Tag Archives: mental illness

3 Years

Today is kind of a weird anniversary for me. I was scrolling through TimeHop this morning (people still use this app right?) when I came across a post from 3 years ago today. I left for treatment for an eating disorder/self-injury that day. I remember (vaguely, however) being terrified to go out there and have all my vices of coping and not feeling stripped away from me. I was incapable of feeling anything besides numb. There were no plans for a future in my mind, no hope of things ever not feeling as if though they weren’t going to get better. All I remember is being exhausted 24/7; emotionally and physically.

I was vulnerable to the voices in my head telling me that if I only lost a little more weight I’d be happy, I’d achieve that goal of wanting to disappear, to live a life unnoticed. Only the thing is, the more I tried to disappear the more I stood out. That’s where the lies came in. I lived a life of lying, skirting around the truth that I was slowly killing myself. My closest friends would ask what I was doing to lose the weight I had, or if I was eating. I didn’t exactly lie to them, but I wasn’t telling the whole story. I was simply working out daily and watching what I did eat (although a piece of toast with a very miniscule amount of peanut butter isn’t exactly eating). I hid my eating disorder so well and didn’t disclose information about it that my therapist I was seeing at the time didn’t even catch on to what was going on with me (which led to a lot of misdiagnoses, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder) until a month or so before I was sent to treatment.

All these memories came back when I saw those posts from TimeHop this morning. It’s still kind of mind blowing to me that it was 3 years ago, because it honestly feels like it was yesterday. I have come such a long way in my life since going to treatment.

I feel content with my life and where it’s going. I’m now a senior in undergrad with a pretty killer GPA. I’m graduating with research honors next May and hopefully will be going off to grad school after that. Yes I still struggle with my weight, appearance and eating disorder thoughts sometimes but I don’t let them consume me anymore. I have so much to offer the world (that didn’t sound conceded did it?) and after years of struggling, have a pretty good sense as to who I am. The areas of my life which I lost to my eating disorder and mental health struggles, I have either gained back or am working on gaining back. There’s relationships I’m hoping to still amend and the friends I still do have I appreciate them and no longer take them for granted.

There is so much that I have gained over the past 3 years, that it’s incredible to think about how my life has changed for the better. The road here absolutely sucked and was painful. One psychiatric hospital stay, a month in inpatient treatment and a year in outpatient treatment (which sucked more than the hospital or treatment center) are now on my track record. I hated the things that beginning recovery entailed, but if I got my life back in a better way than I could have imagined, I guess I’ll take it.

So today is the anniversary of the day I began the long journey of getting my life back. It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve last self-injured which is huge after engaging in it for 10 years. Being in recovery from an eating disorder is something I feel like I’ll always have to deal with. Every day I have to make choices and check in with myself some days to make sure I’m going down the right path because it is so easy for my emotions to take over and run the course of my life. But I genuinely love my life right now, and I’m so glad I am still alive to have these experiences.

Life After

With it being National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I wanted to take the time out of my night to sit down and write something meaningful about this week. Reading post after post of individuals’ stories about life in the grips of an eating disorder and how they’re now on the other side, I decided I wanted whatever I wrote to be a little different. But how do you make your writing different from the thousands out there that are writing about the same issues?

I have noticed a theme over the week within those posts, however. There’s always that silver lining moment at the end where the writer describes how much life has gotten better since they entered recovery, and I have to agree that it’s a fucking incredible thing being in recovery and not having the obsessions about food and weight on your mind 24/7. But the posts always end there, leaving a sort of cliff hanger, especially for those of us who know what going through the recovery process is like. But what I want to touch on is something I haven’t read much of in the posts:

            The bad days of recovery.

Because guess what guys, it’s not always an easy task and some days those thoughts and desires to once again self-destruct come running back to you. People expect you to struggle while you’re getting back on your feet while in treatment, whether that be inpatient or outpatient. But what I’ve noticed in my own life is that nobody really talks about the struggle so many of us face after we’re discharged from a treatment program and are fully integrated back into our lives. That’s when, at least in my opinion, real recovery starts and is tested on almost a daily basis.

I’ve gone a couple of weeks without the intrusive thoughts about my weight and calories, but something I’ve noticed is that it always comes back. We learn skills to fight those thoughts out, as well as behavioral components to engage in to not fall back into the very thing we were once so comfortable in. My own therapist has told me countless times that yes it may be so much easier to just say ‘fuck it’ and go back into living a life of an eating disorder, but there’s so much more to lose at this point in your life now that you have experienced what living is supposed to be like.

Let’s be real here for a moment though guys, sometimes the idea of living this new life, for the rest of our life mind you, seems overwhelming. Some days I wake up and don’t want to continue living this life of recovery. Some days I want to jump right back into the arms of an eating disorder, because coping with the emotions that come from every day life experiences can really fucking suck. They talk about the ebbing and flowing of motivation for recovery in treatment all the time, but just because you’ve been discharged from a program doesn’t mean that ever really stops. It becomes less frequent of an issue, but an issue still nonetheless.

You can go weeks feeling on top of the world and loving the life you worked so hard to get, but some days those thoughts and physical feelings can come back and come back with a vengeance. It’s in those moments though, that you really have to put all of those skills that were drilled into your head into use. It’s a struggle, because now you have insight. You know you can kick those thoughts’ ass, you know you can hold off on engaging in whatever behavior it is your head is telling you to do, and you know all of the things that you could lose by letting yourself get engulfed in those thoughts and actions for even just a day. Because I think we all know that a lot of the time, that one day is all it takes to flip that switch and you’re plummeting backwards.

But unlike the days you were in treatment, there’s not that team of people right there to catch you before you smash into the ground. So it’s all you, and you know you can do it if you choose to. It’s those choices that can either make or break you. It all comes down to choice. There’s this internal battle you enter into with your old self and the new, more insightful self. So what are you going to do? The guilt of fucking up and having to explain to either your doctor or your therapist as to why the scale says you lost weight when you go in for your next appointment or session can be overwhelming enough. To be honest, that has been something that has kept me on my toes a lot over the past year. Having to come up with some lie that seems like a legit excuse isn’t really worth it, because if your therapist is good at their job, they’ll dissect the shit out of what you just told them until they reveal the truth behind the fact you lost weight again.

But I guess I should probably end this post on a positive note, eh? I mean shit if I stopped right there we’d all be fucking depressed and not want to continue trying our best to live a life of recovery. So here it goes, that silver lining moment we all love:

Some days of recovery suck. I mean really fucking suck. But it’s only a day, or a moment or a thought. It doesn’t have to become the catalyst that slides you backwards. If you’ve made it this far to where you can say you’re in recovery, well dammit you can make it past the shitty days too. Without trying to sound like one of those cheesy motivational posters that are scattered all over the place, you’ve already proven to yourself that you can do this. So when you really feel like recovery is a joke and you can no longer keep it up, remember the way you fucking rallied to get to where you are now, even if in that moment it feels like you didn’t make as much progress as everyone around you is telling you’ve made. It’s always hard to see the progress you made for yourself, but you did it yourself. So keep calm and stay strong.

The Sick Card

As someone who is working their ass off to live a better life, a life of recovery and happiness and self-love, it angers me to my core seeing people who play “the sick card” to their advantage. But that’s the thing about mental illness, no matter what label it has attached to it by psychologists and professionals, it’s a manipulative son of a bitch.

When we’re sick we become monsters, shells of the person we one were. We become liars and co-dependent on things we never saw value in before.

Then, there’s treatment.

We finally find a team or a psychologist who doesn’t make us feel like hopeless cases, who genuinely believes in us and wants nothing more for us than an improved quality of life. There’s actual tools we can use to better ourselves. Things in our life begin to turn around; we see goals we never thought we could achieve being met, new life aspirations and motivation and self-confidence. For the first time in years that light at the end of the tunnel isn’t just some cheesy ass metaphor used on motivational posters or in the abstract way. That darkness that only we can feel and see soon turns into a light, and dammit it feels so good to finally find that exit door out of all this shit we’ve been hiding in for years.

But it’s not like that for everyone.

Some find peace and comfort in the constant worrying of those around them, the phone calls or text messages of friends and family checking up on them to make sure they’re ok. They thrive on the sympathy of suffering from their mental illness, they cloak themselves as the patient and find that having this illness is the perfect scape goat for real life. Treatment, whether it be outpatient or inpatient or hospitalizations, isn’t meant to be fun or ClubMed. That shit is painful, even more painful than life tends to be, but that is their safety net.
Life gets too stressful or something happens that they don’t like, there they go pulling out the sick card they have neatly tucked away just for moments like these. Soon the sympathy and support of others comes pouring in and they gain that control of others back. For some reason, they thrive on manipulating people to feel sorry for them and make them go out of their way to prove that they care about them. It’s almost as if they’re trapping others into a world of misery because hey as the saying goes, “misery loves company”.
Real life becomes their treatment (meaning it’s soon a place they no longer wish to be, even though it’s where they need to be) and treatment becomes their life. It’s no longer a name they see or want others to see, but it’s an illness of epic proportions that they use to greet the world with.
Others in their life are forced to learn how to walk all over again around them, as not to break the egg shells strategically placed all over the ground in their home. One false step can cause the yolk to ooze out of the once complete shell, the shrapnel of broken shell digs and cuts at the heel, causing pain for the person stepping on the broken shell and that perfect excuse for the mentally ill person to absolutely lose their shit and spiral back down into whatever hole they have dug for themselves.

How Treatment Changed My Life

As a lot of you know, I’ve spent almost the past 2 years in and out of treatment. My 1st stint in treatment was the summer of 2013 when I was out at Remuda Ranch which for those of you who don’t know is a residential treatment center for eating disorders. Thanks to my lovely insurance company (I’m pretty sure any case manager who works with eating disorders hates them) my treatment only lasted a month until I was cut off and forced back home and to the real world. A few months later I found an intensive outpatient program (IOP) only 20 or so minutes from my home and that is the place where the work really began in my recovery.

For months I thought I was wasting my time attending groups for 4 hours a day, ,3 days a week. I wasn’t motivated to change and I picked and chose the things I would use in my own life. I spent a year and a half in that program until I was finally discharged.

Looking back on those 2 years of many ups and more than enough downs, I realized that treatment changed and ultimately saved my life. I didn’t appreciate it at the time because it was the biggest and most promising threat to ending my eating disorder, but looking back I can see so many things that have changed for the better in my personal life that wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for a team who wasn’t afraid to kick my ass with honesty.

Since I was a little kid I always struggled with how I was feeling. I remember being 12 or so and feeling depressed and like the only way out was to end my life. Yet what kept the mask of happiness over my face for years was knowing there was no external stimulus causing this depression. It’s a total mind fuck when you can’t even place a finger on a cause for your depression and want for your life to end. But when I got into treatment I realized I wasn’t the only one who ever felt this way. The hardest lesson I had to learn was that I had every right to feel what I was feeling and that nobody could take how I was feeling away from me. Now this is totally different from acting on your emotions (you have every right to feel emotion, but acting on them is something completely different). The more and more time I spent talking about how I felt and having people nod their heads in agreement and giving me the feedback that I wasn’t the only one made me realize that I was important and my feelings mattered. It’s not everyday you can be in a place where you’re not only told that you have every right to feel how you feel, but to have those emotions validated? It’s life changing, and once you bring that outside of those 4 walls of a treatment center it can change your life so much in terms of how you handle relationships.

The second biggest thing that changed my life was acting as if. For so long in my life I had acted “as if”. As if I wasn’t depressed, suicidal, full of self-hate towards my body, so when we were told in CBT group to try and act as if I was hesitant. But the therapist wasn’t telling us to act as if we had something dirty to hide, he was telling us to act as if we didn’t have eating disorders when it came to exposure challenges. CBT is big on cognitive and behavioral stuff, seeing as how it’s even called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. So I gave this skill a try a few times when it came to facing huge fears of mine out in the real world and you know what? It actually fucking works! I was astonished!! Soon the things I feared with enough practice became the size of mole hills instead of mountains.

The last thing I want to talk about is assertiveness. This skill I had always sucked at throughout my life. I had this crazy idea that I had no right to ask for what it was I wanted and it hindered a lot of my life and I ultimately became an emotional doormat. Learning to say no without explaining myself was so empowering. Sure there are still things that owe an explanation to, but saying no and sticking to your guns is huge for me. Even calmly explaining how something made me feel or what I need from someone, all came from the 4 walls of the group room where I attended IOP.

I never knew it at the time I was there, but I picked up a lot of skills that has thus far bettered my life and made me happier with what I have in life. Sure I struggle with behaviors here and there, but what person fresh into recovery doesn’t? Yet I’ve found that the more and more capable I am at handling interpersonal relationships (too clinical sounding? Sorry), the less anxious and stressed I become about how I’m feeling and focus less on “how I should feel”.

The Media Is Not The Bad Guy

Internet-news The media has always received a bad reputation when it comes to mental health issues, where people see it as the root of all evil to those struggling with things such as eating disorders, depression, self-injury and so on. But you know what guys? I don’t really believe that the media is as bad as everyone would like to think it is.

Honestly, I believe we use the media as a scapegoat to not face the underlying problems. Sure seeing extremely thin individuals all over the place could cause some discomfort amongst those either in the midst of an eating disorder, in recovery from one or even healthy minded individuals who have some sort of body dissatisfaction (because let’s admit it here, we all do to some degree). But to say “hey I saw this on____ and it caused me to develop____” is a cop out.

Eating disorders aren’t media fueled developed disorders, but for a lot of people they like to point the finger towards mass media. The truth is, these disorders are much deeply rooted within the individuals mind than simply a mere exposure to what everyone unfortunately sees everyday. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the world we live in today is all about the latest health/diet fad, exercise and having an “attractive” body which all boils down to being thin, but when someone develops an eating disorder it is not the advertisement company’s or production teams of movies and television shows that caused it.

The individual struggling with an eating disorder have probably always had a deeper issue,probably stemming from self-worth, self-image and self-esteem issues throughout their life. Nobody wakes up one day, sees an ad or commercial and decides that that day they will be anorexic, bulimic or any other eating disorder. These disorders never start out as full blown disorders, for many they simply start as a way to lose weight or have a healthier life style. But there’s something inside of their brains that becomes addicted to the weight loss, the exercise, the lack of food consumed or vise versa. The media only fuels that desire to fit in or “be perfect”, which I believe was never their intention.

I think it’s time we stop using the media as a scapegoat and really look at the bigger issue at hand here; that issue is inside of us.

You Don’t Need a Label

I’ve heard countless times people trying to place a specific label on their issues, specifically when it comes to eating disorders. They’re not as black & white as the world would like to think they are. It’s not bulimia, anorexia, EDNOS, binge eating disorder. No, they’re so intertwined into the personality, and the personality isn’t something you can place neatly in this cute little box. Neither are eating disorders.

“I go days without eating.. but then I eat and eat. I must not have anorexia”

“I binge and purge. But it’s not all the time. Or sometimes I don’t purge but I kill myself at the gym. Does that make me bulimic or not?”

“I eat normally. I don’t throw up, but I can’t stop using laxatives. What does that make me?”

“I can eat my whole kitchen in under an hour. But then I don’t eat for days to control my weight. Am I anorexic, bulimic or something?”

Do you want to know what I’ve learned? It doesn’t matter the label. If you have an eating disorder, you have an eating disorder. It’s just my opinion but you don’t need that neat tiny label place over it and frankly I don’t understand why labeling something like this is “needed”. Maybe it’s more socially acceptable, maybe it’s an indicator for your friends and loved ones so they can “”understand”.

Sure someone who doesn’t get out of bed for days can easily be labeled depressed. Someone who attempts to take their own life can be labeled as suicidal. Someone who hears terrible voices in their head that compels their behavior can be schizophrenic. Someone who has manic episodes followed by terrifyingly dark depression can be bipolar. And for the longest time as I was in treatment, I would wonder hours on end just what labeled category I was neatly placed into.

But as I said, these disorders are so far from a simple label. I don’t know about everyone else, but my symptoms can switch like the seasons. I restrict, work out til I pass out or my muscles get deprived of oxygen that I have no choice but to stop. I eat more, but make sure to take laxatives until I lost the weight “I must have gained” that day. It’s not black and white, in fact a lot of the time those living with eating disorders live in the grey areas, and yes it can be frustrating as hell.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you have symptoms of an eating disorder that control your everyday life, you have an eating disorder. There shouldn’t be this added pressure to fit into a category identified by the DSM-V or professionals diagnosis. Nobody fighting like hell for their lives everyday don’t need that added pressure.

A disorder, mental illness or addiction are just that no matter what they look like.

Nagging Little Voices

I am plagued by voices.

Not the ones you hear about on televisions

Not the ones glamorized in movies.

They don’t propel you to fame.

They don’t land you book deals or make people interested in you.

They keep me trapped inside my room

Gnawing at my ears and clawing their way up my spine.

“You’re not good enough”

“You’ll never get where you want to be in life”

At first, I was strong.

I knew they were just illusions of my mind.

The pessimistic and self-deprecating side of my personality.

Yet now….

Now I’m starting to believe them again.

“Just stop trying.. you’re not going to make it anyways”

These aren’t the voices that attract others my way.

These voices isolate me from my best friends.

They make the touch of my boyfriends hands sting like daggers

They tell me he is just going to be like everyone else.

“It’s only a matter of time before he leaves you. Nobody stays”.

When did I become so weak against them?

When did I let my guard down just enough for them to climb their way over?

How did I not see that they were always lurking outside of the barrier I placed up?

These parts of life are not glamorous

These are the things we keep at the bottom of our discussion pits.

Things too shameful to tell therapists, friends and family members.

The things that keep us bound to our beds like slaves being brought to America in chains.

And you still like to glamorize the sick?

The Real World & My Distorted World

**Possible trigger warning**

How does everything come back around to my eating disorder? As far as recovery goes, my mindset lately has been anything but recovery based. It’s frustrating as hell for me that I’ve been having such loud eating disorder thoughts the past month or so (god that’s such a cliche eating disorder treatment thing to say.. I apologize for that), and as the stress of life escalates more and more I find myself “not having time to eat” or simply being way too busy to eat breakfast or even a snack before leaving for class. It’s not too glamorous might I add. But like I said, everything fucking thing is coming back down to my eating disorder and I hate it.

If I do shitty on a test or quiz, I resort to counting calories again or simply not eating. I’ve talked about it in therapy tons and I know the reason I do it is because I know in my heart that without a doubt I am great at my eating disorder. How sad and pathetic is this? Call it a Type A personality, but my perfectionism has always gotten the best of me in life and as I’m fully in my life now it’s reared its head again and it couldn’t come at a more inconvenient time.

As I write this I know of everything I have going for me but when I lay my head down at night or am stuck in my head throughout the day, none of these things seem as promising or even significant as compared to things like my weight, how I look that day or other stupid and exhausting thoughts I have. That’s right, it’s fucking exhausting living in my head.

Even my relationship with my boyfriend is impacted by this stuff. I love spending time with him, but every time he touches me all I can wonder is what he really thinks of my body. My therapist would tell me he’s not even thinking about the things I’m thinking he’s thinking about but that feeling of disgust scares the shit out of me and when we’re together and doing things that couples do, I don’t enjoy any of it because I’m so inside my head. I don’t know if he even realizes that I’m not present and that I’m in some fucked up world where the staple in my stomach comes undone and he can see what I feel I really look like.

I always thought that after I got out of treatment I’d have a better mindset and things wouldn’t be this difficult. I knew that the day I got discharged from treatment that I wouldn’t be fixed, but shit y’all I at least thought I’d be able to manage my recovery in the real world and was strong enough and had enough of those lovely CBT skills that were drilled into my head, to be able to manage life stress without slipping down that slope that only leads to being sick.

Life thou art a heartless wench.

The Talk

Hey guys I hope you’re having a good week so far!

So I’ve been struggling with something lately and I’m honestly not sure what to do about it. I know I haven’t posted on here about it, but I’ve been dating this guy for a little over a month now. I gotta say, it’s incredible having a boyfriend who treats you like gold and always tells you you’re beautiful but I somehow feel like I’m lying to him.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m really into him but there’s a huge part of my life he knows nothing of and that’s my eating disorder. He was there when my Grandma passed away and I loved that about him, but now that we’ve been dating for a bit and the feelings between the two of us are getting stronger I feel as if though I should tell him that I have an eating disorder; I’m just not sure how to go about it.

I don’t know how to tell him that lately every meal has once again been a struggle, that I spent years obsessing over things such as weight, calories and working out. Yes I’m trying to stay in recovery right now, but I can’t shake the feeling that if I want this to work with him, he needs to know about it. We haven’t gone out to dinner yet, it’s something I’ve been avoiding but sooner or later it’s going to happen and I really don’t want that to expose my secret.

So I guess what I’m asking of you all who read this, and have had a similar conversation with a boyfriend or girl friend, is how do I do this? I’m terrified he won’t see me as he sees me now. I don’t even know how to start the conversation out or even what words to use. I’m scared he’ll see me as weak or broken and that he’ll get scared and break up with me.

Please comment on this post with any tips or words of wisdom.

Thanks guys!

Hallucinations & Depression

Hey guys! So I know I haven’t written in a while, I’ve just been crazy busy with school, family matters and just life in general. I got an idea for a post today and I’m a little hesitant to write it if I’m being honest.

Ok so, I want to talk about hallucinations. I know, a little weird, but I’ve been reflecting a lot on the past couple of years and this aspect came to my mind so I figured “eh, what the fuck, let’s just write about it”. I’ve never really talked about this before, I don’t think any of my therapists really know about it so congratulations if you’re reading this you are the first people to hear about the most fucked up time in my life.

Hallucinating is such a weird thing to talk about, because I really didn’t know what was going on when it was happening. I think at this time I was really into my eating disorder, cutting, suicidal and drinking a lot when I went out(I know, not smart on my part since I’m on medication). I only had one hallucination, I think. I remember waking up one morning and I felt something digging into my shoulder blade. It was such a weird pain, and it felt like someone had scratched the shit out of my back the night before. I thought “hm this is weird” but didn’t think anything of it. That was how it started.



 

My hallucination involved a demon. I never saw it, but everyday for about a month or so I felt something clawing the fuck out of my back, and it was perched on me like you see a little kid holding onto a parents neck as they sit on their shoulders. I knew it wasn’t there, but I’d constantly reach for my shoulders, neck and back to try and get it off of me. It was terrifying, and I knew something was wrong with me.

Like I said, I never saw it but I knew exactly what it looked like. It was a black devilish looking creature with long pointy fingers. Their eyes were a dark red that either resembled blood or fire and its spine peaked out of its back every time it moved to adjust itself on me.

Day after day the claws dug deeper and I began hearing it tell me awful things, terrifying things. I was being prompted to kill myself, I heard it loud and clear as the demons head leaned down to whisper in my ear.



 

I don’t write this all out to sound like a freak or wanting sympathy; it’s a part of my past that I struggled with and in writing this I hope others can relate. Anyways….

Like I just said it’s in the past. I haven’t experienced this since it went away. Some call it psychotic depression, but I really don’t wish to place yet another label on myself. No matter though, with being fully in my life lately and things going incredible I wanted to finally write this all out.

Love you guys and I hope you all are doing well and have a fantastic weekend