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Monday, April 11, 2016

I is for...

Invisibility

For as long as I can remember I've wanted to be invisible.  Reading back over my journals from the last several months...I wrote about this a lot.  It seemed to happen on days when I was feeling insecure about who I am and how I am.  I often think that I'm just too much.  Too passionate, too emotional, too sensitive, too loud (believe it or not!), too intense, too needy.  My knee-jerk reaction is to throw myself into a diet regime and strive to be less than in every way possible.  My ED achieved this pretty well.  I'd get smaller, my emotions were numbed, and my personality was drastically muted.  It wouldn't be an addiction if it didn't somehow serve a purpose and fill a need, right?

I think I'm finally starting to accept myself for all of these perceived "too much-es."  Really, it started by being accepted by other people when I had no choice but to be myself.

I found myself struggling with this today.  People at work have been shocked because I'm not really the same person I was before.  I'm letting my passion leak out and...well...I'm not very good at managing this just yet, so it's coming out a little sideways.  I'm hyper aware of people's reactions, so when I sense even an ounce of negativity, I want to pull away and hide.

So today's fight is against hiding.  I can't hide my passion or my emotion, or my personality...I shouldn't have to!  Living life with the mute button constantly pressed is really not a life worth living.  I found that out the hard way when I stopped wanting to live that life and saw no other option.  Turns out...I DO have an option.  BE VISIBLE.  Be in my own skin.  Experience and express my emotion and my passion....stop being so afraid of my own self.

I'd love nothing more than to hide away and become invisible, even at work today.  But...I won't.  Even if it means things might be a little awkward and messy.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

H is for...

It's 10:30 pm on a Sunday and I'm just now getting around to the "H" post that I was supposed to post....yesterday? Oh well.  I'll just be late.  :)  This is gonna be short and sweet.

So, hope.  Hope.  HOPE!  Hoooopppe.

I feel like if I say it enough it will start to become a tangible thing for me.  For shits and giggles I looked up the definition of hope.  One part of the definition really stood out:  "To expect with confidence."  I struggle with hope a lot.

I don't see myself as a pessimist, yet I've taught myself to never expect things to turn out well.  No hope at all means no dashed hopes when everything fails miserably, right?  I usually tell people that I'm a realist.  Am I though, or is that just a cover-up?

Today was a weird day.  I got pretty caught up in all of my "sunday triggers" and I almost let the guilt and self loathing get to me.  I crave spiritual community, yet find myself paralyzed when faced with the possibility of going to church.  I find myself missing the safety of the way we did church/spirituality at tiger mt.

I've been a little down on myself because I'm not recovering perfectly.  I've purged a total of three times since I've been home.  That's three times in just a little over a month.  Hello!  Why am I poo-pooing this success???  Four months ago, a bad day meant purging up to 10 times a day, and I was having those bad days pretty often.  So, as guilty as I feel acknowledging this...I really am doing well.  I am not a fraud for acknowledging my success when my success is not perfect!

I hate that church is a struggle.  I hate that purging is still something I do.  BUT, I think that I might actually be starting to have some hope.  I can see myself living without my eating disorder.  It's not something I think about constantly, though the "food chatter" is still lurking in my head.

Okay.  That's all I've got for now.  I'm off to bed!

Friday, April 8, 2016

G is for...

Grief

My dad has been heavy on my mind the last few days.  I almost wrote about him for "D" and again for "F".  Both times I started writing (erm..rambling) and scrapped it.  I felt like I didn't have enough time or healthy head-space to write.  But...since when do I care about that?!  Seriously!  I've been blogging "stream of consciousness style" for over 10 years...why start censoring myself now?

I've been grieving the loss of my dad, but he didn't die.  It feels silly to say, but I'm sad (and pissed) that I didn't have a healthy dad.  I don't really feel justified feeling the way I do....who am I to say that I've suffered when so many others have suffered far worse?  I should be thankful that I had a dad, right?  To be honest, things might have been very different for me if my dad had been absent rather than so involved in my life.  I've always been really conflicted over this.  I love him.  I hate him.  I desperately need him.  I'm better off without him.

I can't remember the last time I was sober on Father's day.

Well-meaning christians usually are quick to remind me that I have a heavenly Father who is perfect and good.  I've never found comfort in that.  God and my dad just can't exist in the same category.

It seems I go through phases with this.  Sometimes I'm able to just ignore the fact that I will never have the same warm fuzzy dad-moment memories that my friends have.  Other times the pain from this loss feels like it might literally kill me.

*sigh*

That's kind of where I'm at right now.  I'm stuck sitting in a moment of pain...hoping it won't last (knowing it won't, it never does)...and doing my best to not numb it away.

All of this started a couple days ago when I saw a meme somebody on facebook posted....it said, "How's my baby-girl" is what every woman wants to hear from her....blah blah blah.  I don't even remember what it said.  I kinda stopped at "baby-girl" and shuddered.  That's what my dad calls me, and I hate it.  Of course this brought on a torrent of emotion.  I've been trying to stuff it as best I can.  Numbing isn't an option.

My dad texted me this morning - just to say hello and ask what I was up to lately.  I waited until late this afternoon to text him back.  I told him I was working hard on a writing project that I had in my head, that I was mentally exhausted and going to bed soon.  His reply:  Good to hear from you.  You made my day to  know you are doing GREAT. (yep, all caps too)

So....I said nothing about doing great.  This is a typical conversation with my dad.  I say something generic because I'm covering up what I'm actually feeling...and he just applies his own interpretation.  Me struggling or being tired or incapable of something has never been an option.

I'm choosing to not respond.  I'm not in a horrible place right now, but it annoys me that he had to emphasize with all caps that I was doing great.  It makes me second guess everything.  Am I doing great?  Should I be?  What would happen if I wasn't?  Do I want to be doing great?  ARGH!

This conversation really isn't a big deal...it just struck a nerve, I guess.  It was bad timing.

ANYWAY.  I think I'm gonna wrap this up and head for bed.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

F is for...

Fight

When I was in highschool I started a journal.  It was only for me...and my disease.  I called it "My Littling Book."  It was born out of a desire to preserve my eating disorder - and get better at it.  This book contained anything and everything related to my sickness.  It was my own version of what we call "thinspo" now.  At one point, I started to write out contracts between me and my sickness.  I didn't address anyone or anything in the contract - it was an entity that was beyond naming.  I promised to feed it, nurture it...as long as it would allow me to lose 20 pounds.  Or 30.  Creepy, right?  It just goes to show how deep my eating disorder really went.  I lived and breathed it.

When I was in my early 20's I saw a counselor for my eating disorder and trauma related events that I wanted to work through.  By this time I had collected enough eating disorder related books to start a small library.  I'd like to say it was for educational purposes, but honestly....ED books only fed my sickness.  My counselor encouraged me to let go of my books as a way of starting to let go of my eating disorder.  I'm probably better educated than most counselors....I had no need for these books.  I remember packing them up in a box.  I hesitated when I came to My Littling Book.  This was my secret gem - something I had vowed never to show anyone, never to let go of.  I opened it, fanned the pages...and breathed in.  I remember kinda pulling back with shock...I was a little horrified.  My book smelled like death.  A mixture of vomit, old ink, and a rancid twinge that I couldn't quite identify.  I slammed it shut and chucked it into the box before I could think too hard about it.

I gave the box to my counselor without discussing what was in it.  As far as she was concerned, it was a box of books about eating disorders and weight loss.  I never told her how big this was for me.  I regret giving her My Littling Book.  If I focus hard enough I can still  smell it ...vomit, old ink and death.  The cover was blue with yellow flowers.  It creaked every time I opened it....there were some pages that had a texture because I had been writing in it so furiously that my pen made grooves in the paper.

My eating disorder, combined with self harm and alcoholism almost killed me.  Technically it DID kill me.  My heart stopped.  I've chosen to pursue recovery, but I've come to realize that I have to fight for it.  Daily.

One morning while at Tiger Mt, I went running.  My head was in a horrid state of turmoil...stuck in the constant chatter of sickness, wrestling back and forth between sickness and recovery, wishing I could make myself want recovery more than I did....worrying about what I ate that morning, how I need to run every day from now on....My mind wandered to My Littling Book.  I actually missed it.  I was filled with sweet nostalgia and horror all at the same time.

I was praying through all of this chaos in my head and asking God to change my focus, when it hit me, clear as day...almost audibly:  Just fight for today.  I had been so wrapped up in how I was going to win the war that I was losing daily battles.  In the beginning of my eating disorder, I would spend time reading and writing in my book to help me stay focused on losing more weight, getting sicker.  Now....I want to redeem that.  Make a new book!!

I started asking God every morning to show me what to fight for...today.  I'm writing them down in a journal.  I did this while at Tiger Mt and it's something I've continued at home.  It's my record of battles.  Some will be won, some may be lost...but ultimately, I will, with God's grace, win this war.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

E is for....

Eating

Seems simple, right? NOPE!

One of the most debilitating parts of my eating disorder is (was?!) a phobia/rule about eating with other people. It started as a rule a few years ago and very quickly turned into an all-out phobia. I had gotten bad enough that I was struggling to eat in front of my husband.

I was terrified out of my mind when I got to Tiger Mt. I don't think I told anyone about this until I had already been there a few weeks. I wanted the freedom to work through it on my own. I suffered through for awhile...and then, oddly enough, when I spoke up about it things became easier. It seems weird, but watching everybody else go through the motions of preparing and eating food helped me find my own way with it. Being able to joke and have fun was a HUGE help too.

One night my roomie and I were laying in bed talking and trying to get sleepy. She suddenly decides that she needs croutons. WE need croutons. NOW! So she convinces me to go downstairs with her. We stand at the kitchen island with a pile of croutons on a paper towel....and she's crunching away. I'm horrified at the amount of noise we're making, these are the loudest croutons I've ever eaten. She calmly crunches away and, with her mouth full, says..."it's okay to make noise when you eat."

Since I've been home I've been eating lunch with people in the break room at work. It started with just two friends that I'm comfortable with....and now two other people have started sitting with us. They were beyond shocked. People who don't know me very well probably wouldn't think twice about it...but it was really a big deal. :)

Last Friday my inlaws took us out to eat. It was awkward, but I picked something small and safe and focused on having fun with them and enjoying their company. The biggest kicker to this was being able to make it through without purging AND without drinking. Eating out with family was never something I could avoid, so I would usually get drunk to make it easier. I was pretty proud of myself for handling it so well.

My church group eats together every other week....I'm still finding this one tough. I can't picture a way to make it work. I know this probably seems odd. *sigh* Eating around other people is one thing.....eating around them without using any weird food rituals to get by.....is a whole other can of worms!! I've had weird food rituals since the beginning of my eating disorder. I know that it's normal as far as eating disorders go, but I sometimes feel like a few of mine are just over the top. I can't really picture changing some of those just yet. Eventually though...

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

D is for...

Dieting

I'm struggling with this.  Yesterday and today have been really difficult food-wise.  I need to make myself stop and think about where this is coming from, and why...and start kicking in some better coping skills.  Granted, I'm still doing pretty fabulous compared to how I was a few months ago.

As much as I hate to admit it...a dieting mindset is one of my biggest downfalls.  It's SO easy to fall into that planning/obsessing mindset.  My cycle is pretty predictable.  I'll have a grand plan for controlling my food and finally getting healthy and fit....that will soon give way to skipping a meal here and there...which becomes a fiery determination to go without food for an entire day....which always leads to a wide-eyed frantic binge...which usually leads to purging.  On the rare occasion that I'm able to avoid purging, I'll have so much self-loathing that cutting enters my mind....and to quiet all of the chatter and chaos in my head, I'll get drunk.

To say that dieting is a heavy issue for me would be an understatement.

 Now, I'm at least seeing it in the beginning stages.  Coworkers noticed that I was struggling to get through lunch and I was embarrassed, so I laughed it off.  I'm still a little new to asking for help.  It crossed my mind that I could have been a bit more serious with them about my current struggle.  Who knows?  Maybe they could actually help....it's nerve wracking to admit to "normal" people what actually goes through my mind when it comes to food.

*sigh*  One day at a time...right?  Just because yesterday and today were rough....doesn't mean tomorrow has to be.  I'm praying that tomorrow morning my mind will be a blank slate again...open to living with a healthy food routine for just that day.

This has been a bit of an un-planned freely written post.  Just didn't have it in me to do a lot of deep writing tonight. Tomorrow though...

Monday, April 4, 2016

C is for...

Cutting

I was torn over what my "C" post should be.  Along with my belief in God (creed), cutting is a big part of my story.  I can justify doing two posts for this one because Sunday is free...maybe I'll make double letter posts a habit for Sundays.  :)

Out of all the things I struggle with, self harm is by far the most shameful.  I hate my scars.  I never know how to respond when people ask questions.  Over the last few years I've had some experiences that have lessened the shame and knocked a few bricks out of my fortress of distrust.

The last three years have been the most intense as far as cutting goes.  A coworker (who is no longer my coworker, but now one of my closest friends), was the first person who truly understood.  One day I stumbled into work, late and hungover.  I sent her a panic-email because I couldn't get my leg to stop bleeding.  Her response:  Oh dude...are you okay??  I love you.  I have stitch glue, meet me in the bathroom.  To this day, she's my go-to person when I'm coming out of my cave after cutting.

While at Tiger Mt I had a completely shame-busting moment with my room mate during her first week.  We were sitting on our beds talking and getting to know each other.  I don't even remember what I told her, we were each casually sharing small bits of our stories.  All of a sudden she gets up, grabs something off the dresser, and sits herself ON my bed in front of me....IN my personal bubble.  She grabs my arm, looks closely at my wrist, squints, then starts smearing some unknown oil on it, rubbing it into the scar.  She said nothing, but the tears in her eyes and the look on her face....said everything.  The only thing I could say was...you're gonna get in trouble.  You can't be on my bed.  Her reply:  I don't care.  You need this.  It was everything I could do to not cry.  I did need that.

I'm grateful for these seemingly random people who keep crashing into my life, proving that I'm not nearly as repulsive as I think I am.


Sunday, April 3, 2016

C is for... (unofficially official)

**Sundays are "free" days in the A-Z blogging challenge.  I'm a rule breaker, but at the same time I'm annoyingly obedient.  I walk out my contradictions with flair. With that said....I'm going to do two posts for the letter C, one today and one tomorrow.

Creed

I used to be an Atheist.  Sort of.  I was more of a Shmaeist than anything.  To be honest, writing about what I believe gives me the willies.  Too often, we allow labels of "Christian" or "Atheist" to determine what we assume a person believes.  I'm a very black and white thinker, but belief in God is often a gray area to me.  (again with the contradictions!)  There were many times, both as an Atheist and as a Christian that I purposely withheld what I believed because I didn't want anyone to make predictions about me based on those labels.  I was never a "typical" Atheist, and now I'm not a "typical" Christian.

God's existence in my life is a powerful part of my story, one that simply can't be left out.  At the same time, I'm uncomfortable making a formal statement of belief.  If I was forced to sum it up, I'd say:

God exists.
God talks to me.

I grew up in church.  Actually, a more accurate statement would be; I grew up in legalism.  I was a good girl who went to church with her family, told other kids about Jesus and invited them to Sunday School.  I tithed, read my Bible every day and committed to being sexually pure.  I wanted to be a missionary when I grew up.  When I did grow up I got engaged to a man who was going to be a pastor.  Preacher's wife was the next best thing to being a missionary.  Things came crashing down around me and, well...long story short, I decided I didn't want to live my life according to something I wasn't even sure I agreed with.  I struggled to make peace with my legalistic past.  I read books.  I wrote blogs.  I debated, argued and wrestled.  I joined a local Atheist club.

About two years ago I found out about a local church that was doing a sermon series on objections to Christianity.  The main draw for me was the live Q&A session they did after each service.  You could anonymously text your questions to a number...and the pastors would do their best to answer them.    For seven weeks I went to all three services every Sunday.  I texted my questions, but that wasn't enough.  I needed deeper conversation.  So after one of the services, I gathered my nerve and marched myself up to the front of the room.  In a sea of people, I saw one of the pastors.  I locked my eyes on his face, grabbed his arm (he looked like he was about to walk away), and blurted out "I'm an Atheist and I have no idea why I'm here, but I have to talk to you."  HA!  Poor guy.  Even though they were prepared for questions, he looked a bit stunned.  I was a little stunned myself.  He introduced me to a couple of the other pastors.  Every Sunday after that I sought them out for continued conversation....and the conversations lasted until the building crew was turning out the lights.  When that wasn't enough, I exchanged email addresses with two of them....and I sent them long rambling (drunken) messages.

I started to zero in on one pastor in particular.  During one of our conversations, he asked me what it would take for me to believe that God existed.  My answer was immediate.  A dream.  I can't conjure a dream, it can't be caused by, or manipulated by people.  So he said....okay, I'm going to ask God to give you a dream.  Before I could really protest, he was praying.  It was so awkward.  I sat there thinking to myself, I am SO not okay with this, but whatever...

I had a dream that night....and every night after that for a week.  I was blown away, yet I wasn't shocked.  Deep down, I believed God existed...I'm not sure I believed God would care enough to talk to me, pursue me.  This was not the same legalistic "god" of my childhood.

Fast forward to now:  I guess I'm not an Atheist anymore.  That first dream really just re-ignited the supernatural relationship I'd always had with God....the one that I never talked about at church.  I believe that God exists.  I don't understand it, I'm not sure I even want to understand it.  I also believe that God talks to me.  I feel really weird typing that....because it's such a simple statement, yet SO very complicated.  It's official that I believe God exists, yet everything I currently believe is unofficial and subject to change at any given moment....because I trust that God talks to me and is willing to let me think what I'll think, and able to convince me otherwise.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

B is for...

Bulimia

....aka....the demented lover.  Bulimia is abusive.  It almost killed me.  Four months ago I was purging daily, sometimes as often as 10 times in one day.  I've been re-reading some of the posts that I wrote before I went into treatment.  It's harrowing to see where I was, just a few months ago!!  I was barely existing.

It's hard to pin point exactly when I became bulimic.  Was it the first time I purged?  Or was it the first time I binged?

My first binge was bread with peanut butter.  Specifically...Skippy peanut butter.  Food equals love.  In the mid 1980's moms everywhere were giving their children slices of bread topped with peanut butter that had a heart drawn in it.  It made perfect sense in my head.  Every day after school I made myself this very treat....taking extra care to swirl a perfect heart on each slice.  I watched the Brady Bunch and Saved by the Bell, all while mindlessly devouring half a loaf of bread and an entire jar of peanut butter.  I was lonely.  Bored.  Many afternoons I found myself pacing between the living room and the kitchen, rooting around like a pig for something to satisfy my starving heart.  Decades later, I still catch myself doing this.  I wander around my house, feeling bored and lonely, only to find myself rummaging through the cupboards.

It took a long time before I linked purging to my binges.  My first efforts at purging were an attempt to maintain control when it was impossible to skip a meal.  Goulash was the first thing I ever purged.  My mother's version of goulash consisted of seasoned ground beef and mixed vegetables.  It was a Thursday night and I hadn't eaten anything since dinner on Tuesday.  My parents had plans that evening and I remember sitting on my beanbag chair in the basement, anxiously waiting for them to leave.  The second I heard the door click shut I raced up the stairs to the bathroom.  I weighed myself on the lime green analog scale, then spent the next several minutes exploring the back of my throat with my fingers.  I don't remember actually throwing up though.

By far, the most memorable purge experience was the first time I used ipecac.  Elixir of Satan, lemme tell ya!  Do NOT try this at home, kids.

I stole it.  I was 15 years old, working as a bagger at a grocery store.  Just before my shift was over I casually walked through the first aid aisle and slipped the small bottle into the pocket of my red smock (small town work uniforms were fabulous).  I didn't actually use it until weeks later.  I was saving it for a desperate occasion.

It was late spring.  I was in turmoil with my dad and angry with him over something I can't remember....probably some absurd way that he was attempting to control my teenage life.  After dinner I announced that I was going to meet a friend at the park.  I drove my rusty red, 1984 cavalier out to the middle of nowhere on a dirt road.  I carefully read every word on the little brown bottle, then drank the entire thing.  The instructions didn't say anything about how long it would take.  For some reason, I assumed it would happen immediately.  Fifteen minutes later I felt a tiny bit queasy.  I sat in my car with the door open, hanging my head between my knees......patiently waiting for something to happen.  I threw up a tiny bit, declared the ipecac pointless and started driving home.  Five minutes later I'm on my hands and knees in a ditch, retching uncontrollably, praying it would be over soon....focusing my mind on the steady ding of my car telling me that my door was open with the engine running....wishing I was dead, yet hoping this didn't kill me.

Now, years later, I don't need the ipecac.  I've perfected the "art" of purging and achieved the coveted ability to force myself to vomit quickly and quietly.  I'm not proud of this.  (Sometimes, I'm very proud of this.)  

Friday, April 1, 2016

A is for...

Anorexia

This is where it all started.  It started with anorexia.  I think it's fitting that my first A-Z blogging challenge post would start with something that I consider the beginning of the story of where I'm at now.  It's not the end though....  

I wish I could remember what was going through my mind the first time I decided to skip a meal.  Two decades is a long time and I've destroyed a few brain cells since then.  I always tell people that my eating disorder started when I was 12 because that's the age that I remember being completely taken over by it.  My life revolved around avoiding food...and avoiding, well... life.

I remember watching a news documentary on tv with my parents.  Forty-Eight Hours or 20/20?  It was a Friday night, I was sitting on the floor with my dog in front of the couch...staring at the tv, slack-jawed.  The show was about eating disorders.  This teenage girl was bulimic, she forced herself to throw up into glass jars which she hid in her closet.  I don't remember any specific comments or discussion, but I know that I was uncomfortable watching this with my parents.  This is when I knew that there was a name for what I did.  I knew what an eating disorder was, but I didn't think it applied to me.

At first I only skipped lunch at school.  I remember relishing the rumbling of my stomach as I rode the bus home from school.  The hunger pangs kept my mind off of the leering kids around me and the empty house I was headed toward.  I saved my lunch money.  I felt successful as I watched my little nest egg grow.....I planned to use it to go to college and buy my first car.  (Which I actually did!!)

Next, I started skipping breakfast.  It was a game for me....a challenge to hide my behavior from my dad.  The hook of addiction was firmly set the first time I faked eating a meal.  He was sitting in his recliner in the living room, reading his Bible.  I went through the motions of reheating a bowl of leftovers.  I sat in my mom's recliner and pretended to eat.  He wasn't watching, so as long as I made the appropriate noises, clinked my fork on the bowl a few times....he was none the wiser.  I watched the clock.  Ten minutes.  I casually got up and, took my bowl of food to the kitchen.  I quietly dumped it in the trash, taking extra care to rearrange the trash so nobody would see it.

That challenge got old. I was hungry (ha!) for the experience of denying myself food for an entire day.  In my mind, that was the ultimate achievement.  The fact that I was in 7th grade and had parents who managed to simultaneously control my every move and remain oblivious to every detail of my life made it difficult to find ways to avoid eating dinner.  They asked about everything I did, always had to know where I was, what I was doing.  I was an expert liar.  I fed them the details they needed to reassure themselves that they were attentive parents....and reveled in the glory of having manipulated them and maintained my grip on the steadily shrinking, 12 year old me.

Anorexia still has it's grip on me from time to time.  Two decades later, when I'm feeling the need to challenge myself and feel successful, my head veers toward a restrictive diet.....because it's easy.  When I want to avoid painful emotion or stressful life decisions....losing myself in the world of restricting food is my default.  

I'm proud to say that this isn't who I am anymore. I'm choosing to experience life instead....and I'm realizing that while I was avoiding pain and ugliness, I was depriving myself of the things that make life worth living.  I would rather have those moments of happiness along with the hurt, rather than nothing at all.