Halfway there!

The semester is officially half over and I’m on spring break! It’s crazy how long/fast the past 6 weeks in pediatrics were. I’m thankful for every second (okay, maybe not the stress) and it is by far my favorite placement in nursing so far.

I remember back to my first surgery, in 2009 when I was 14. I was naturally pretty terrified and uncertain about the decision. I’d never stayed in the hospital or had surgery before, and here I was about to have a major operation with 3 nights there. My experience was nothing short of wonderful. The staff was all amazing, especially my nurses. I have the fondest memories of how kind and helpful they were. Other than the whole pain thing, I enjoyed my stay. I vowed then that I would one day work in the medical field, but specifically at Devos. While my mind has changed a thousand times since then, I’ve now come to that same conclusion. I would love nothing more than to work in pediatrics (hopefully NICU!) in the very hospital that changed my life.

I’ll admit, I’ve cried more than a couple of times during this first half of the semester. I dealt with a ton of frustration, anxiety, some panic, stress, and exhaustion. There were late nights and some missed assignments. I made plenty of mistakes (which only added to my frustration). I lacked motivation at times. Despite everything, I ended Tuesday in the happiest of tears. I did it! I’m content with my grades overall and I feel like I put in as much as I could, considering my #1 job right now is recovery. It wasn’t an easy thing to balance, so I am trying to be proud of the accomplishment.

I am beyond grateful for peds rotation as a whole, my professors, the off unit experiences I had, and the floor nurses and patients. These 6 weeks confirmed a thousand times over how much nursing is my calling. Nursing school is tough. I’ve wanted to give up, but the interactions with patients and glimpses of the future I’ll have makes it all worthwhile.

After break, it’s OB time, and I’m getting pumped for that too! It’ll be weird to work with adults again, but I’m excited for the opportunity to witness birth and see more babies, of course. I already can tell I will like this area as well. Still, I think peds will hold my heart 🙂

Why aren’t you healed yet?

This coming summer will mark 3 years since entering into my first eating disorder specific treatment. My story has included over a month of partial, countless therapy sessions, outpatient dietitian, a week inpatient, 5.5 weeks residential, outpatient groups, and 2 months IOP.*

b87d9ae1c81560684d86d115a7b6e3fd

I experience hopelessness, guilt, shame, etc blah blah. These feelings have only intensified as I’ve heard talk of residential again. I have an overwhelming sense of failure. I’ve spent thousands of dollars and hours in different treatment settings. Would going back negate all I have accomplished?

It’s enough of an eternal battle I experience on the daily; however, things only increase as the judgments/opinions of others begin to seep in. I love my parents, but they do contribute. Whenever I have told them about stepping up my care, the looks on their faces kill me. Even if they were to say nothing (which is absolutely not the case) I would still be able to tell. It speaks disappointment to a level beyond anything else I’ve ever done. This Fall, I only stepped up to IOP/groups. I didn’t go away, quit school, etc, etc, etc. This still was hard for them to accept. On top of them, I will get the same signals from others who know of my journey. I find it almost a “not again” type of vibe.

What is this all telling me? There is something inherently wrong with me. I am a screw up. I will never get better. I am going to be one of those people who dies. I will never amount to anything. I am and always will be “the girl with the eating disorder.” People will see me as needy and helpless. My friends will give up on me. This list could continue all day, but I’m sure you get the idea.

The combination here drives home my own ideas while also combining them with the new ones. If I feel this way, I can just give up. Why would I need to fight Ed if it would never improve anyways?

My recovery is going to take time. I cannot begin to listen to other’s opinions here, for that will only bring about more shame. I have no idea how much longer I will deal with this, how many treatment centers I will go to, whether I’ll be on medications for the rest of my life. It could be another 6 months, but maybe 5 years. No matter what that length of time may be, it isn’t something I can afford to feel badly about. If there were a magic pill, you bet I could have taken it years ago so I could be recovered and good to get on with my life. While everyone in recovery would pay good money for it, such a thing doesn’t and will never exist. Instead, I have the job of being a badass against the eating disorder every single day and fighting to get my life back. I will. Someday, I will. It is not impossible just because I am not there today.

1493563

*I realize that my struggle may not be as “chronic/severe/bad” as others (or perhaps I am “worse” than some. Either way, it is my own and I am not willing to make comparisons.

I am proud of myself this week.

Honestly that feels pretty odd to say/think, but at this moment I believe it. I deserve a freaking gold star for getting through. I want to give myself that kind of recognition. I may wake up tomorrow and have a completely different view, so I am relishing in this moment to explain the “why” behind this amazing feeling.

Way back in residential/afterwards for a little while, I made a list of “weekly accomplishments” to showcase the progress I had made. Sometimes it was painful to come up with two examples, and others I had over a page. No matter what, seeing the positives laid out in front of me gave me a different, perhaps more realistic, view. One of the most common cognitive distortions I engage in is discounting the positives. This is a way to completely turn that around and add up the good rather than all the ways I’ve “failed.”

As R and I were talking through the distortions I frequent, she stressed how much of a concern this is for her and everyone at IOP/my treatment team. I could do something that seems so amazing to them, get a compliment or “wow, that’s progress” but shrug it off and come up with a counter. It is hard to see much progress from when I entered IOP in December to now. That is a long freaking time and too many hours in treatment to count.

As we were coming up with goals on how to change this, I mentioned my accomplishment lists I used during and shortly after residential. She immediately loved the idea and so it became my goal. I got out a beautiful new journal I had been saving for something worthy enough to use it for. Each week (Sun-Sat), I will jot down anything and everything I’ve done that brings me towards the person I hope to become. The hope is that this will slowly chip away at my negative views of my progress/self/recovery/hope/etc.

Just now, I read over everything I wrote down this week. This is why I feel some confidence and pride in how it has gone. Was I perfect? Did I follow my meal plan 100%? Did I complete every single assignment, attend every class? Was it a week free from struggle? Absolutely not! It would be completely wrong to say that I’ve done so outstanding and I am quickly pulling myself out of my struggles. The difference here is how I am looking at all that’s happened. I have spent so much time focusing on the wrong I’ve done, the “should’s,” comparisons, on and on and on. It is beyond time to try something different.

It’s pretty obvious that this is not going to be some easy fix where I suddenly will acknowledge everything they say as true. Even if I come in with the best intentions it is going to take time. These are thought patterns that are automatic, and pulling myself out of them is a challenge. In this moment, however, I will drink in my accomplishments from the past week. I will acknowledge the strength despite some really hard times. I’m going to keep moving forward, with my new journal to (hopefully) help grow confidence in myself and my recovery. This will be a process, one that I am finally ready to embrace.


I haven’t quite decided whether I will make a page on my blog like I did before, or perhaps just share bits and pieces of my journal. For this week, I’ll show everything written down, though.

4/09/17-4/15/17

  • ate dinner Sunday when I didn’t have to/want to
  • honesty in therapy
  • took time to collage and just enjoy
  • tried whipped Greek yogurt and kashi bars
  • bravely did not cancel my dietitian appt
  • attended support group without my two friends
  • made goals for the weekend and took in (although reluctantly) what my dietitian said
  • got housing set up for next year
  • back into blogging again ❤ 🙂
  • spent 2 hours “mocking” and not anything else
  • survived the car accident without allowing negative thoughts to fester, took care of myself, and gave myself GRACE (more on this soon)
  • spent time outside doing yoga
  • no skipped meds all week
  • stayed patient with my mom even though she has been difficult to deal with
  • SURVIVED – it was a rough one!

Dear body – end of 2016

Dear Body,

I would like to thank you for the 21+ years you have given me. You’ve faced many challenges, illnesses, injuries, surgeries, and everything I’ve done that brought harm. Despite it all, here you still are.

I am grateful what you have allowed me to do. You gave me the strength and endurance to play ten years of soccer. You make every summer in Ludington magical with all the activities you make possible: tubing, running down sand dunes, walking in the state park, swimming in Hamlin Lake, fishing. I am able to give and receive hugs with those I love most. My obsession and love for yoga wouldn’t be possible if you weren’t flexible and strong. I couldn’t dream of being a nurse one day and helping others without you being healthy enough to withstand the demands of the job. Someday I will chase my children and grandchildren around. You have gifted me endlessly. Even the parts of you I hate still are a blessing for reasons that are beyond what’s on the outside.

I am sorry for my abuse, hatred, neglect, and harm I have given you.

I am wearing you down. I know that if it doesn’t stop I will push you too far. I really can’t promise all of this will end soon or ever. I am going to try. When I’m stuck in that dark place, when I hate you and wish you were anything but the way you are, I hope I can remember the good. I will look to what you have given me and not what you are like on the outside.

I want to make amends. You deserve my love. Please be patient as I learn how to feed you, exercise in a healthier way, listen and cater to your needs, be nonjudgmental, repair as much of the damage I’ve caused that is possible, appreciate you more, be your friend and most of all, love you.

2017 will be different. I promise you that.

Emily

Resilience.

We had elder prayer for our final bible study last Tuesday. There were five elders from the church who came and prayed over each person individually. They had us write our names and one word/phrase to pray for. Resilience was mine. It is something I hold close and always try to remember when times are tough. I knew that was exactly what I need prayer over right now.

I have always pictured resilience in the same way. This goes back to my Forest View round 1 days. The group leader had a lesson on resilience which featured a picture of a tiny plant growing in a crack in the sidewalk. That’s what I think of, someone who grows out of an impossible situation and is able to overcome it. My phone background has been this photo for over two years now to remind me of my own resilience.blogity

As the elders began praying over me, I realized how different of a meaning resilience could take on. One of them gave the image of a bungee jumper. You would fall and struggle almost to the point of no return. Just before you hit bottom, the Lord will rescue you. I really love this analogy. I can bounce back from even the hardest things in life

Resilience has infinite meanings and is different for each person. I will strive to be resilient each day. A few of my favorite examples/definitions:

  • The capacity to prepare for disruptions, recover from shocks and stresses, and adapt and grow from a disruptive experience.
  • Bending not breaking
  • Bouncing back
  • “When you decide to give up on giving in” – Todd Carmichael
  • The ability to recover quickly from difficulties
  • You fail but keep on going

Ways I can practice resilience:

  • not giving up after having a hard day/week
  • use coping skills when I need them
  • reach out to others
  • listen to my treatment team as they push me forward in my recovery
  • giving myself grace
  • prayer and strength from God
  • leaning on my support people

 

How do you see resilience and practice it in your life?

Well hello there, Ed.

Nope, not referring to some dude I’ve met, a weird uncle, or the older guy at church. This is someone I’ve known for years: my eating disorder. 

This may sound vaguely familiar for those of you who’ve been here since the very beginning. If not, you also may have heard this tactic of naming the eating disorder in the ED community (Jenni Schaeffer books, some treatment centers, etc.) Though I haven’t talked in terms of “Ed” for over 2 years, I did spend the first almost year of treatment doing so.

Forest View was adamant about Ed. We wrote letters to Ed, consistently talked that way in groups. It taught me to separate who I am from my eating disorder for the very first time. If I could see these thoughts weren’t me, that gave me fuel to fight. I needed that. I needed any ounce of motivation and tools to kickstart my recovery.

Naturally, I brought Ed along for the step-down to outpatient therapy. J was supportive of the usage and it helped create progress in discovering who I was beyond my illness. I often would write letters to Ed, sometimes thanking him, others of submission, and sometimes fighting like hell. I wrote up my divorce papers and signed them on December 3, 2014 (one year in recovery from self-harm as well). Whenever the eating disorder voice got loud in session she would respond with “Hello, Ed” to remind me who was really doing the talking.

I’m not sure I would have gotten through those early months had I not used such a drastic change in my view of the disorder.

It ended pretty abruptly when my greatest physical support at the time told me I should stop. She claimed it only was making my eating disorder bigger than it was and giving it more power. Anorexia wasn’t a person and didn’t deserve a name. I listened to her and told J that we no longer were using “Ed.” I trusted this woman so much then and I think that was the main reason I gave in to what she said. I honestly don’t know if that was the right decision or if it was for the right reason, but either way it did happen.

Fast forward to my very first meeting with L. As I later found out, she was a meal support at FV and worked with the “Ed” technique. I hadn’t referred to Ed in over 2 years, so it was a surprise when it came up in our conversation. Even more surprising, I went with it.

I talk and think about Ed every day. One of my assignments, alongside food diaries and thought logs, is to write a short letter to Ed each day. I’ve had many different responses to him. Sometimes I am angry and tell him how much I hate what he does to me. Others it’s the exact opposite with praise for his role in my life. A few days ago I had a very sarcastic passive-aggressive letter which I find hilarious. Lately I have had more positive ones since I am growing more into my behaviors and thoughts.. Regardless, how I feel about my anorexia isn’t as important as recognizing what it does to me.

Sessions with L are definitely a flashback to 2014. L will tell me that it’s Ed talking just as J did. She sees the contrast from my true self. At this point, the healthy part of me rarely gets a word in. It can be pretty surprising at times. I believe these thoughts completely, yet they are Ed thoughts and not mine. I’m thankful

I am giving this faceless disorder a name. I am taking away its power by separating out my voice, the real me. I need to use Ed to distinguish between me and it. I’m so thankful L has brought this back to my recovery.

My Thanksgiving plan & how things went.

No, this doesn’t have anything to do with where I will be physically, what I’m wearing, etc. Having an eating disorder means lots of worry over holidays.

I am going to do my best to take care of myself which requires plans and back-up plans. I will get through tomorrow.

Have set food/exchanges for the meal. L and I worked together yesterday to figure out exactly how much and what I will have at dinner. One of the biggest stressors for me is going into any food situation without any ideas. Realistically I know this isn’t something I can always do; however, this is where I am today. Meal planning is what kept my anxieties down the most in residential and it’s exactly what I need to get through Thanksgiving. I will already have all I need on my plate before I have time to worry about portion sizes.

DBT skills. This is another residential trick I’m pulling out. I need distraction and a way to get through the ED thoughts. Because we have family around, it’s important for these skills I use to be discreet. My go-to use anywhere currently is my makeshift stress ball from CFD. It’s simple, basically rice inside of 2 balloon layers. That thing works magic! The consistency allows me to change the shape and squeeze it in my palm. We made our own during residential, but I actually took this one from the house as well because it’s perfect for me. There’s a very good chance this will be the skill I use at the dinner table. If not, I have travel size thinking putty. I can play with it in one hand while having the other free to eat. Outside of mealtime I have a few options to choose from. I absolutely love using my kinetic sand. There’s something incredibly peaceful about making shapes, writing words, or just feeling the texture. My lentils are another tactile one that instantly brings calm. I doubt I’ll use my large thinking putty but it’s another option. My biggest struggle will be actually pulling out my skills instead of wallowing.

Escape route. I am so thankful we have family over instead of going to a relative’s house. For one, this means I’m more comfortable. More importantly though, it gives me escape routes and places to hide it out. First and foremost is my room. The second I become too overwhelmed, I can head in and breathe a little. My mom will call this “antisocial” but given the circumstances I’m hoping she’ll get it. I most likely won’t close my door or anything, but just getting away from everyone else will be much needed. I can come in and play sims, blog, homework, love on Milo, etc.

Support. I love my mom and she is wonderful, but right now I can’t really go to her for support. For one, I’ve been lying and keeping my real status away from her. She thinks I am doing well and I really can’t hurt her. Given thi, I am turning to texting as a way of reaching out. I have my people (including my person <3) who will always be there. Heck, I am their text support too.

Prayer/asking the Lord for help. I cannot get through tomorrow alone and I shouldn’t have to. He wants to carry me as one of the hardest days of the year goes on. This is a valley for sure, but I’ve got to stay strong in Him.


I had these hopes going into the day that simply didn’t happen. My day brought restricting, tears, isolating, and being the worst person as I let my mom down. I feel like a failure, I really do. What I’m trying to learn, though, is that I cannot fail if I really tried. Eating anything is better than not eating. L is drilling this into my brain.

While I could sit and list off all of the things I couldn’t do, I will instead focus on the parts of my plan that did work out.

My biggest victory was in taking care of my needs via my escape routes. I was having a really hard time being with all of my family. It’s overwhelming even if I’m just sitting in the room where they’re all talking. I stuck it out for the half hour before dinner by distracting myself with my computer and TV in the background. After we ate I went straight to my room. I got some much needed chinchilla therapy and calmed down some. That wasn’t enough because my grandma and others would come in, so I left for my parents’ bedroom. I was able to close the door and just sit on my phone. I watched a few videos and drowned out the noise outside. I know that sticking it out with everyone would have made it all 10x more miserable. I am glad I could recognize that.

I used my skills! My stress rice balloon didn’t really leave my hand the whole night. I was constantly playing with it to get my focus on anything other than the disordered thoughts running through my head.

I may not have come close to completing my set meal plan, but it did help simply to use it as a starting point. I put all of the exchanges on my plate so that I could see exactly what I needed. There was little chance that I would finish it all to begin with, so I didn’t feel quite as bad when I didn’t. Regardless of the percentage I did eat, planning ahead of time helped. I ate more than I would have otherwise.

I am not very proud of Thanksgiving. I wish things would have gone better. My emotional state was terrible and consisted of many crying spells over not being at CFD. ED thoughts were on loudspeaker. As much as I really don’t want to, I am giving myself some grace. I did what I could. The day is over and now it’s time to keep going.

Dietitian

I have never had a dietitian who has worked with me and pushed me more than L (and also N at CFD <3). I’ve met with her only twice so far but I can just tell that this is exactly what I need. I admit, I was extremely skeptical and just assumed it would be terrible and I would have to pay hundreds to see someone else. Thank God I was very wrong about that.

The first moment we sat down was kinda terrifying. I’m not sure what all was going on but I do know how nervous I was. Would she make me go on a huge meal plan? Could I use my CFD meal plan still? Did she believe in the FV mealplan? Was it going to be once a month or something and not even be often enough to help at all? Did she really even know EDs that well?

All of that anxiety and worry was for nothing. We clicked right away. I’ve only had the experience of going into some form of treatment and being so comfortable/optimistic/certain it would help a few times. J, basically everything about CFD, and now L.

When we first met, she confirmed that it would be best to continue the meal plan I had been used to. Insert HUGE sigh of relief by me. How I had been eating wasn’t great. I skipped meals and restricted. The first goal was have 3 meals per day. That was scary but felt attainable at the same time. I didn’t quite make it there that first week. I felt pretty guilty as I headed into her office. She wasn’t pessimistic like I thought. She was happy that I accomplished 3 meals nearly every day. There wasn’t any expectation for me to be perfect from the beginning. This week’s goal is eat 3 meals again and hit slightly more than half of the mealplan I left CFD with. Again, she made this in a way that wasn’t too large a step from where I was but also not stagnate.

The two sessions I’ve had with her go very much like a therapy session. I never thought I needed or wanted this but it is a game changer. She really wants to know my thought processes. It isn’t just “how much did you eat? what did you eat? behaviors?”etc. Last week she instead presented a deeper conversation. L isn’t just concerned about the food. I shared my fears, what has triggered ED thoughts, significant events that happened, my treatment experiences, what helps/doesn’t help me, and anything else relevent to the struggles I am having with food. I can tell how much she values getting to know me and my eating disorder inside and out.

I’ve gotten some good suggestions and challenges so far. A huge surprise was her giving other options for supplementation than Ensure. She wasn’t saying Boost or one of the many other nasty, chemical tasting options used in the ED treatment world. Her goal is to find something I can use if I need that doesn’t taste like liquid punishment. I am a little weirded out by the freedom, actually. I’m not sure what exactly I’ll go with (or whether I’ll switch at all). I do only have 6 Ensure left, so the time to switch can be now. Two challenges came hand-in-hand: doing a comprehensive thought-tracking with my meal plan tracking and writing letters to “Ed.” I was 100% on board with the first part the second she said it. Letters to Ed, on the other hand, was a little flashback to FV (sidenote: she actually worked there as lunch support on Saturdays AND I met her during my inpatient stay!). I sat there not buying into it at first. I convinced myself she was wrong and this was a stupid idea, but decided to give it a try to prove how little it would help. As of now I really enjoy my thought logs and actually think the letters to Ed are helpful too.

Overall, I am very hopeful that this will bring growth and change. L is already becoming a vital support in my recovery. I am thankful that I made the decision to push past fear and see a dietitian again.

Giving Thanks – Nov 7&8

I have had a busy few days so this one is combined for yesterday and Monday

Today I am thankful for: YOGA.

When I tried out yoga for the first time in high school, I didn’t really get much out of it. I’m not quite sure why, maybe the fact that it was in a gross work out room, the videos were terrible, or I couldn’t accept it as something that made me appreciate my body. Regardless, I took a 2 year break. I rediscovered yoga the fall of my senior year and haven’t looked back since.

The past 3 years, my practice has changed my view of myself and my body. I feel strong and empowered. Pulling out my mat is the second best way to calm my anxiety/emotions (first is spending time with God).

In my eating disorder, yoga has taught me to appreciate my body. I can love my body for all of the difficult practices and poses I am able to do. This has been the best form of movement for me because it is not about burning calories. Ever since residential, however, going back on the mat has been hard. My body is different from it once was: larger in size, stretch marks, cellulose, weight gain. Entering into a practice meant having to face many of these things. It is almost impossible not to notice the changes when you’re being so mindful during yoga.

I spent months avoiding something I had once loved so dearly. Thankfully, I am finally coming out of my slump now. Yoga has once again become something I look forward to and thoroughly enjoy. My day has been long, stressful, and just plain sad. ED thoughts were loud as well. My best decision was getting out my mat and going through a 45 minute video. My outlook changed immediately and I could breathe again.

I’ve worked hard to get back here. I now can cherish and appreciate every moment on my mat because of my journey.


 

Today I am thankful for: SOVEREIGNTY. 

It’s election day. A majority of our country is so focused on voting and election results, as if what happens could be so catastrophic that the entire world would end. I completely get this. The president is seen as someone who holds all of the power in our country. Not only that, but the US is judged by the world based on who our leader is. This year is particularly nerve-wracking as the prospect of both candidates seems so bleak. A lot seems to be riding on the decisions we the people will make.

While I certainly do have fears if one candidate is elected, I am not making it my number one concern. He or she will have their four year run. They’ll make mistakes, get our country into trouble, develop bad policies, stand for values many of us can’t agree with, and promote an image to the public that is harmful.

No matter what, there is only one ruler who truly matters: God. We can clearly define and set limits as to what the president can do. While he or she can serve as a figurehead, influence the people in our nation, and pass laws, they will never be able to single-handedly control every American or overtake the entire world. God, on the other hand, is limitless.

I love the way Theopedia has explained sovereignty:

The Sovereignty of God is the biblical teaching that all things are under God’s rule and control, and that nothing happens without His direction or permission. God works not just some things but all things according to the counsel of His own will (see Eph. 1:11). His purposes are all-inclusive and never thwarted (see Isa. 46:11); nothing takes Him by surprise. The sovereignty of God is not merely that God has the power and right to govern all things, but that He does so, always and without exception. In other words, God is not merely sovereign de jure (in principle), but sovereign de facto(in practice).

We should take comfort in this. God is God. He doesn’t get taken aback by anything that happens. As Christians, we need to take this lens of who God is and apply it to the most pressing item on every American’s mind: this election.

Regardless of the results, at least half of the American people will be in disarray tomorrow. It’s a hard reality to face when the person you so badly believed was bad for this country ends up the next president.

We can wake up, accept what has happened, and turn back to God. Our country needs prayer. It needs us to step up and be His hands and feet.

 

Whatever the results of this election are, we can rest in the truth that the King of Kings is above the man or woman who is set to rule our country for the next 4 years.

 

Giving Thanks – Nov 3

Today I am thankful for: MY DIETITIAN.

I met with my new dietitian, L, for the second time today. It makes the ED part of me want to run, but that’s the point. She is exactly what I need, what the healthy me needs.

There is so much I can and will share about this experience so far. For now, 3 reasons I already feel blessed beyond measure:

  1. Two parter: she came in today specifically for me and had our session go for and hour and 15 minutes. This is only our second session yet she cares enough to give me the time and scheduling I need.
  2. She is beyond willing to work with where I am. She doesn’t expect change overnight and listens to me fully. The goals we have set are what both of us feel comfortable with. Also, I still get to use my CFD meal plan which is comforting and familiar.
  3. She will push and give new ideas. A good chunk of our meeting today was spent with her asking me the hard questions and digging deeper into why I have been doing poorly. A goal for this week is a technique I haven’t used in almost two years, but I feel like this is a good chance for a second go around.

God put L in my life right now for a reason. I cried out for help and He answered. She is a part of my recovery now and I am already grateful for it.