both parties worse. Personally, I’ve found that there’s a very thin line between helpful and harmful when it comes to these relationships. I’ve had experience with both and I’ve learned I need to set boundaries and take it slow. I have never had an issue with the three women i still am friends with on Facebook. We message each other about once a month but never get into our struggles other than to ask for prayers. Its very healthy and nice. I had a completely different story dealing with my other friend who also had an eating disorder so I know I have to be careful if I meet another sufferer in the future.

You have to save yourself first. This goes along with not allowing unhealthy relationships to last. Hannah had the most perfect analogy for it. In an airplane, they always announce to put your own oxygen on first and THEN help your neighbor. Recovery and life in general are so like that too. You have to take care of yourself. If you don’t, you’ll go down. I’ve learned how true this is. I tried to deliver my friend and fellow ED sufferer from her demons for months. I was more invested in her recovery than my own and I began to spiral. I ended up being led back to those words Hannah spoke at FV. It was painful and one of the hardest decisions to make, given my tendency to fix people, but I ultimately had to sever the relationship. I can’t be a good friend if I’m not here because I let this disorder kill me. Instead of always serving others first, I have begun to heal my own wounds. (Note: I feel my relationships with people who may struggle now are not in any way inhibiting my recovery. They both push me to do better as I push them. It’s perfectly balanced and healthy! 🙂 )

You can’t choose recovery (long term) for anyone else. One of my first days I was asked why I had come. It was a valid question and one I couldn’t fully answer. My mom was the one who called and set everything up, so she was a good excuse even if I technically could have refused. Honestly at that point it was probably for my family and a few friends. I even stretched it to say I did it for Paul. I used basically any reason other than “for me” because it wasn’t for myself. I was in such a dark place that I would have been okay with dying a slow and miserable death from anorexia. Right away, Hannah called me out on my justification for being there. She was happy I came to treatment at all, but she warned me that doing this for others would quickly wear thin. That it did. Not at Forest View or even weeks after, but eventually I wanted to give up. I didn’t want to recover. I could care less about myself. I had so many other people and outside reasons that were completely valid but it still wasn’t enough. I didn’t want recovery for myself one bit. I hated myself. This threw me into relapse where I finally saw truth in Hannah’s warning. Even if I still have my bad days or weeks, I choose recovery each day because I want to get better. I have a thousand other reasons as well but my main propellant is recovering so God can use me in the future and so that I’ll be here for it. I have worth and I deserve to live. I may get discouraged but the only way to make it through is by saving myself.

Positive spin. Hannah was a stickler on this. My second day was preceded by a very hard night. I couldn’t come close to my meal plan and I thought I was a failure for that. During check-in for ED group I mentioned how I could only manage ¼ of my dinner. She immediately told me to stop and not say another word until I put a positive spin on it. I changed it to “I tried my best and had ¼ of my dinner.” I was annoyed and very skeptical. My dad already gave me the “think positive” speech about 2314 times so I had extreme doubt this could work. How would switching around a few words change a thing? Regardless of how I felt, I quickly learned to say the positive side of things, no matter how bad it was. I dropped this habit after FV, only picking it back up after my most recent relapse. I’ve realized how a small positive spin can change my thinking and ultimately the outcome of my day. If I’m stuck in the “I’m a failure” mindset I often give up on recovery. Believing I’ve done my best and that I’m a work in progress leads to more success and energy to fight. It sounds silly but it helps me!

No “good” or “bad” foods. ALL foods fit into a healthy meal plan. I was so angry at Ludie when she explained this concept. Not only did I not believe her, but I was truly upset by it. How could pizza or ice cream or white bread be HEALTHY?!?!?!?! My eating disorder convinced me she was a liar. I completely agree with her now though. The best days I’ve experienced are not where I only have fruits and vegetables. I enjoy life so much more when I venture into the forbidden food options. I remind myself often that plenty of healthy, balanced people have a cookie every once in a while and aren’t focused on eating “clean.” It’s still hard on most days but I am beginning to see past the eating disorder’s lies in this area. I never would have gotten here without all of the unwanted “there are no bad foods” talks at Forest View.

Refeeding. I’ve mentioned refeeding and my experience with it some, but I don’t believe I ever spoke of what I was warned of at FV. Everyone there, most specifically Ludie and the doctors, warned us of refeeding. I watched T go through various symptoms like bloating and edema. II even had a little phosphorus scare my first week. You’d think I would have listened and prepared myself for the refeeding that was sure to come. Instead I lived in denial for months. I truly wanted to die the first time I experienced it. I felt I was being punished for choosing recovery and became discouraged. Ludie’s words rang through and were the only thing that helped: be gentle, keep eating, don’t be discouraged, treat yourself with love. Refeeding is not a myth. Don’t ever believe you’re invincible to it as I did.

Get off the scale. The Forest View staff were very adamant in having every patient stay away from numbers, specifically or weights. They weighed us backwards each morning and never gave out numbers (except to S who somehow found out she only gained a pound in her first week). All I knew during my time in treatment is that my weight stabilized after I lost five days in a row. My parents kept me off the scale for about a week after FV, then lost interest in monitoring me. I don’t get how that was ever a good idea, but the second they stopped watching I stepped back on. My addiction to the scale escalated even more after treatment. I went on it first thing each morning and up to 10 times more through the rest of the day. My mood, eating patterns, and self worth all depended on that number. I wouldn’t allow myself to gain more than X pounds during a day. If I didn’t lose weight I felt like a failure. If I gained I would restrict heavily and exercise. I spent a huge majority of the last 9 months being trapped by that scale. In my moments of real recovery I saw how damaging it was. I still didn’t want to give it up, however. Only since I smashed my scale last week have I seen how right everyone at FV was. I no longer have to start my days with that terrible habit. I thought it would be scary not to know what I weigh constantly, but instead I’ve found a freedom that I never want to go away.
Recovery is still so hard a lot of day and I’m nowhere near recovered, but I am finally at a point where I know the truth and see through the lies this disorder has fed me. I thank God for my time at Forest View and all I’ve learned. Recovery is a long road but one I am going to continue on thanks to the staff at FV, Jenny, my support, and mostly, my wonderful Savior, and mostly, my own strength.