In vs going through: the power of wording

I often pay special attention to words and how the choice of them can easily change meaning. I love writing, so this makes sense of course.

I’ve heard many ways others and treatment providers talk about recovery. Some say they are recovered, working on recovery, trying to recover, in recovery, and, most recently, a girl mentioned going through recovery. Those last two seem very different as I’ve thought more about it.

Being in recovery brings a picture of someone running a marathon. There may be twists and turns, hills, valleys, areas where they’ll need to walk, stations to fill up with water or go to the bathroom. What they’re doing takes tons of energy. They have to care for themselves in order to continue. Sometimes they feel like giving up, but they persist anyways. The end is a celebration, whether they PRed or took way longer than expected.

Going through recovery sounds like someone stuck in the woods and trying to get out. Maybe they have a guide or GPS, or perhaps they’re all alone. The ending isn’t defined. They may not have prepared for this at all, but they’re stuck and trying anyways. If not, they could be in the woods forever.

As I think of these two situations, I can dissect where I am. I’ve said many times that I’m in recovery. It doesn’t necessarily feel right, especially not when I’ve been specifically asked how long I’ve been there. Technically I’ve spent nearly 4 years in varying levels of treatment, but does that mean I was in recovery the whole time?

At this moment i think I’m much closer to the “going through” option. I feel so lost at times. I know there is a life outside the woods, but I don’t always fully believe it. I have tools, skills, supports, my team, IOP, etc but I choose not to use these things much of the time. It also makes me think of going through the motions of recovery which I certainly am. Therapy, challenge lunch, dietitian, work, IOP, work, repeat. Sometimes it feels like I’m just waiting for the next day of treatment and doing no work in between.

I want to be more in recovery, not just going through it. I am tired of being where I’m at. To me, taking that active step would mean choosing to work hard, putting (real) effort in, and remembering what life I’m fighting for.

So a few questions for anyone who reads this: what do you think about my interpretation? Have you considering what wording with recovery changes? Where do you feel you’re at? Also if you have other explanations/meanings I would love to hear your insights!

What this backsliding has brought

  • The words “we may need to think about higher treatment if..”
  • Crying during or after more meals than not.
  • Hating the person in the mirror. She is too much, too large, yet not enough in every other way.
  • Doubting my treatment team all over again.
  • Temptations leading to urges leading to actions leading to guilt.
  • More and more of each day being consumed with ED thoughts.
  • Not even having to think before using behaviors; being somewhat scared over how automatic it’s become.
  • Every dietary suggestion feeling impossible.
  • Excuses, excuses, excuses.
  • Avoiding church when I once attended 1-3 times a week.
  • The immense pain a forced smile or “I’m good” can bring.
  • Basic self-care as an afterthought, if at all.
  • Near absent motivation for school, to the point of some failing grades and flat out skipping assignments, classes, etc.
  • From “stuck” between ED and recovery to dipping another toe into the ED world.
  • Isolating – coming out of my room for treatment, classes, and not much else.
  • Another semester of missing out on all things that scream “normal college experience.”
  • Cutting corners in all aspects of life because there’s no energy to do otherwise.
  • Not remembering the last time I talked to a [school] friend outside of class.
  • The numbers obsession multiplying every moment.
  • Seeing “that face” on the ones who hear the truth.
  • Ever-consuming numbness.
  • Giving in to cognitive distortions and irrational thought.
  • “In my head” most of the time.
  • So many wasted hours – spent on nothing of substance whatsoever.
  • Guilt for how I’m really doing then lying/hiding it from others.
  • Emotional, physical, mental exhaustion that nothing will fix.
  • Spiraling out of control faster than I realize.

Nearing the end of my time at IOP, I began slipping back into the ED some. I never truly 100% completed my meal plan, not ever since before I even started treatment. I was doing much better and then shit happened. I’ve been overwhelmed by ED thoughts, anxiety, and depression which has led to more behaviors than I even anticipated. This is going to be a reminder, the reasons that full-blown relapse will not serve me. I can still come out of this. I need to.


Well, it’s been over a month. Plenty has happened, and a myriad of things have kept me from blogging (school, finishing up IOP, stress of all lovely sorts, depression/anxiety, and not much energy or motivation for anything. I’ve hated the break but it was probably necessary. I hope to be back now. I won’t promise any schedule, but I have over 30 drafts sooo there shouldn’t be a lack of topics to write on.

 

Fall 2013 v 2014 v 2015 v 2016

*I am considering fall September – early December because this is the first trimester/semester of school*

Fall 2013

  • Senior year of high school, 1/2 time HS classes and 1/2 college classes at the local community college = stress
  • Self harm:
    • doing my best to completely end the addiction after struggling for 6+ years of bruising/hitting and ~1 year of cutting
    • being therapy for the first time because my parents noticed and were angry once they realized I was cutting
    • entered complete recovery on December 3rd and haven’t slipped up majorly since then
  • Depression:
    • worse than I’ve ever experienced before
    • lots of isolation, low self-esteem, internalizing feelings despite therapy
  • Anxiety:
    • extremely high with balancing high school + college classes
    • occasionally suffered from panic attacks (a new symptom I’d never dealt with before)
    • same constant worries I’ve had since I was born. okay probably not but as long as I can remember so basically
  • Therapy:
    • was meh at best
    • went every week and every other sometimes
    • at least I liked her a lot
    • no help at all with the ED
    • literally zero
    • did help some with the rest = good
    • not challenging/hard on me (which I later learned I need)
  •  Perfectionism:
    • HOLY COW
    • I cried and flipped out every time I received anything less than a 90% on basically every assignment
    • A&P was difficult to achieve that level of excellence because all of the body parts and just being a difficult “weeder class”
    • therapy did nothing really
    • everything needs to be perfect->constant feelings of imperfection->depression/anxiety/shame/guilt/self-hatred->taking this out on my body through self-harm and then ED behaviors
  • Eating disorder:
    • behaviors and thoughts multiplied like CRAZY
    • restricting increasing steadily
    • ran on the treadmill everyday and pushed past my limits each time
    • began hiding food, lying to my parents, and skipping meals/snacks
    • I had lunch on the way back from the career tech center or in class
    • lunch this way meant throwing away ~80 percent of grains/meat, eating fruits and vegetables, eating very slowly
    • lying about how I ate said lunch
    • weight loss to a point of hovering between underweight and at the bottom of “normal” BMI (aka bullshit meaningless information not that I viewed it this way at the time)
    • weighed myself at least 3 times a day (morning, after school, before bed) and of course hid this from my parents
    • kinda pertaining, during a urine sample testing at CTC my ketones were +2 which worried my teacher
  • Overall status
    • poopy
    • very entrenched in mental health issues
    • feeling out of control with all of it
    • going down, down, down
  • Other:
    • started on my very first psych med, courtesy of my extremely judgy pediatrician
    • turned 18 yay real adult
    • literally no friends in person except acquaintances in class
    • found the most wonderful online friends ever ❤
    • began to prepare for competing in HOSA for medical math

Fall 2014

  • “13th year” of early college aka finishing up my associate’s degree as a full-time college student
  • Self-harm:
    • donezo 😀
    • celebrated one year free
  • Depression:
    • blech, probably around the same
    • a constant thing, usually just connected to anxiety, perfectionism, and anorexia in one lovely ball of fun
  • Anxiety:
    • pretty darn high with yet another semester of rather difficult classes
    • again, wrapped in the joy with depression, perfectionism, and anorexia
    • revolved also around losing everyone around me
  • Therapy/treatment:
    • new therapist love <333333
    • seriously never imagined therapy being so helpful
    • she actually dealt and specialized in eating disorders
    • came straight out of a month and a half of PHP at Forest View
    • PHP terrified, stabilized, and motivated me
    • I never had felt so connected and understood in my life
    • had a meal plan I somewhat mostly followed
    • saw a dietitian all of once and then gave up with that one
    • was finally challenged in therapy and given homework
    • small amounts of tough love
    • had psych appointments monthly at first, then less frequently
  • Perfectionism:
    • again, grades were a main focus
    • needed perfection in my recovery ?
    • felt the need to do everything right because I almost was forced to quit school
  • Eating disorder (anorexia):
    • spoke aloud “I struggle with anorexia” for the very first time at FV
    • emotional issues became an even larger trigger for ED behaviors
    • referred to anorexia as Ed and personified it
    • lovingly forced to eat challenge foods
    • parents were food police to the extreme and I HATED it
    • I was forced to eat lunch with my early college dean each day I was at college during that time
    • it was nice to have company, but she was oblivious to me using behaviors and restricting
    • eventually began eating by myself more, always facing the wall and if not I wouldn’t eat a thing
  • Overall status:
    • better than the year before, at first anyways
    • still caught up in distorted thought patterns constantly
    • going through the motions
    • a majority of my life was centered around my mental health stuff, mainly the ED
  • Other:
    • started this blog!
    • became a youth leader
    • my girls = a motivation to recover; not a strong one in the end but motivation still
    • Lily and Livvy were my long distance support people
    • was on 2 psych meds, courtesy of scary doctor VH from FV
    • simply skated through slightly below the threshold of “you need more treatment” and “you’re doing all right”
    • had support from a woman in church which I needed at the time
    • other than her basically no physical support
    • relationship with my family was pretty bad still
    • grades were much better, especially considering how I was doing overall

Fall 2015

  • first year at Calvin
  • Self-harm:
    • donezo 😀
    • 2 years clean
  • Depression
    • steadily grew worse each day
    • isolation also increased with that
    • psych meds weren’t fully helping
  • Anxiety:
    • grades, grades, grades
    • stressing out because I “needed” to get into the nursing program fall 2016
    • I had to act normal and make friends
    • always worrying that I would be alone forever
    • catching up after I was gone from my injury
  • Therapy/treatment:
    • spent one week in FV’s inpatient program
    • that ended only one week before school started up
    • IP was a complete bandaid
    • it worked for like a month tops
    • started seeing a new, amazing therapist at school ❤
    • sidenote: I have been blessed with two wonderful therapists since leaving FV
    • saw my first ever dietitian who was pretty good for me
    • once a week therapy and dietitian
    • all the outpatient treatment in the world couldn’t have saved me from myself
    • left school and entered residential treatment at Center for Discovery Del Mar Nov 19th and stayed through Dec 28th
  • Perfectionism:
    • perfection with eating, exercise, meal plan (following and then restricting it)
    • very rigid exercise plan
    • I went rock climbing often and had to get the route down perfectly or I failed
  • Eating disorder (anorexia):
    • began restricting basically straight out of FV
    • had a meal plan that I at least attempted to follow
    • work-out/weight loss yoga became my go-to exercise
    • and it all came crashing down
    • restricted tons during the week and then was forced to eat whenever I came home for the weekend
    • my parents knew nothing, of course
    • I felt 100% powerless
    • obsessed with losing weight, not knowing the number but hearing which direction it was going by my dietitian
    • measured myself by size of clothes and looking in the mirror
  • Overall status:
    • just bad
    • wanted to give up on everything
    • eventually I gave up hope, interest in anything
    • flat emotions and an overall lack of caring
    • my life revolved around my eating disorder
    • most of the fall is pretty hazy because I was in a state of confusion, memory loss, lack of concentration
    • everything completely changed once I entered treatment*
  • Other:
    • fractured my orbital socket, broke my nose, and received a concussion while playing capture the flag at dorm retreat
    • this lead to surgery and 3.5 weeks at home
    • I fell behind in my classes
    • grades slipped to the lowest they have ever been: B’s and C’s
    • felt the need to tell my roommate and RA/suitemate about the ED
    • they somewhat became a food/exercise police
    • my RA seriously would knock on my door when she heard a yoga video and make me stop
    • my relationship with my family was better than before, then dropped off some when they found out I hid my struggling
    • residential was the best/hardest choice I have ever made for myself
    • the immense growth and motivation I gained firmly planted me in recovery
  • note: minus a few points, these are all my status pre-treatment*

Fall 2016

  • 2nd year at Calvin
  • Self-harm:
    • donezo 😀
    • 3 (!!!!) years clean this December
  • Depression:
    • worse than before for who knows why
    • MAJOR isolation
    • hopeless about ever making friends
    • feeling down for no apparent reason
    • occasional passive suicidal ideation “I don’t deserve to live anymore”, “I wish I wasn’t here”, etc
    • it interferes with everyday life – I am not interested in things, somewhat slower in movement/thoughts, flat,
  • Anxiety:
    • stressed in general
    • apathy/procrastination->stress and completing everything last minute
  • Therapy/treatment:
    • seeing my school therapist every other week :/
    • still have psych appointments, probably every month or so
    • dietitian (starting this week with a new one at school, not sure how often that will be)
    • bi-monthly support group held at FV (ohhhh the memories in that lovely room)
    • eating disorder bible study weekly
  • Perfectionism:
    • grades are becoming progressively moreso
    • less than a 90 on tests kills me a little
    • I absolutely cannot show my true emotions and struggles at church
  • Eating disorder (anorexia):
    • I feel the need to be more disciplined in my eating than I have been in recovery
    • taking smallish steps to achieve that
    • body image suddenly improves when I restrict/eat healthier/exercise
    • goal = lose a few pounds and tone
    • ^probably a bad idea
    • fighting urges more than I have any other fall so far
    • eating 80% of my meals in my room (when I’m not home)
    • more fearful of the dining hall, or maybe just the food there?
    • when I compare my body, it’s by size and not weight (except when my psych doctor decides to tell me my BMI)
  • Overall status:
    • faith is improved and I have more hope!
    • general feeling blah about life
    • loss of interest in many of my former passions
    • I am able to focus on school and everything more than I have in years
    • it can be really hard faking happiness when I really want to be honest with others (eg at church)
    • I would say this is better than I have been in years, but by no means have I taken a 180 and suddenly been freed from all of the negative MH stuff in my life
    • on my good days I am generally just content with where I’m at
    • I’m pretty worried about the amount of support I’m getting currently
  • Other
    • attending church 2-3x a week and coming home midweek and on weekends – LOVE
    • I’ve gone out soulwinning a few times and it’ amazing to spread the gospel and invite others to church
    • currently working every weekend around 10-15 hrs
    • I tend to put off things and forget or not care anymore
    • my friends/supports are still long distance
    • making a new friend from work though! we have a ton in common and I’m excited about it
    • playing Sims again 😀
    • team no sleep, typically 5 hrs a night on weekdays
    • building up my relationship with my family
    • they are more trusting finally and not the enemy anymore
    • I have a car and with that more independence
    • driving back and forth is actually pretty nice

I definitely didn’t intend for this post to be so long, but I am inspired and surprised but how much change has come over the years. There’s been growth and setbacks, positive moments and pits of darkness, a variety in levels of ED/depression/anxiety, and more. I have gone through a lot and I honestly believe it’s pretty incredible that I am still here and in a (mostly) better space than before. My hope is that Fall 2016 will be the best one yet!