Last session with S, first with J

In the midst of crazy exam, I had my last appointment with S until next fall. To say I was an emotional wreck is no exaggeration. It was so much like every other session we’ve had: laughter, honesty, tough love, goals, and some assignment I completely hated but ultimately is good for me. To all of that add tears, and lots of them.

I wrote her a card earlier that day and bawled for an hour cried some writing it. I had trouble even putting to words all she has done for me this year. A quick run down of what I appreciate: her tough love no BS attitude, that she helped me get treatment, pushing me when I dug in my feet, dealing with my constant sass, truly caring, helping me find myself again, being exactly the therapist I needed. She is amazing at her job and I really felt she deserved to know how much she means to me. I wanted her to read it in session, so I had her do that while she forced me to work on the assignment I started the week before. I kept glancing over and saw her crying, then started crying and we were both a mess.

While we weren’t “having allergy issues,” we talked about goals for the summer. She didn’t focus on the ED stuff. Obviously I want to do well and control disordered thoughts as they come, but that being my whole summer would be so sad. Smaller goals include making a bucket list for York (which I shall talk about soon!), spending time with friends, and getting out in nature as much as possible. My favorite thing we talked about is a daily photo journal. My challenge is to take one photo a day that makes me happy, shows God’s blessing in my life, or is a part of beautiful creation that somehow has meaning to me. I also can’t obsess over editing or taking the “perfect” photo and have to limit looking at the screen after snapping and time spent in photoshop. So far, being 6 days in, I absolutely love it. I write a few sentences to go with each day and I can already tell this photo journal will be so special to document my summer. I definitely plan on posting my adventure here soon. At the end I thanked her once again and we hugged/cried some more. Walking out was so very bittersweet. I’m sad to leave her for the summer but I know I’m going to have so many stories and progress to share when I come back.

Today I met with J again for the first time this summer. I hadn’t seen her since the day I got back from residential. I was so nervous (why? I have no clue) walking back into her office! For some reason I feared that we wouldn’t click again or I would be awkward or something otherwise bad would happen. It didn’t feel weird or awkward one bit. Going into her office felt like being home again. Immediately I was so happy to be back.

It was nice to catch her up on everything that’s happened since I last saw her. I loved being able to tell her all of my progress, fun things that happened, and hopes for the future. I also was very open and honest about the struggles I’ve faced, namely my relapse. We talked about what led up to it, how serious/what it entailed, how and why I came out, what we can do to prevent another when things start going bad, and the new hope it has given me. I truly feel like I relapsed so I could learn exactly what I need to fight for. J completely agreed, and in her prayer at the end (our traditional closing) she specifically thanked God for it.

After catching we talked goals and what I need from her. Ever since residential, I’ve really learned what helps and what doesn’t when it comes to therapy. The two most helpful things, even though I HATE it, are tough love/pushing me to do my best and assignments. J said she definitely will do both. Plenty of assignments I fight against but are really for my good and J stretching me to do better are in the near future. I told her about my goals for the summer from S and we also talked about some to add. She loves the photo journal as much as I do and can’t wait to see them, especially since she enjoys my photography (a print I gave her last summer now hangs in her office 🙂 ). My relationship with God still isn’t anywhere near being repaired. I already wanted to do something to grow closer to Him again, but J helped me find specifically how I can make that happen this summer. She gave me the ACTS acronym for prayer/journaling, is having me write to Him daily, wants me to continue my happy journal, and restart the ED devotional I have. I’m looking forward to the spiritual growth I so need. Her promise to me, beyond being her wonderful self as a therapist, is giving me an assignment every week to torture challenge me. I know having J by me this summer as I work toward health and these goals is just what I need. I am excited to see all the growth that is to come.

I am so lucky to have two very different therapists who are equally amazing for me. I thought it would be really hard switching for summer. (Would I miss S too much? Would J do enough? Would I love J too much to ever be okay with S again? Was I going to lose my mind and cry and struggle?) All of my fears have been squashed and I’m looking forward to working with J again. Her more gentle style is going to be perfect for this time where I’m not so stressed with school and everything going on. S and her no BS way is great at helping me through all of the emotions, triggers, and stressors when I’m back at school. God has truly blessed me with giving each of them at the time I need their help the most.

What this year has taught me

My first year at Calvin went nothing like I expected or wanted. Last September I was 100% confident in my recovery after a bandaid week inpatient. I would finish out all of my pre-reqs in one year to enter nursing the next fall. Not long after relapse hit, then worse relapse, and soon I was left with failing grades and really no choice but residential. That was the best choice for me and part of why I am in a good place now, but even after has been a huge rollercoaster. This unexpected year has taught me so much more about myself and what I can do.

  1. I don’t need to be perfect. I’ve struggled with perfectionism since I can remember, but that has been challenged constantly this year. I had to quit halfway through a semester, changed my entire timeline for classes, was late to class, forgot to do assignments, let down friends, and in general messed up a million times. Was I a failure because of it? Not at all. I make mistakes but that’s just part of being human. I can’t spend my life believing it isn’t.
  2. Disappointment is okay. There have been so many areas where I’ve felt disappointed in myself or the situation going on. Its okay to feel sad about the way things have happened but dwelling on it as I have in the past only makes it worse.
  3. My grades aren’t as important as my health. I would never have left college without being pulled out if I didn’t believe this just a little. Ever since coming back from residential I’ve done my best to put my recovery first. If I needed more time to relax or use skills or do yoga, I made time. My grades aren’t what they could have been, had I created more stress for myself and possibly even slipped more into the ED. I would rather never have an A again than cause more harm to my body and mind.
  4. I am strong. I have been through some really hard shit this year. I wanted to give up so many times. I easily could have. I didn’t because my will to fight is stronger than any hopelessness I may face. How else could I come back from my recent relapse on my own?
  5. Others help, but I am the one who makes the changes. I could go to therapy 7 times a week and still not get one step closer to recovery. Anybody else can put in the blood, sweat, and tears to get me better but unless I do, its futile. The progress I’ve made has been possible, in part, due to others but mostly because I took each baby step to get closer to where i want to be.
  6. I determine my progress. I know I’ve said this over and over but it has been an important part of my process. Ever since week two of residential I haven’t allowed anyone else to determine whether I am doing well or not. I know when I’ve made positive change and I can give myself that praise instead of relying on others to do so.
  7. I can feel joy. I never though I would be this happy again. I figured I was meant to be miserable until I died. That isn’t true at all. I’m filled with more joy than I ever thought I could experience. Its all because I’ve been finally working hard enough in recovery to see how beautiful life is and how much I am blessed.
  8. Everything is better when you have good people to do it with. I love having my people at school. We played euchre and other card games, had Survivor nights, ate together, did homework, and enjoyed each other’s presence. Friends have made my day go from terrible to fun and light in just a few minutes. I was always a loner but now some of my happiest moments are with others.
  9. Sharing my story is amazing. I have been completely open about my struggles on social media, here, with my friends, and when people ask questions. I was so ashamed to suffer from mental illness and my ED before. Instead, now I tell my story so I can help others and feel free. Its the bet decision I could have made.
  10. I CAN and should love myself. Self-love has become a part of my daily life. I’ve never felt that before. I can’t really explain how it happened, but at some point I began to accept my flaws and realize I am worthy of love. Now I see no reason why I shouldn’t!
  11. Life is so much better without being held back. I used to avoid so many things and let my ED/MH issues control my life. It was dull, I felt trapped, but now I am free. I can go eat random foods at parties, actually want to hang out with friends, feel confident, and be spontaneous. I can do anything I set my mind to.

I can’t help but smile and cry tears of joy considering all of the positive change I’ve had this year!

TFHR 5/10/16

So my first TFHR or Thoughts, Feelings, Happenings, and Ramblings. I wanted to have post series where I can just write about what’s going on and how I am and whatever else is on my mind. This will be sporadic and random, but hey so is life 🙂

Holy shoot. I have two days left of classes, a long weekend home, and then exams Monday, Wednesday, and two Thursday. Then I am done(!!!). Whoa.

Thoughts

  • How the heck did my first year at Calvin go by so fast??? Well I guess taking half a semester to go to residential probably helped
  • I can do this!!!! This is part truth but mostly hoping at this point, because there is a ton to do.
  • I cannot wait to get back to work and see all of my favorites again!
  • Olive 24/7 is only 9 days away
  • I have to do ____ (insert studying, packing, exams, projects, etc)
  • About a billion other things I’m too lazy to write :p

Feelings

  • Bittersweet. Its going to be hard leaving school and my new friends/life here, but I’m also really looking forward to being at home again.
  • STRESSED. Does this even need an explanation?
  • Excited. I get to see J, my home therapist in two weeks ❤
  • Sad. This also means I have just 2 appointments with S left until next fall 😦
  • Annoyed. Both times I was at the dining hall they didn’t have protein options for me to eat! For lunch I came back and had an early afternoon snack of a smoothie with greek yogurt. Dinner it was supposed to have mashed potatoes and gravy with turkey, but no turkey was left. I was so done that I just had an ensure back at my dorm.

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Happenings

  • Last Monday I was rock climbing with my friend for an entire hour, no problem. She left for a meeting and I stuck around and joined a group who was bouldering. Basically bouldering is climbing without a rope and the routes go maybe 20-25 ft up highest. I was on a bouldering route with my feet 10-15 ft off the ground, and then I slipped. On my fall down I hit my elbow super hard. Being me, I completely ignored the pain and kept on climbing for another half hour, untill the people I was with freaked out about how swollen my elbow was. I spent the next morning in two doctors offices and found out: a) I didn’t break it, b) it was probably dislocated the day before but popped back in while sleeping, and c) I bruised my bone (basically this means the outer layer of the bones is inflamed/cells are broken and it takes weeks longer to heal than your average bruise). So now I have been wearing a super annoying wrap and have been using my new ice pack and otc pain relief like there’s no tomorrow. Gotta love being injury-prone!

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  • Sunday I went out to lunch with my dad! He was delivering my meds and decided to come for lunch since my brother and mom were at the Tigers game. We went out to Arnie’s and I had a chicken philly sandwich with fries. They also give you a free cupcake! I had it later that day and they never disappoint. I convinced him to go to my favorite exotic pet store and grab me a slurpee before dropping me back off too 🙂

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  • I’ve spent quite a bit of time at the nature preserve the past week and I love it!
  • I went to the last Calvin Improv show of the year last Saturday and it was beyond amazing. They’re a very talented a hilarious group!
  • Random college craziness: a boys floor running outside and playing in the rain; huge dance party in the turnaround outside my window; Star Wars day themed dinners in the dining hall; watching Sid the tailless squirrel videos (he eats out of your hands and will come into the apartment over in upperclassmen housing); stories of campus safety being called when someone couldn’t find their bike in the bike room of their dorm, leading to campus safety finding their bike in said bike room; teaching two kids to play euchre; dorm cookout where 1/5 of my floor awkwardly sat in the middle of the cornhole field because they didn’t have near enough chairs; prayer tent with someone praying all/most of 24 hrs; people “mocking” everywhere, including triple bunks and 20ft up in a tree.

Ramblings

  • I heard “The Nights” by Avicii today and every. single. time. it comes on all I can think of is the dumb dance they made us learn (over and over and over) at freshman orientation. Since we’re the Knights the orientation team thoughts it was SO clever to use this song. Cheesy as can be but admittingly I may or may not start dancing to it when I’m alone.
  • I have gotten so terrible at procrastinating this semester but at the same time I feel like my best work gets done at past midnight the night before. Am I the only one? I always attempt to get at least part of it done (research, outline, etc) but every time it just ends up in the same scenario. Maybe next year I will learn to get to sleep before 2am but also maybe not because I kinda love it.

That’s all folks!

If you have any thoughts, feelings, happenings, or ramblings you’d like to share, I would love to hear them!

Nature preserve photos

I’ve gone twice this week to Calvin’s nature preserve, which is just across on the east side of campus. Its been a huge stress reliever and I absolutely love it. There are so many beautiful things to photograph and here are some of my (unedited) favorites 🙂

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The teeny white poof at the bottom of the crevice/V is an owlet
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mom/dad owl

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Stretch marks

Warning: this post is real and raw, as is the photo included. It is exactly what I see and feel everyday.

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I noticed my first stretch marks a few months after discharge from Forest View PHP. I was appalled and I remember crying for well over an hour. It sent me into a small spiral of restriction. Back then I felt like many other women: stretch marks and any scars or other “imperfections” are seen as disgusting and unwanted. That is why I couldn’t handle looking at my thighs for a long time. I closed my eyes anytime I was getting dressed. The only time I wore a swimsuit was with shorts on.

As time went on and I stayed a stable weight, thanks to mild restriction, my marks faded.I could barely see them which meant others couldn’t either. My body image improved in the slightest. Honestly I just forgot I even had stretch marks for around a year since I had so many other ED thoughts/body image issues/behaviors/etc to deal with.

Coming back form residential I couldn’t hide from it anymore. I gained more stretch marks than ever before and I’m not using my eating disorder to distract me. There are the old, white and subdued, and new, angry red and impossible to ignore. This is what I see every single time I look down at my thighs. Its my choice how I let if affect me.

I won’t lie, this has been HELL to get through. I have broken down and doubted my recovery over some imperfections in my skin. How incredibly sad is that?

My view of the stretch marks is slowly changing. I didn’t gain them for nothing. They are a package deal with my recovery, and I want that more than anything. My body has grown bigger and stretched in ways it hasn’t in years. I neglected and starved it and upon receiving nourishment it became healthy again. There is no way at all I could be so committed to recovery and life if my body wasn’t changed to the way it is now.

I have earned these stretch marks. All of the ensures I’ve downed, tears I’ve cried, emotions I’ve dealt with, thoughts I’ve overcome, and every ounce of strength has resulted in them. I am proud of the work it took to come here. My body is not perfect by today’s standards but it is healthy. It deserves my love.

My stretch marks will probably never go away on their own. I fully believe I can get to a point where I won’t want them to. They signify my struggle and resiliency. My entire recovery is represented in those lines. Its time to own it.

I may not be able to say I love these marks yet, but one day I will.

 

 

 

Eating recovery day

Its been crazy with projects and papers and tests. Finals week is in two weeks and all the stress is happening. I probably won’t be posting much until after that. Today I decided to write one because its Eating Recovery Day! This is put on/sponsored by Eating Recovery Center. I would definitely recommend going to their facebook page and watching the live stream videos. Candace Cameron and two recovered patients who went to ERC speak on their recoveries, as well as professionals and Jenni Schaefer. I really enjoyed it.

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July 2015 / April 2016

There is a world of difference between these photos. On the left I was in Ludington, my favorite place in the entire world. My family and I were on vacation yet I was too wrapped up in my eating disorder to even enjoy it. I restricted and avoided even my favorite restaurants/meals. I constantly thought of ways to exercise more. I only put my swimsuit on to go tubing and always covered up with shorts and a life vest. I didn’t enjoy much of anything and I was miserable. I don’t even remember much of that vacation. That photo goes beyond just my time during that week. It was my life for years, minus the small bouts of quasi-recovery. Constant fatigue, looking half-dead, putting every ounce of energy into my eating disorder, grey skin, wishing I were dead, body checking and weighing myself, losing interest in everything I love, losing relationships, avoiding foods I once loved, feeling weak, isolation, anxiety, thinning hair, and passing out are only a portion of what I’ve experienced in my eating disorder. I could smile and put on a fake front as much as I wanted to, as seen in this photo, but it never completely hid the illness that was destroying me from the inside out.

The right photo was taken just a few days ago. Mentally, physically, emotionally I am in a place very far from where I have ever been. I cannot remember a time where I’ve felt more alive and hopeful for the future. Recover has helped me gain weight, yes, but also a life worth living. I look healthy. My eyes are bright, my hair is growing back again, my skin has color, my eyes are less sunken (minus the permanent bags under them because I get no sleep), and my smile is REAL. Food and exercise and calories no longer take up my thoughts. I am able to eat alone in the dining hall, follow my meal plan, keep from overexercising, have my once feared foods, let my body grow stronger, enjoy spontaneous pizza or dessert from friends, honor my hunger, exercise in a healthy way, hold conversations, laugh and mean it, concentrate better in class, and put more energy into everything in my life. I am beginning to love myself and my body FINALLY.

Recovery is really, really hard. Although I’ve had a multitude of excuses and fears about entering into it, none of them really came true. I didn’t give up my purpose in life, I’ve only gained new ones. Instead of losing strength by not exercising anywhere near as much I am rebuilding the damage I’ve caused. My body image is slowly getting better than it was when I was deep in my sickness. The weight gain that was one of the main issues I had with recovery doesn’t bother me most days. I no longer have my once coveted “anorexic girl” title but not being defined by this disorder is freeing. All of the setbacks, relapses, tears, and moments where I wanted to give up are worth it. Recovery is more than I ever imagined for myself.

If you are struggling, take my story as proof that things can and will get better. My true self is still evolving and I know I’m going to love who I become. I am so much more than anorexia. The only way to get to a better place is to put your all into this. Invest in yourself, for yourself. Extrinsic motivation is absolutely fine to start recovery, but I’ve found to make it work you have to do it for you. Within the past few weeks I’ve realized this and it has been a huge turning point. Wherever you are and whatever your feelings or fears towards recovery, make those steps. As my friend says, you can always go back to the eating disorder, so why not at least try recovery? I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Writing this all makes me tear up and remember how thankful I am for my recovery. I am so blessed and proud of myself and my progress.