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.*

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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.

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*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.