Bullet Points

Because that’s all I can handle at the moment…

  • I have a lot going on (new classes, need to find a new apartment, etc) and am afraid I’m going to fail at all of it
  • I’ve been quite deep in depression for awhile now. Contributes a lot to the first point
  • I lost exactly half the weight I regained in my recovery attempts. I’ve gained a little bit of that back but not much.
  • I look in the mirror and feel like I don’t know who’s looking back
  • I want so much more out of my life but feel like it’s never going to happen and I just need to accept it
  • I’m not sure I’m in the right therapy situation and am afraid I’ll let it keep going (and keep being fairly unproductive) because I’m a people-pleaser mush more than I’m an advocate for myself

And this is where I’m at. My jumping off point to maybe return to writing.

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Sick Cycle Carousel

In college my roommate was obsessed with a band called Lifehouse (I don’t think they stuck around too long….at least not in the public eye, they may have kept making music for a hot minute or two.) The above was the title of one of their songs that she particularly liked.

(Side note: I wasn’t a fan but she convinced me to go to one of their shows in early 2000s because they were opening for Everclear who I kinda wanted to see. When I think of the show I don’t remember either band even though our ‘lottery’ tickets landed us front and center, second row….. I remember the picture outside the venue and that I felt rather fat, had really hoped I would lose more weight before having to dress up in concert attire…. yet surprisingly thought I looked kinda thin in the photo. That’s the only memory because that was the only priority of the time.)

 

And now it all comes back to me because I feel like that song title.

My best friend here and my roommate are both girls who knew nothing but a life in and out of treatment from the time they were mid-teens. They thought that was it for them. And now both of them are coming up on two years staying out of treatment. This is HUGE for both of them. I will also hit that anniversary not long after but it doesn’t feel like much for me because I also spent 20+ years before entering treatment a total mess (occasionally at a point where I am NOW aware that any treatment center evaluating me would have been like “you need res and/or IP NOW. Come in immediately.”) but more often at a point where something like an actual ED therapist or maybe a more intensive therapy program (like an IOP) would have been a smart idea. During more than two decades I just kept slipping by and managing to keep up JUST ENOUGH of a life to get me by and keep my secret from those closest to me.

So I can’t celebrate two years out of residential treatment when really I see that as the anomaly. I could celebrate the 2-3 months out of residential the first time when I was legit committed to trying to do this right. I was honestly trying to learn to like what I saw in the mirror. I was trying to consume a breakfast that would actually fuel a person for their day rather than the 50 or so calories of watered-down smoothie that got my eyes open until I got to work and could start chugging coffee.

That was spring 2016.

And now I know I’m just back to where I was. My biggest fear is that it will take another 20 or so years of it all weighing me down until I hit such an unexpected rock bottom that I end in a more intense treatment setting and hope that THIS TIME I will find the motivation to want to beat it.

Right now it’s just all the same. And i don’t know how to stop.

So now what?

Just a quick thought based on a recent conversation with a friend.

She is in recovery. She has been doing quite well in recovery for well over a year. (She has still had her slips, she is still human, but for the most part I knew her when she was quite sick so I’m thrilled to see her this healthy, happy and STRONG today.) But she was mentioning how it’s starting to really sink in for her at this point, the feeling of “…..Now what?” She confessed that she had honestly believed she was probably just going to be in and out of treatment for the rest of her life. It wasn’t a positive future but she accepted it as hers. And we were talking about the unexpected potential that’s suddenly appeared in her life since this does NOT seem like it will be the case. And also the grieving process of leaving the disorder behind.

I compared it in her case to an abusive parent. Because I knew and have learned from talking about this in therapy that generally people develop eating disorders because they HELP them in the moment. It will get out of hand and will likely destroy you if you just keep letting it get more and more out of hand, but in the moment it probably showed up because it was quite honestly the only way you could get through life at that particular time. And you can make the decision to rid your life of the disorder but I’ve had therapy sessions where we explored the importance of recognizing the GOOD that the disorder did for you and even thank it for such. So the abusive parent metaphor came into play because I was thinking, say you are a child being abused. It’s detrimental, it’s unhealthy, it hurts, it makes you miserable. (Just like an eating disorder.) You don’t feel in the beginning like it is even up to you to be able to escape.

So then say one day you ARE able to escape. You are no longer being abused or hurt on a regular basis. That has been removed from your life and you are that much better off for it. But here’s the thing: That person may have been hurting you, but they were still your MOM or your DAD. And when they weren’t causing you pain and suffering they were fulfilling that parental need and even if you knew what they were doing was wrong you probably love them on some level because they’re your parent. So if the disorder and behaviors have parented you in some way it’s probably a relief to leave the pain behind, but it’s also fair that you will miss it and feel sadness at its disappearance.

And now what?

Personally, I get to keep putting off answering that question for now. I also realized while my friend was talking (which I DIDN’T share with her) is that I’m not afraid I will be stuck in and out of treatment forever like she was. I’m afraid I’ll be more like I am now (and was for the biggest chunk of my disordered years….decades at this point) which is basically subclinical and miserable. Well enough to get through my days, hold a job, see friends sometimes (when I have them), sick enough to feel like there’s always some film over my life, engaging in just enough to feel decidedly ‘not normal’ but still able to hide it and haul myself through one more day.

We’re all different because we’re all the same

This was a comment that started in response to someone basically saying they were trying to move away from always having to refer to their anorexic diagnosis and basically begin to refer to it as ED behaviors because….well, I don’t want to put words in this person’s mouth and I can’t remember the exact explanation, but I know *I* felt some things about it all!:

“it’s nice to see simply because I feel like there is still such a stigma that unfortunately isn’t going away that anorexia is the ‘desired’ eating disorder. And I worry about how that stops people with bulimia or BED from getting help with problems that are just as serious.” In treatment I was diagnosed anorexic and I know I made a point when we had intros and things to say “I struggle with bingeing.” Because I did. It was as controlled as everything else I did, but I noticed bingeing was like the BIG TABOO in treatment. Even the bulimics and overweight people would say “I don’t ever really binge though.” And having seen how interrelated a lot of the behaviors can get and how rampant symptom-swapping is among those with eating disorders (including other symptoms that aren’t necessarily ED-related like self-injuring or drinking) I have a really hard time believing I was the ONLY person in the entire program who ever binged.

This fallacy already seems to play out outside of our control. I only held an anorexic diagnosis for a relatively short period of time (about 2 years, probably would have been the same for about 6 months once in the past but I was refusing to seek any help whatsoever then) compared to the entire time I’ve dealt with some sort of ED and related behaviors (somewhere around 25 years….at this point I’ve kind of lost count.) Yet it’s only when I clearly fit the AN mold that I felt like ‘OK, now I can seek outside treatment. Now I am ALLOWED.’ This is not true and waiting until it got to the worst point as well as losing so many years to it all before agreeing to get help most certainly only worked against me. When I went to residential the second time, my insurance was much more ruthless, to the point where I questioned them and received this nice letter of explanation that detailed how I was moved to partial and then only covered for outpatient treatment within hours of them hearing my weight had reached the ‘Magic Mark of Curedness’ as far as they were concerned. How incredibly frustrating that here I was working hard to accept one of the hardest things for me TO accept, that it truly is not all about the numbers. And then my insurance company turns around and immediately slaps me with “but actually…it is all about the numbers.”

This is the struggle with getting insurance providers to understand, with getting doctors and health professionals to understand, with getting the world to understand. The best I feel we can do is recognize among ourselves, those of us who have been there and maybe are still there, that everyone’s battle is different but it doesn’t mean anyone’s is more or less difficult or more or less deserving of being recognized and treated.

Returning for a New Start

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I realize I do this a lot.

 

I plan big. I think “I’m going to start this blog where I can really let loose about my thoughts and feelings and especially maybe shed some light on the idea of an adult/middle age person just as entrenched in eating disordered behavior and thoughts as most people think should only be reserved for a 16-year-old” (Only…hopefully with a little more insight and maturity than the average 16-year-old comes to it all with, mostly because of the extra 2 decades or so I’ve been through.)

 

So I did not mean to disappear after such a strong start for me, where I actually managed to make two posts in TWO DAYS! But this will be a bit more of a personal update while I explain:

 

I’d made the decision to move from Michigan to St Louis. Michigan has actually always been a temporary stop (I moved there from Chicago this past August.) Chicago had been my home for 10 years but in the last year and a half was nothing like what I’d want a home to be. Michigan was just where all my family was so it was there to get me from point A to point Z. And Point Z was St Louis because I have friends there and comfort and possibilities and connections and maybe even an ideal treatment team! (We’ll have to see. I’ll actually have to try and contact people if I expect that to happen!) I just wasn’t sure for the last couple weeks if the move was going to happen as planned. So there was a lot of stress and planning and finger crossing and hoping things worked…..and in the end a lot of DRIVING (11 hours from MI to STL!) But I’m here now and ready to start the next chapter.

 

And also had a few ideas worth writing on, so I will try to remember to update more often or at least make notes if I need to transfer later. Maybe as soon as tonight! Not promising anything. But the point is, I’m not giving up on this spot as my solace and exposition just yet.

I’d Rather Say I Have Rabies

Eating. Disorder.

 

That is the topic of the night because those are the words that have plagued me since I was about 12.

 

I embarked on……eating disordered behavior…. (yes, even now I’m wincing and flinching just typing the words in relation to myself) when I started junior high. Age 11. It was intermittent and maybe not all that serious then, but I’d say it got pretty intense and constant around age 17 or 18. I did not seek ANY sort of treatment until age 32. At 35 everything finally reached such a breaking point that my therapist at the time basically said I needed to go to residential treatment. Also at age 35 in treatment I let everyone know a week or two in that it was quite literally the first time I had said the words “eating disorder” in reference to myself. I’ve never felt “worthy” of the diagnosis, I’d never actually HAD the diagnosis (to be fair…this could be partially because I so vehemently avoided treatment of any kind for so long!) I felt intense shame at the idea of referring to myself as such. Hell, I would have been more comfortable telling people something like I have cancer, or I have rabies! The idea of saying “I have an eating disorder” was embarrassing and disingenuous and actually still feels that way to me to this day.

 

In treatment I remember being told by a therapist “No one asks for an eating disorder.” Here is what I wrote in response:

 

‘I feel like I am the exception to the idea that “no one asks for an eating disorder.” I know I did, and the first time I had these thoughts was around age 11 or 12.  Though since then I’ve found much earlier instances coming in to play. (At 4 years old I asked my grandma for “something good” after dinner. That was my code because I already felt it was shameful to ask for dessert or anything sweet. At 3 I was growing quickly, as children do, and was incredibly sad at the thought that I would NEVER be able to fit in my favorite dress again and why couldn’t I just shrink back to the size I was a few months ago so I could keep wearing it?) So at 12 I felt like the eating disorder was a conscious decision on my part, but actually years before I’d already attached food to being a ‘good girl’ or a ‘bad girl.’ Food speaks to what sort of PERSON I am, and also the idea that increasing size means giving things up, taking up more space means you lose the things you like. Of course I consciously chose to delve into an eating disorder in my preteen years. I had already learned that partaking in it aligned so well with much that I already believed. I didn’t realized that I’d been preparing myself to accept this into my life right from the start.’

The Beginning Isn’t Going to Write Itself

I’ve been staring at this blank screen for awhile now trying to think of where to begin. I’m currently “in the middle of it all” so what do I do? Summarize to catch up? Hit the ground running and screw the back story? Continue staring at the blank screen and hope that it will magically be filled with all I’ve had to say for the past 20 years or so? (I admit, Choice C is awfully tempting, though a total impossibility of course.)

 

So I started thinking on why I was writing this in the first place. The world has about a billion and a half blogs of people detailing their battles with mental health issues, I’m sure. That’s nothing new. I’ve kept journals and the like since I received my first diary (complete with the same lock that was on EVERY ‘first diary’ and will eventually no longer even require its accompanying generic key to break open anyway.) It was my 7th birthday and I haven’t stopped writing in 30 years. It’s been fine all that time if the only people privy to my written thoughts were myself and all those other blank pages waiting to be filled.

 

But cut to the chase, I decided to create this blog after a near-fruitless search to find ‘people like me.’ That’s not to say people dealing with depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Finding that is easy. And the first two don’t often find themselves subject to age discrimination. But that last one is the kicker. Scratch that. Eating Disorders don’t discriminate by age either, just like they don’t discriminate by gender, race or cultural background. This is stressed time and again in contemporary literature on the subject and yet trying to find someone over 30 willing to publicize that they are very much still struggling can feel like searching for a white unicorn in a blizzard most of the time.

 

Maybe I just don’t know where to look. (Damn it! Why didn’t anyone teach me the secret clubhouse knock??) But if I’m having trouble finding people to relate to that are also in my age range, I figured I can’t be the only one. And not to say those in their teens and 20s don’t have valuable things to say as well. Absolutely not. You’re great 🙂 Just sometimes I want to hear from my own age group as well, know I’m not alone in that aspect either. So if I’m having trouble finding much in the 30+ ED group, the best way I knew to solve that was to add one more. So maybe the next person searching like I was could at least come across my little corner and say, “Oh hey, me too!”

 

So that was the main drive behind starting this blog. The beginning wouldn’t write itself. And the end isn’t going to write itself either. For now I’ll just continue to write the middle and hope it finds whoever it needs to.